We’ve been loving our first two weeks in Budapest. Architecture, museums, and food are some of the best we’ve enjoyed. The city, which is constantly listed as one of the best in the world to live in, definitely deserves the titles. Much of what we’ve done so far has been on the Pest side of the river (Buda and Pest merged in 1873), so that is the area this post focuses on.
Just a 20 minute walk from our apartment is a massive park, Varosliget Napozoret. It contains a zoo, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, lots of green space, museums, monuments and its very own castle, Vajdahunyad (and -according to Kevin – lots of Pokestops).
Rather than a medieval ruin, Vajdahunyad was built for an exhibition in the late 1800s as a mashup of different architectural styles. Kevin described it as looking like something Six Flags would cobble together to cover all the castley bases. It was planned to only last a few years and was first constructed with a wooden frame. People liked it so much, however, that it was rebuilt with stone. It’s right at home nestled between duck ponds and peddle boat rentals.
One of my favorite things about Budapest is parks being treated like semi-beer gardens. There are usually stands selling drinks, ice cream, and snacks. On a nice afternoon, there might be dozens of groups of friends drinking quietly in the shade. Later in the evening, some turn into real beer gardens with music and food trucks. So much more relaxed than having a fenced-off section and intimidating ID checkers like in the states! Any big event brings out even larger crowds – we watched the France-Germany Euro 2016 match up with several hundred fans while drinking in a park near the Danube.
Speaking of the Danube, the river is not anywhere as blue as the song claims. More of a muddy gray-brown, its not as special looking as some bodies of water (I’m looking at you Blanca Lake). Still, having a river to create the perfect view of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks makes taking pictures easy.
Parliament dominates the Pest side of the river. It is the prettiest government meeting house I’ve seen. I don’t know if it makes politicians do a better job, but it probably can’t hurt. It looks a bit like lace, even though it takes up a city block.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is another main landmark. The massive church took 54 years to build and was only finished in 1905. Like most important Catholic churches, its interior is covered in decoration, gilding, and richly colored stained glass. The dome is particularly gold-covered. We went near closing on a cloudy evening – I imagine it is much brighter on a sunny afternoon.
We’ve wandered along the river to see the bridges and the Shoes on the Danube memorial. Like many places in Europe, in Hungary Jews were systematically killed during World War II. In Budapest some of the massacres took places right on the banks of the river so the bodies would be washed away by the current.
The Central Market is only a block from the Danube and must hold a substantial portion of the world’s paprika. It is in basically every food here – goulash (the soup, not the noodley dish I grew up with), preserved meats, chips, hummus, cabbage rolls. It does seem to make everything better… they are clearly on to something…
We’ll be spending more time on the Buda side to see new sights and I’ll have better photos of that soon. We’re hoping the rain will hold off tomorrow so we can head over to the hills to watch the Red Bull Air Race. We were not so fortunate today…