Three days of Budapest

If it can be said that Belgrade is the ugliest city in the most beautiful place, then Budapest can be said to be the most beautiful city in the ugliest place …

 

The trip to Hungary was yellow from the rapeseed plant that the Hungarians use for biodiesel because they are completely dependent on Russian gas and oil. When we entered Budapest, we lost our way because we had no navigation and we ended up in the suburbs from which the Russians seem to have never left.

History says that the first here were the Celts and the Romans. The Romans found an amber resin deposit on the hills of Akvinicum (Today’s Buda) which, thanks to Cleopatra, was attributed to have seductive power. All the ladies desired jewelry from that resin, and the best pieces of that jewelry were first given to Cleopatra. The Turks continued  to exploit the amber for the next 150 years, and they called the city  Kizil Elma or apple of amber.

The amber no longer exists and the city got its name changed to the name of the brother of the Hun leader Atile, Buda.

Pest owes its name to the Slovenian tribes who built their fireplaces on warm springs of stone and living lime, which in Old Slovenes is called Pest.

Budim and Pest merged into a city in the 19th century during the reign of the Habsburgs when the most beautiful buildings of this city were created, after which they received the epithets like Queen of the Danube or the Paris of Eastern Europe. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the First and Second World War, during which the country was on the wrong side, through the Cold War under the authority of the Communist Soviet Union, until the break with the past and entering the European Union, Hungary and its capital were the scene of many historical events.

Even the hotel in which we stayed was in the spirit of the old times, the beds comfy, the bathroom big enough, what more can you need?

One of the things you should definitely do in Budapest is try the homemade cuisine. Since Budapest lies on the Danube, the logical choice was fish stew.

With  the waiter, we had no problems with communication, everyone in Budapest speaks English, he was only surprised when, instead of cheese pasta, we asked that he brings bread because it was a fasting day when we don’t eat meat.

Anyway, in order to get around all the destinations  that the  tourist guides recommend, our activities needed to be divided in to tree parts. One part is Buda, one part is Pest and one part is the Andraši boulevard with the Heroes Square. Everything that the hordes of tourists visited we tried to see too. It was impossible to take a picture without someone intruding in the frame. But the sights of Budapest are so nice that the disturbances can not spoil the image.

 

Sights of Budapest

 

Buda Castle

The oldest parts of the Buda Castle are from 1265. and they represent the official court complex of the Hungarian kings. During the siege of Budapest in 1945, there was a  German Headquarters, which preserved it, perhaps from major devastation, as opposed to the beautiful bridges that Germans destroyed without pardon.

 

You can climb to the top of Buda Hill by cable car, At the top the Matthias church is waiting for you, it is the oldest building in Budim built in the 13th century as the Church of Our Lady. Over time, she was damaged and the king Matthias Corvin was responsible for its restoration, and it was named after him. During the Turkish occupation, the church was converted into a mosque, during the Second World War it was turned into a kitchen and the Communists turned it into a stable. Matthias church was rebuilt for the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarians comings.

 

King Matthias Korvin was the son of the famous Janos Hunjadi, who in Serbian history was known as Sibinjanin Janko. He was very educated, he spoke several languages,  he was strict and fair. A legend was tied to him, for the king often used to dress in ordinary cloths and walk among people. When he entered a pub, he was thrown out because the owners thought that he had no money for their wine. The angry king returned with his entourage the next day, asked for a wine barrel and dipped his suit in it, with these words: “Serve wine  to my clothes because you thought that i don’t have money.” The innkeepers were ashamed. Corvus in Latin means raven. A raven is also on the coat of arms of this ruler.

On the square in front of the church is the pillar of plague, a common monument in the European cities that was created in memory of the victims from the plague that was raging at that time.

 

Then Fisherman Bastion with its seven white towers representing the seven tribes that founded the Hungarian state and nation.

The complex that we see today was built in 1902 as an addition to the church of Matthias Korvin. However, it was still customary to trade fish there, so the city authorities decided to raise a monument to King Istvan there in order to make people move to another place. The strategy was successful and now the whole plateau is the real pearl of Buda. Holy King Istvan was very important because at his time, the conversion and the final acceptance of Christianity by the Hungarians was completed. Because of his donations to the Catholic Church and the Pope, Istvan was declared a saint. When 50 years after his death, 1038 people opened his casket, a completely preserved right hand was found which was removed from the tomb to be kept in the Basilica. However, the relic was stolen, for a long time it was not known where it was, until  Queen Maria Theresa found and bought it from some Friars from Dubrovnik and returned it to Budapest. The Relic is now located in the basilica of St. Istvan Stepan and each year the relic is used in a ceremonial procession.

From this plateau there is also a million dollar view on the most famous building trademark of Budapest, the Parliament building. This neo-gothic beauty is the third-largest parliament in the world, and second in Europe, it is often compared to the British one because it looks similar.

 

The Parliament was opened in 1896 for the thousandth anniversary of the settlement of the Hungarians in that area and it was completed only eight years later after being  built for 20 years. However, this is not the end because it soon proved that during the construction, the wrong type of stone was chosen, which is not resistant to atmospheric conditions, so the reconstruction lasts to the present day.

 

The interior of the Parliament does not lag behind with its famous golden staircase, rich stained-glass windows and frescoes. Inside you cane also see the oldest Hungarian crown and sword, as well as the displays of all the other Hungarian rulers.

 

As a contrast to this beauty in the immediate vicinity of the river bank, there is a very shocking Monument to the Jews that the Hungarian fascists shot and threw in the Danube at that place. The monument is represented by 60 pairs of worn men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, modeled after the 1940 model. next to which candles burn. Although the Monument is very discreet and, I should say, shyly marked it is still very depressing  and speaks more than words ..

 

Close to the Parliament is the Margit Bridge. It connects Budim, Pest and an island between, Margit Island. The green oasis in the middle of the Danube represents a place for recreation and relaxation. The legend says that when the Mongols invaded the kingdom of King Bela IV in the mid-13th century, he prayed to the god to win over them, offering his most prized possession, his daughter Margit. Since King Bela IV won the victory, Princess Margita become a nun and dedicated her life to god in the monastery whose remains can still be seen on the island. On the Island, there can also be found: parks, spas, restaurants, etc.

Budapest is very proud of another important building. It is the Great Synagogue built in the 19th century in a Moorish-Byzantine style, so to the tourists  it looks like a mosque.

 

During the Second World War, the Jews whom the Nazis did not deport to the camps were kept in the synagogue and starved to death. To the holocaust also testifies several mass graves in the yard of the Synagogue, as well as a sculpture  the ‘Tree of Life’ in the form of a grisly willow with leaflets on which the names of the victims of the Nazis were printed during World War II.

 

The center of the city is dominated by the St. Istvan Basilica which can receive 8000 believers and it is the largest church in the city.
It was built for almost 50 years because the chief architect had grown so old that he made the wrong calculations that led to its collapse and was finally completed in 1905.
The biggest bell has 9 tons. Inside the Basilica is the most important Hungarian relic – the right hand of the first Hungarian king Stepan. The Basilica is not disabled friendly and the elevator that is on top of the stairs can climb to the top of the dome.

Although the basilica remained inaccessible for a visit, there is a large wheel that is disable friendly with transparent cabins from which there is a great view of Budapest.

 

At first  I tought that because of the narrow door and two single steps I couldn’t climb inside, but thanks to a kind worker to whom nothing was a problem, Iwas able to get in, and there I was in the air with a spectacular view.

 

Budapest bridges

And a bit about the bridges that are the inevitable part of Budapest. The most beautiful is certainly the Chain Bridge. The chain bridge is the first permanent stone bridge connecting Pest and Budim. The initiator of the idea is Count Istvan who, because of the strong winter, could not cross the Danube and go to his father’s funeral in Vienna. After he was late at the funeral for seven days, he promised to build a permanent bridge regardless of price.

Some other legends say that he had a mistress on the other side…

Whatever the reason the work started 22 years later and lasted 7. At the end of the Second World War, the German army that was withdrawing to prevent the advance of the Red Army, blew up all the bridges in Budapest and among them the Chain Bridge. After the war, the bridge from which only the pillars were left was restored.

 

Statues of four lions guard the bridge on all sides.

 

The legend says that the sculptor has been preparing them for years. He was so proud that he publicly said that if someone found any mistake he would jump off the bridge. A little boy once asked his father where the lion’s tongues were. That question came to the sculptor who allegedly jumped from the bridge and become remembered as the first suicide on it. This is of course a legend because the lions have tongues if you look at them from the right angle as they are hidden behind the teeth. The curiosity of our days is that the Hungarian stuntman pilot Péter Besenzei has passed under the bridge where the distance is only 8 meters with his head down and has set a new standard in Red Bull races.

 

Elizabeth Bridge

Elisabeth Bridge (Erszbet bridge) a decorative hanging bridge raised in honor of Austro-Hungarian Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Franz Joseph I was opened in 1903. He was dedicated to the only Austro-Hungarian ruler who was respected and loved by the Hungarian people. The fondness was mutual, Elizabeth often stayed in Budapest and spoke perfectly Hungarian. Unfortunately, along with many other bridges, this one was bombed by German soldiers at the end of the Second World War.

The Elizabeth Bridge is the only bridge on the Danube in Budapest, which was not restored in its original form after the destruction in World War II. Today’s bridge was built in the sixties of the 20th century. The bridge was built on existing pillars as a  hanging bridge because the government could not fund a different solution.

 

 

Freedom Bridge

The green bridge was long named after the emperor Franz Josef, who let this bridge into traffic. The bridge was erected at the end of the nineteenth century, and as the story says, the last silver nail in it was hammered by the Emperor. Like all the other bridges, it was demolished during the German withdrawal in late 1945. After the war, it was the first bridge that was rebuilt under the new name the bridge of Liberty.

 

Gelert hill (Gellért hegy)

Gelert hill is still one of the distinguished features of Budapest. It was named after a priest from Palestine whom King Stefan Istvan brought to convert pagan Hungarians into Christianity. Having taken his work too seriously, he used some cruel techniques that the Hungarians remembered well in such a way that when King Istvan died, the people placed the priest themselves in a barrel and threw him down the hill. At the site of his death there is this monumental monument with the most beautiful view of the city. It can be said that the priest still had the last word, because whenever you look up he is inevitable.

 

Andrasi boulevard

Andrasi boulevard is the most beautiful boulevard in Budapest. He was named after the former prime minister who wanted the boulevard to remind him of Champ Elysses in Paris.

 

There are many theaters, one of which is the Serbian Theater Joakim Vujic, it can be said that this is their Broadway. Since there is a diplomatic district, it is also called Boulevard palace. The real interest is still beneath the ground where the first underground railway is located in continental Europe, which is the precursor to today’s metro who, although 125 years old still serves its purpose. Unofficially the most beautiful building in the boulevard is the building of the state opera, which was commissioned by the Emperor Franz Josef. It is said that the emperor’s desire was to make the opera smaller than the one in Vienna. However, when the construction was completed and the emperor saw the magnificent building, he was sorry that he did not emphasize that it should also be less beautiful.

Hero’s square 

It was built in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarians in this area under the leadership of Arpad the first prince whose statue is together with the other six who represent the leaders of other Hungarian tribes. Statues on the top of the monument symbolize war, peace, charity, work, knowledge and glory. The central part of the monument is dominated by the Corinthian column on top of which is archangel Gavrilo, who in one hand carries the Hungarian crown and in the other carries a cross – a symbol of the unity of the Hungarian authorities and the church

 

Varosliget

To the right of Heroes Square is one of the most beautiful parks in Budapest, Varosliget.
There are: a beautiful zoo, a concert hall, as well as a spa Secenji that is not disabled friendly, but there are others worth visiting.

 

Vajdahunjad castle

Vajdahunjad castle was originally made of wood and cardboard and it was for visitors to the 1896 exhibition to show the rich tradition of Hungarian architecture.

 

Central Market

After so much culture a person needs to strengthen himself with some good food, so the next stop is the Central Market

 

My hedonistic hero from Bizarre Food from the Travel Channel was also here, so I had to visit. I’m not sure that other tourists were there for the same reasons, but I know that it was a terrible crowd.

 

In the lower level the market is the same like anywhere else, fruit, vegetables and sausages to take. There are stands with typical Hungarian foods and an even larger crowd. There are also souvenirs on the second flour  that I strongly recommend that you shop here because they are too expensive in Vaci Street. Of the specialties I tried and shared with the rest of the family, there were langoses that are the same as our mekike with various toppings, then sausages in the dough, stew and sausages with cabbage. I can say that everything is tasty, but nothing spectacular, because our cuisines are very similar and this has already been seen by us.

 

If there was a smaller crowd then the whole market could have been seen in just one hour, however, a huge crowd simply spoils the pleasure. Still, I was very happy that the market had an elevator so I could go to the second flour.

 

Hospital in the rock (Hospital in the cave)

Hospital in the rock is an underground bunker that has changed its purpose several times and most of the time it was a hospital.

 

It is located on the other side of the Buda Castle, it can be reached by a beautiful panoramic elevator that did not work at the time. However, that did not prevent me from seeing 80% of the settings through which a friendly guide leads us with carefully selected historical data. Photographing is forbidden, and for whoever saw Madame Tiso this is nothing special.

 

Other attractions in Budapest

Budapest also has some iconic points that do not have any historical value, but in due course they have to be seen, such as the Fat Policeman Statue that laughs and winks at the same time because it endlessly loves two things: food and women. In fact, he could not decide, so they said that while he ate at the same time he also winked at women and proposed them…

 

Along the coast of the Danube on the Pest side, there is a beautiful promenade called Belgrade Quay, which used to be a port once. Here, the ships once sailed to Belgrade and that’s where it got it’s name.

 

This quay also contains the Small Mermaid Sculpture that looks more like a boy, because unlike other girls of that time, she never wanted to be a princess. Instead, she dressed in her brother’s clothes and wore a paper crown wherever she went. She wanted to be King. It is considered that if you are touch her knee, she brings you happiness.

 

Another characteristic statue is the  Anonymous, which has a rather malicious appearance and it has a story that if you touch his pen, you will become a famous writer. The legend says that this sculpture represents the notary of King Belle II who has historically been better remembered as a lover of a good drink than as a ruler, so many considered his notary to be the true ruler who was asked about all the important things in the country. Since it was improper to raise a monument to a notary, and not to the king of the state, it was called only Anonymous.

 

Memorial Park

These sculptures (Little Siren Anonymous, … etc.) were created after the demolition of communism in Hungary when all the monuments to the national heroes and communist leaders of that time were removed from the city streets. So that the city did not look empty, they hired young artists to create statues without any political connotation, and the old ones would be transferred to the outskirts of the city where the Memorial Park was formed, which is yet another must see tourist attraction.

 

Near the Elisabeth bridge there is another must see place, the pastry shop Zerbo.

 

It was founded in 1870. It was named after Emil Zerbo, a Swiss born man who came to Budapest at the request of Budapest cake maker Henrik Kugler, where he created his famous delicacies. After Emile’s death, his wife led the business, then after her death the pastry shop was state-owned until a  certain German businessman bought it. It is a real pleasure to absorb a part of the history that Budapest is filled with.

 

Conclusion

In my opinion a person  should visit Budapest at least once, although the natives say that it is no longer the city where eating slow foods in the rhythm of the Danube.

 

However, what the 19th century left Budapest is so monumental and beautiful that it goes beyond what is related to the notion of mass tourism.

Written and enjoyed by Marko Veličković.

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