Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 5 - Budapest

This was the plan for today as per Gate 1.

We left the hotel at 9AM for a tour of the city. We met two couples, sitting near us, who ended up being our travel companions for the entire trip along with a single older gentleman that was travelling with one of the couples.

One of the first buildings we passed on the bus was the Parliament buildings.
This imposing building is on the Pest side of the Danube between the Margaret and Chain bridges.
According to their website - the exterior leans toward the English school of Gothic Revival, somewhat resembling the Palace of Westminster in London; interior design, however, includes a great number of Renaissance and Baroque elements. The groundbreaking took place in 1885, and an average of thousand people worked consecutively for thirteen years to complete the building. It was a huge project, which greatly boosted the local industrial enterprises of the time, as the principle of working primarily with Hungarian material and Hungarian craftsmen was followed all the way through. Total cost was projected to be around 18,5 million of the era's currency, korona, but it ended up at 38 million. Around 176 000 cord ground was moved, 40 million bricks were laid, more than half a million ornamental stones were carved.

Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) spans the Danube at the foot of Castle Hill.
Built in the middle of the 19th century the stone bridge with the lion bridgeheads was the first permanent connection between Buda and Pest.

The Castle Hill with the Royal Palace and the Matthias Church in Buda is featured in all guidebooks among the most popular attractions in Budapest. It is an incredible view as the bus climbs the very steep hill to the castle district.

Towards the end of the Second World War, it was in the Castle District that the last Nazi German troops concern treated and held out, from the end of December 1944 until the middle of February 1945, when the Soviet Red Army liberated the capital after a siege lasting almost two months. As a consequence of the Germans' bitter resistance the Castle District again suffered enormous damage - part of the medieval remains that can now be seen were discovered during the reconstruction of houses which were found to have been built upon the foundations of earlier ones. This building was used by them and you can see the bullet damage on the walls.

The area is full of souvenir shops, restaurants and medieval houses set among crooked streets that would be a delight to wander.

The centre of Budapest Castle District is at Szentháromság tér (Holy Trinity Square). The Holy Trinity Statue,and the Mathias Church are shown below. The church is under renovation.
According to a legend our first king St. Stephen started to build the church, but it hasn't been proved yet. Historical proof shows that King Béla IV founded the church in 1255 after he moved his court up to Castle Hill from Óbuda.
However, its name comes from the fact that the popular King Matthias held both of his weddings here. The main eastern gate and the long apse are 13th century, the central part was built around 1400. Every king and era added something to the church.
In 1541 the Turks captured Buda and transformed it into a mosque. They celebrated their victory here. Luckily the church's treasures had already been moved from Budapest Castle District to Bratislava.

The name of the church refers to King Matthias Corvinus who expanded and embellished the building in Renaissance style. He also added the southern high tower (60 m high) called Matthias bell tower that bears the Hunyadi-s coat of arms a raven holding a golden ring in its beak.

As part of the renovations the Fishermen’s Bastion was added in 1905. There are two explanations about the origin of the Bastion’s name: some say a fish market was nearby in the Middle Ages, according to others the Guild of Fishermen defended this part of the wall.

It has seven turrets for each of the Hungarian tribes. The design was inspired by the Far East. From its top you get one of Budapest's best panoramic views. Click on the photo for a better view.

 Back across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side for more sightseeing.

Next stop is Heroes Square built for the 1896 Millennium celebrations.
This was the 1000th anniversary for Hungary celebrating its ancestors finding a place to settle down in the Carpathian Basin. Every part of the monument plays tribute to parts of Hungary's history.
The memorial won the first prize at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. The monument was completely finished in 1929.
The 36 m high Corinthian column dominates the square with Archangel Gabriel on its top holding St Stephen's Crown. According to the story Gabriel appeared to St Stephen in his dream and offered him the crown of Hungary.
Pope Sylvester II indeed sent a crown to him acknowledging Hungary and King Stephen as a defender of Christendom.
The equestrian statues of the seven Magyar (Hungarian) tribes' chieftains encircle the column. The seven tribes lead by Árpád arrived first in the Carpathian Basin around 896 AD to find out whether the area was suitable for settling down.

On a less illustrious note there is a building on the same street called the House of Terror. The House of Terror is a museum now, but it was witness to two shameful and tragic periods in Hungary’s 20th century history. It was truly a house of terror. In 1944, during the gruesome domination of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (more about them tomorrow), this building, known as House of Loyalty, was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis. Then between 1945 and 1956, the notorious communist terror organisations, the AVO and its successor, took up residence here. 60 Andrassy Boulevard has become the house of terror and dread.

St. Stephen's Cathedral -is dedicated to Hungary's first king, St. Stephen. The largest church in Budapest, it can hold 8500 people.

You can see from the clock above that it is almost lunch time. The rest of the day we are on our own to explore. But first food! We went back to Franz Liszt Square as there is a large selection of restaurants to choose from.

 We shared a Taste of Hungary as an appetizer.
 I had a chicken paprika.
 DH had a goulash.
Then it was time to walk of all this food. First stop was the cafe in the Alexandra bookstore for coffee and dessert.
This is a very attractive bookstore that one would love to have hours to browse.
Situated on the upper floor of the reconstructed former Párizsi Department Store this elegant cafe is a must for tourists according to our tour guide.

The spacious cafe's ceiling is a sight to admire: colourful paintings ofKároly Lotz (one of the most talented Hungarian artists in the 19th century whose works can be seen in many other buildings of Budapest) drew the eye upwards.

Opera House - the balcony is where Madonna sang Don't Cry For Me, Argentina

Then we decided to walk to the Danube and get a closer look at the Parliament buildings.

Then we stopped into the first McDonald's behind the Iron curtain. It is on Vaci Utca and said to be one of the most beautiful McDonald's restaurants, the fast-food outlet at Nyugati Railway Terminal is the largest in Hungary with its two-story Baroque interior crafted in the style of early 20th-century Budapest.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for dinner. The tour guide had recommended the restaurant Kiraly, located in the castle district where we were earlier in the day. It is a set menu and the price includes being picked up and dropped off at the hotel.

Yummy duck!!

And now time for a well deserved sleep!


  1. It looks like a great place to visit. Lots of things to enjoy and I love that view.

    I would have the goulash and that wonderful looking coffee too!

  2. So hard to even begin to know where to comment! So much to take in... I love the arched bridge with the lions! The raven with the gold ring! The scary nazi/commy bldg :(

    And everything else! So amazing... Really good of you to share.


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