How to say it and what it is
OK, its Budapest. We know this. Pronunciation though, its Buda-Pesht.
Budapest is actually two separate cities. Buda on the west and Pest on the east. We stayed on the east and walked across the bridge to Buda to visit the castle. What a beautiful city.
My first day
The day I arrived I was pretty wrecked after the 30+hr trip from Australia. I wanted to avoid jet lag, so my strategy was to stay awake until a reasonable time then crash out for the night. I got to the hostel around lunch time, checked in and dumped our gear. Then we headed off for a walk and to check out the Christmas markets. I didn’t want to do anything that required me thinking, so this was awesome – and there was mulled wine. Like, real, hot, red mulled wine!! I’m in love with that shit. We stayed in the local area, went for a stroll down by the Danube, watched the world go by, took some happy snaps and it was dark by just after 4 in the afternoon.
Hungary is primarily a Roman Catholic country and the city of Budapest is situated around the St Stephens Bascilica as its centre piece. This cathedral is 96M tall and is the most important cathedral in Hungary. It is also the tallest building in Budapest, equal to the Parliament building. There are no sky scrapers in Budapest and there is a rule that no building can be built higher than 96M. The relevance of the parliament and church being the same height signifies the joint leadership between government and church. It is absolutely stunning inside, very opulent and contains the mummified right hand (allegedly and subject to much conjecture) of the first King for whom the church is named – Saint Stephen I, First King of Hungary.
The Danube cuts the city in two and occasionally freezes over. It froze over in Jan 2017, for the first time in 25 years. It used to freeze over annually and the residents would pass from either side by the frozen ice. Legend has it that the chain bridge – the first bridge linking the two sides permanently, was built because Count István Széchenyi (1791-1860) was stuck in Pest for a week and couldnt get back to Buda to make his way to Vienna to see his father before he died. So he commissioned the bridge. Seems to have worked – there are now a few bridges. This chain bridge though, its something else and on Buda it ends at this tunnel which leads into the city of Buda.
We climbed to the top. Yes. All those stairs. There are way more than 96, but I’m not sure how many! It was a lot of stairs, but the view back to Pest and of the Parliament House was totally worth it. The castle has a long history of occupation through tie times The President’s house is called Sandor Palace and is up here with the Castle. He only gets two guards because the President is just a ‘namesake’ with Parliament holding the balance of power, kind of like our Governor General in Australia (a bit of a wasted position!!!). We caught the last part of the changing of the guard but it was over so quick I didn’t catch it on camera.
The Castle has been in existence since 1265. It is old and beautiful and has been built onto and occupied by various forces over the years. Subsequently it is enormous and is now home to a couple of museums. We didn’t go into the museums, we did wander around some of the passageways and we walked through the grounds and various courtyards, astounded by the beauty. It is really something else.
We walked from Buda Castle to Matthias Church and Fishermans Bastion. It was an easy walk, through residential streets. Our guide tells us that there are apartments for sale or rent in this area – if you can afford it. Its the ‘rich’ district and everything is three times the price as elsewhere!
We passed this horse statue. Legend has it that if Uni students rub the horses nuts prior to an exam, they will pass. The nuts were pretty shiny! I didn’t rub them, but I admit I wanted to!
Matthias Church is around 700 years old and during the Turkish Conquest survived only because the walls were whitewashed by the Muslim Turkish and it was used as a mosque. It was rebuilt following the end of the conquest and the roof was done in a baroque style. It is simply stunning. The fishermans bastion was built in 1895 to celebrate the 1000th year of Hungary. It is simply a viewing platform – and it is enormous, beautiful and stylish! The views from here are amazing.
The final day
On my last day in Budapest (for now, because I will be back!) we went to the international train station and bought tickets for the sleeper train to Krakow. We stored our backpacks in the station lockers and headed out.
We headed off to City Park and Hero’s Square and walked through the park. There were plenty of people, but the absence of foliage on the trees reminded me of the cover of an hold VHS called ‘Gorky Park’. It was bitterly cold, but still beautiful. Jess wanted to Ice Skate and we found the enormous outdoor rink, but she decided against skating. The rink has no barriers? How do you stop without a barrier? I could see myself breaking.
We headed off to Hero’s Square which was constructed at the same time as the Fishermans Bastion. There are a bunch of statues of people who are important to the Hungarians, for various reasons. It is a monument ours structure and there are tours, but we didn’t hook up on one.
From Hero’s square we walked back through the City Park, past this lake with a fountain and steam rising from it. I patted a few dogs – I have tried to pat ALL of the dogs and I think I’m getting there, slowly.
We made our way to the Széchenyi thermal baths located here. Oh My God. If you come to Hungary, you need to visit one of these places. This was the most amazing few hours. It was about $22.50AUD each, unlimited time. There are indoor and outdoor pools and we started outdoors. We made the mad dash in our togs, through the freezing air to the pool. We soaked in the 38C water for a few hours and rested our aching feet, sore joints and weary muscles. Totally worth it. It is gorgeous.
After we finished at the baths, we headed back to the centre of Budapest and hung out for a bit. We drank more mulled wine, ate more food, drank coffee and generally just soaked up ‘Budapest’. We then headed back to the train station and boarded our night train to Kraków. We got a sleeper because we didn’t want to waste our first day in Poland by sleeping. We didn’t sleep much on the train – the beds are pretty uncomfortable, but it was better than sitting up for 9 hours! Oh, the escalators at the train station are scary – they move super fast and are really long – like 50M long – I’m not a fan of heights and this scared the shit out of me!