Even before I left home for my trip on Eurail ( http://www.eurail.com/home ) through Europe, most of my men friends had told me that I would enjoy the beauty of the women during my visit to Prague…and they were partly right. I saw many statuesque beauties, but their faces were often hard and unfriendly. In Budapest, it was a different story. The ladies on both sides of the Danube River were tall, gorgeous, friendly, and had faces that made you stare! However, that was just a small part of the beauty, history, and magnificence of Budapest!
This old Hungarian city can give you a day-to-day feeling of a large, modern metropolis, or it can take you back to medieval times with a simple turn of the head. The best way to see Budapest is by staying in a central location on the Pest side of the river like the Evergreen Bed and Breakfast ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). They will help with directions to any venue, and even obtain a pass to ride the tour buses. From the Evergreen, you can easily walk to many of the most interesting historical places like the Margarate Bridge that was partly designed by the famous French architect, Gustave Eiffel, the Palatinus Buildings, the Lánczy House, the Haggenmacher House, and the Mahler House, where Gustav Mahler lived when he directed at the Opera House. Only a stone’s throw away stands the Western Railway Station where Gustave Eiffel’ s name can still be seen on the iron columns of the glass hall. This area also offers evening entertainment, restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. Probably the most famous of these is the New York Coffee House, which is considered one of the most beautiful coffee houses in Europe. The Parlament, the St.Stephen’s Basilica, and the Opera are all within walking distance.
According to records, the first settlement along the Danube at Budapest was around the time of the birth of Christ. Later the Romans came and built roads, baths, and numerous other buildings. They were then defeated by the Bulgarians who built the fortress cities of Buda and Pest on each side of the river. The Hungarians finally captured the area around the 9th century. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1873 that Buda and Pest were joined to become the city of Budapest and the capital of Hungary.
To really enjoy any visit to Budapest, walk down to the Danube on the Pest side and follow the promenade along the river to the Chain Bridge, then take the walkway on the bridge across to the Buda side. Carefully navigate the roundabout and buy a ticket for the tram that is to the left of the tunnel. This unique vehicle travels to the top of Gellert Hill on a 48 % grade for about the distance of a football field and affords you one of the most picturesque panoramas in the world!
Wandering off the main roads into tiny side streets in the Castle District, allows you to absorb the wonderful feeling of going back to the middle ages. Sneak peeks into hidden courtyards, sights of beautifully restored houses, and colorful coat of arms are all along the way. But, never worry about getting lost because all major streets in the Castle District meet at Holy Trinity Square which is right in front of the Matthias Church. In ancient times, this square was the main marketplace and the site of many public executions.
While strolling along the pale gray ramparts of Fisherman’s Bastion, you can observe the lower parts of Buda, the Danube River, and most of the flatter Pest side of the river. On a clear day, the view is spectacular!
Numerous museums and galleries are located in the Castle District, and a sojourn inside the Matthais Church to see the 700 year old interior design is worthwhile. Organ concerts are common here due to the excellent acoustics of the old church.
That anything has survived at all after World War II is amazing considering the devastating air raids by allied bombers during 1944 and 1945, and the Russian bombardment and siege of the city in early 1945. Also, after Hungary became a communist people’s republic in 1949, the government viewed buildings in the Buda Castle District as symbols of the former regime, and destroyed most of them.
Beginning with peaceful demonstrations, the Hungarian Revolution began in Budapest in 1956, but it was crushed by Russian tanks and soldiers in less than a month…killing more than 3,000. This tragic episode was followed by a long period of rebuilding that continued through the occupation, and is still occurring today, which has transformed Budapest into one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Prior to World War II, Budapest had one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. However, Nazis and others killed more than 100,000 Jews during the war. Nevertheless, Budapest today has the highest Jewish population per capita of any city in Europe.
Despite all the wars and devastation throughout history, Budapest has to be considered one of the most photographic cities in Europe. Of course, the Pest side of the Danube River is fairly flat and houses most modern commercial growth, while Buda is part of the Danube Embankment that begins rising from the riverbank to nearly 500 feet. This side of the river contains most of the treasures of the past, including the royal history of the Hungarian people. The two cites joined become the phenomenal mixture of past and present known throughout the world as…Budapest!