Our second installment of the Budapest photo journal…
Budapest is somewhat cold right now, as is much of the world for this time of year – April, 2015. It hasn’t stopped us from exploring, shielding ourselves from blistering winds, the occasional rain, and the cloudy backdrop and blanket of a grey sky. The weather doesn’t detract from the charm of the city, and gives us more excuses to stop at cafes for an espresso or beer, and the occasional shot of an herbaceous liquor called Unicum that does wonders for warming the chest and the spirit.
We walked along the Danube that separates Pest from Buda, and across the Chain Bridge. Constructed in 1849, it was the first permanent bridge to link the two parts of the city; it was the second of its kind to cross the Danube. Standing on the Buda side we stopped to view the Hungarian Parliament Building, one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. It was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of the country, and is probably the most photographed building in all of Hungary.
Across from Parliament, high above the Danube on Castle Hill of Buda, is Fisherman’s Bastion. We climbed the stairs from the banks of the river to the top, a pleasant walk up cobbled streets leading to a magnificent view of Pest across the water. Even in the dim light of a cloudy day, the city seems to stretch into infinity, though you would be surprised how small and walkable Budapest really is.
In the middle of the square is a statue of Saint King Stephen (Rex) I of Hungary. He was the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians between 997 and 1000 or 1001, and the first King of Hungary from 1000 or 1001 until his death in 1038.
We walked through the romantic streets, hoping to get lost along some passage or other, always arriving at another building that is part of the complex which includes the Royal Palace and Buda Castle. Though the building now houses museums and galleries, it was built at the thirteenth century after the Mongolian invasion and served as the royal residence for centuries. The palace sits on a site with many ruins – the remains of the castle that once stood before Ottoman invasion and the toll of time.
We never did get ourselves lost, and we were thankful to know where some necessities were. Wifi, only 200 meters away. I can’t imagine what kinds of signs will line the streets in 100 years, or if the ruins of these will remain for tourists in later days.
Among the many things we find fascinating along our travels are the different ways cultures and civilizations depict beauty, decorate, and express ideas through symbols and art. Paintings, sculptures, carvings – every country has its own style, even if influenced by neighbors or invaders. It’s the details that make up the vibration of a city, which is why we make sure to look up, as well as down, and be mindful of the little things.
…one of the reasons there are so many pictures of me standing over manhole covers; unique, and often overlooked as people walk around in awe of the monuments around them.
And of course, the statements artists make in the way of street art, or on street signs…
We decided we need to get bicycles here. Budapest is prime for exploring on bikes, allowing you to get around even more quickly, though the public transportation system is very impressive here. There is nothing like the freedom of a bike, however.
We crossed back over the Danube onto Pest, and went looking for a cafe. We had already walked quite a bit, expecting to walk a lot more in the days to come.
We looked for an authentic place to eat, but mostly found tourist traps. Food prices have gone up quite a bit, thanks to we, the tourists, and the old world has been plastered over and repainted to give the impression of an old world. We walked and walked and eventually settled on Gerloczy Cafe. It’s not authentic Hungarian – more French I think – but it gave us a chance to warm up on this cold spring day. As for the food – it was fantastic, though pricier than we hoped to find. We jotted the experience as a culinary win, but as a budget fail. We’re still new to the city and have a lot to figure out.
There is a lot more to explore. Hopefully we’ll have some sunny days to share during this month in Budapest.