hungarian-parliamentWe have had the immense privilege and pleasure of meeting in the massive neo-Gothic building of the Hungarian Parliament. The Hogwarts episodes of the Harry Potter films could easily have been filmed here. In some senses, the building is similar to the British Houses of Parliament (just by the river, flamboyantly neo-Gothic), but the eye-catching centre-piece of the Hungarian Parliament is not a clock tower but a ninety metre-high dome. Some of the statistics about the building give an idea of its grandeur: 700 rooms, 268 metres long and 118 metres wide, and studded with vast quantities of gilded statues. The parliamentary chamber where we have been meeting is underneath the dome. The president sits on a podium so high that you need opera glasses to make out who it is. And every day we file in past the Hungarian Crown (more than a thousand years old!) in its glass case and its two ceremonial guards, their sabres drawn. I used to bore my students at Bruges about the significance of parliamentary architecture. This building, completed in 1904 and still one of the largest parliamentary buildings in the world, was clearly more a deliberate celebration of Hungary’s glorious past than a paean to democracy. Indeed, universal adult suffrage only came to the Hungarian people in 1945. The experience gave us an insight as to how it must feel to work inside such a building, as we kept scurrying away into meeting rooms for our ‘bilaterals’. This morning I nipped out of a ‘bilateral’ to spend a penny and found myself in a small, circular room in a turret. It was quaint; a toilet in a turret. (Did the architect have that in mind, I wondered?) Just how quaint was revealed when I happened to gaze upwards and realised that the ceiling was three or four storeys above me. Can you imagine the heating bills? Hogwarts has got nothing on this.