This past Wed – Sun I spent in Budapest, Hungary. What did I do? I think the question is more of what did I not do? But for your benefit & mine (to organize my thoughts), here is a descriptive list of what I saw & experienced:
– The Parliament House – the building looks a lot like a church from the outside, it’s also been called the wedding cake. Constructed in 1896, the Parliament house is the 2nd largest in the world, and is absolutely stunning from the inside & out
– St. Stephen’s Basilica – fairly new as far as churches in Europe go – it’s only a little over 100 years old! But it’s built to look much older, also gorgeous inside & out, the most fascinating thing about this church named after the 1st king of Hungary is that there is actually a little chapel inside with the holy relic – his hand, preserved in a case for all to see… ick!
– St. Matthew’s Church – currently under reconstruction, this much older church is still a gem with its detailed stained glass windows and colorful tile roof.
– Fisherman’s Bastion – right outside of St. Matthew’s church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, not only a gorgeous look out point over the city, but also has symbolic meaning in the 7 towers, representing the 7 Maygar tribes that settled in the area in 896.
– Danube Palace – Build over the ruins of the Old Castle, the modern castle is gigantic, and houses an impressive exhibit on Hungarian art throughout time which was particularly interesting.
– Gellert Hill – the strenuous hike up this hill is well worth it for the panoramic views of the Danube and the city sprawling out beneath your feet.
– The Citadel – A WWII fortress at the top of Gellert Hill, it is an imposing and impressive stronghold keeping watch over the city.
– The Cave Cathedral – quite literally built into a cave in Gellert Hill, this church is something to see. Hearing the choir singing and having the sound echo off of the rocks was spectacular.
– The Central Market – right across the green bridge from Gellert Hill, the gigantic market, in part designed by Eiffel, caters to both locals and tourists with hundreds of booths for food and even souvenirs. Here is where I first tried Hungarian Lango, fried bread with cheese, tomatoes, peppers, and sausage on top – soooo good!
– The Museum of Ethnography – the most interesting part of this museum was the traditional Hungarian folklore costumes and the items from holiday celebrations through the centuries.
– The Fine Arts Museum – what a way to wake up on Saturday morning! The bright colors and intricate sculptures in this museum are quite invigorating.
– City Park – claiming to be one of Europe’s oldest public parks, my favorite part was the pond where the locals bring bread to feed to the flock of ducks.
– Heroe’s Square – a memorial to some of Hungary’s greatest, most influential leaders, built in 1896, the 1000 year anniversary of Hungary’s heritage, this imposing monument is photographed often and admired by all who enter the square where it is.
– The Castle – in city park, a model of an ancient castle and church was also built in 1896 as a celebration of Hungary’s heritage.
– Baths – I spent Saturday afternoon in more than 18 thermal baths, with plenty of saunas in between. My sore muscles were thankful.
– Worlds # 1 Bar – A38 Boat – Ranked #1 on Lonely Planet’s list of the world’s top bars! The boat has several stories, each unique. The atmosphere was sophisticated yet fun, and everyone was very friendly.
– World’s # 3 Bar – The Original Ruin Pub – Budapest has this awesome thing where the owners of old buildings ruined in the war open them up as happening bars. The original ruin pub has two sprawling stories, yet it was packed. The music was great, but the bar isn’t really a place for dancing, rather a place to meet up and have a good time with friends.
– Personal Pub Crawl – I signed up for a pub crawl, and as it turns out, I was the only one to show up. My guide, Kate, was fantastic & she took me to all of the happening places in the area, where she knew all of the bartenders. Later on, we met up with her friends, who were happy to practice their English with me.
– Trattatori – the best restaurant in the city, located on Raday Street. I went there 2 times because everything – from the goulash soup to the beef crepes to the spiced mulled wine – was amazing.
– Folk Dance Show – On Saturday night, I was able to experience the beautiful combination of skilled musicians and dancers in brilliant costumes which make up a traditional Hungarian folk dance show. The 2 hour performance was mesmerizing.
– Shoes on the Danube – From this spot during the way, hundred of Jews were shot, and their bodies fell into the Danube. But first, soldiers made them remove their shoes, since they were hard to come by during the war. The chilling sculpture serves to remind of Budapest’s losses during the genocide.
– The Jewish Synagogue & Memorial Park – the synagogue is intricately decorated, but the memorial park is more impressive. In the center, a sculptor created a huge tree, and each of the thousands of leaves have the name of a Jew who died during the genocide inscribed. I thought it was a very effective and creative memorial.
– Love Locks – Budapest has its own version of this tradition. On a fence surrounding a tree in Elizabeth park, thousands of padlocks of different sizes are installed. Here couples attach padlocks with their names written on them. As they say, the size of the padlock determines the quality of the love. The smaller locks may have been together for a month, whereas the larger locks are most likely engaged by now.
– Hot Beverage Festival in Elizabeth Square – I was lucky enough to come across a hot beverage festival serving everything from coffee to tea to whiskey to mulled wine. I sampled both white and red mulled wine, and determined that the red is much better.
– Andrassy Ave – This street is well-known for its architecture and huge mansions towards the end of the street. I took a long walk down the sidewalk, admiring the intricate facades on all of the buildings.
From everything I saw and experienced in Budapest, I concluded that it is mostly a city of resilience. Resilience because it has been dealt many blows, yet gets back up, dusts itself off, and enters the ring again after each punch. The majority of the city has at some point been destroyed due to war or to fire, but the city is constantly looking forward, not back, and always reconstructing, building, and progressing. Budapest is where I met some of the nicest people I have met so far in Europe. Budapest is a city that reminded me of the value of perseverance and encouraged me that hard work and the ability to never give up will always conquer the odds.