Cold War Budapest featured on Norwegian TV

Recently, we have been featured again on NRK TV, the public television channel of Norway. We shared with them an exclusive story that tells how good intelligence doesn’t always come from stolen top secret documents.

The story was told to us by one of the very few surviving veteran U.S. foreign service officers, who spent two tours of duty in the Budapest Legation in the first half of the 1950s. (His name we wouldn’t like to reveal.) Spending two tours of duty behind the Iron Curtain was unusual, as it meant serving for fours years straight in hostile territory. A secret meeting of Eastern European mission chiefs in Paris concluded that the two-year rule for the diplomatic staff was “desirable”, while they thought it was “particularly important [to] obtain [the] best qualified personnel from the pool of available Foreign Service officers to serve in Soviet satellite countries. “Those who prove unsuitable for service in Eastern Europe should be quickly removed” - the memorandum stated.

Watch the clip here or on our Facebook, and please do leave a comment if you liked it. And if you are in Budapest, don’t forget to book our walking tour to hear much, much more about this intriguing topic.

Sex and the War-torn City


No, this is not a photo montage! This is a simple photo shooting of touristy U.S. marine sergeants getting slightly out of hand when the ever amorous Sgt. Zahary suddenly spots an elegant young Hungarian lady passing by on the now dismantled Kossuth bridge at the Southern tip of the Parliament in early 1956.

It’s difficult to say what gave the Hungarian lady more reason to be shy: Zahary’s unconcealed attraction, the fact that the men were Americans in Budapest in the middle of the Cold War, or that on top of everything she was walking into the frame of the picture.

Kudos for Sgt. Parauka for keeping a straight face in the middle of this turmoil.

While it was forbidden for U.S. diplomats to engage in romantic relationships with Hungarian women for fear that the AVO might exploit it, it was alright for the Marine Security Guards to seek sexual relationships and have “girlfriends”. As opposed to the diplomats, the marines were mostly young, unmarried men, and knew next to nothing about the actual operations of the diplomatic mission. Still, like all American newcomers to the Legation, they had to go through a thorough security briefing about the methods of the AVO upon arrival.

Nevertheless, most marines had a pretty good time with Hungarian girls during their tour of duty, and if some of those girls were agents of the AVO (and some of them indeed were), well, thank you for the AVO.

Come to our “Spies and Masters” walking tour in Budapest to hear dozens of original stories about what it meant to serve behind the Iron Curtain for American diplomats and members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Beware: most of them are a lot more sinister than this one. Gather your friends for the best price and book now!

When You Are Caught Spying

An American Colonel (attaché of the U.S. Legation in Budapest) on his way to meet one of his contacts, a lieutenant in the Hungarian Air Force shortly after the crushed anti-Soviet revolution of 1956.

The American attaché on the secret surveillance photo of the Hungarian Communist State Security in 1957.

The American attaché on the secret surveillance photo of the Hungarian Communist State Security in 1957.

Little did he know that he was being photographed, and that his “spy contact” was indeed a double agent.

Still, his instincts worked, and he managed to get out of this particular trap. Nevertheless, he was expelled from the country soon after, amidst the great fanfare of the Hungarian Communist propaganda. In the aftermath of the scandal, one of his real (non-double agent) contacts, a rather hapless young man, was discovered and executed.

Come and join me on a private Cold War walking tour to learn more about these dark and interesting times.