Budapest – a city of history along the Danube

“Train to Budapest is 7 HOURS?!?!?!” I texted Josh a couple of days ago. 
“Wow! That’s long” he wrote back.

I thought it would be something along the lines of 2-3 hours. When I got my ticket on Monday I also asked how long the train is to Poland to see if I could do a last minute day trip on Tuesday. That train was 7 hours as well. It’s closer but had a lot of stops. So that was out of the question.

“Can I help you?” a guy asked as I struggled to take down my luggage above me – it was super high up.
“Sure. Where are you from?”
“Miami. And this is my jacket coming from there.” He pointed to what he was wearing – a puffy black jacket while wearing an orange hat.
“Are you just visiting?” I asked.
“I’m here for work.”
“Oh what to you do?”
“I’m recruiting for a camp in North Carolina. What about you, visiting?”
“Yeah! I’m taking a last minute vacation before I start my new job this coming Monday.”
“That’s awesome.”
We stepped off the train…
“Wow, cool train station,” he said.
…and we had arrived in the city of Budapest…

Prague is a fairy tale land…old and cobblestone everywhere. Budapest reminds me of Paris, but obviously Hungarian style. It’s pretty easy to navigate and their metro is too.

Today I walked along Andrássy út to Heroes Square. It was a gorgeous walk – about 20 min, with the trees leading me along the way. The tomb of the unknown soldier is located in front of the monument, while in the center is the Millennium Memorial standing 36m high topped by a statue of the Archangel Gabriel.

  

Next was Vajdahunyad Castle, built in 1896. There was a huge ice skating rink next to it, in which, yes, they were playing Justin Bieber music.

   
 

Right by the castle was a statue of Anonymus. Now is it just me or does this guy look like Voldemort? He wrote the first histories of the ancient Magyars in the 12th century and touching his pen will bring you luck. I wish I knew that when I was there, but he sorta creeped me out so I decided it wasn’t worth the 30 minute walk back.

  

I then went to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. This place is well known. But how was I supposed to know to bring my bathing suit for this trip? I mean, it’s seriously freezing (even below freezing) outside! I met a couple of guys from Turkey and we went in to try to tour the place but you really need to be going to the “spa” to see it. Though we found a window inside which looked further inside the baths so I got to see what it looks like:

  

I took a break in my Airbnb and later took a tour of the Opera House. I’m not really an opera person but after taking the tour, would love to go sometime when I’m back again (whatever future year that may be). So much history too…it was the first opera house in Hungary, and it’s where the noble people would go to meet each other. The emperor of Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph gave one million forints but his request was that it would not be bigger than Vienna’s opera house. When he came to visit he found that if wasn’t bigger but it was more beautiful so he refused to go but Sisi still went. Up above, the chandelier weighs 2.1 tons and has 500 light bulbs. The painting is on the topic of the “glorification of music” and it has 12 Olympic gods with Apollo being the most important (located at 12 o clock) as he’s the god of music. There’s a legend that the angels would come together and play their music. Everything is made of wood which is good for acoustics. And it’s super prepped for in case there’s a fire. Beneath each seat is a vent and there are tunnels running under the chairs in order to refresh the air. When it’s hot, ice blocks would be put in the tunnels to serve as its own air conditioning.

  

St. Stephen’s Basilica was nearby so I walked there and went up the tower. It’s the largest Roman Catholic Church in Budapest and has a 96 meter high dome. The sun was setting so it was a good time to go.

   

  

I then walked to Parliament. WOW. It is absolutely gorgeous!! There’s something about seeing parliaments at night. I love when they’re lit up. Parliament is the largest building in the country and has 691 rooms. St. Stephen’s crown, the scepter, orb and Rennaissance sword are guarded here. 

   

The river was right behind it. Walking along I saw the chain bridge and soon came across what appeared to be a memorial made up of shoes.

  

“Do you know what this is?” I asked a guy nearby. I overheard him talking in French before to whom appeared to be his wife or friend. “Uhh” he looked at me a little confused.
“En Francais?” I asked.
“Aw oui.”
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” (What is that?)
He then told me that it’s a memorial to honor the Jews that were shot by fascists in WWII. They were forced to strip of their clothes and take off their shoes and were executed with their bodies falling in the Danube river.
“Combien?” (How many?) He asked the lady. He said it was around 100 individuals and people of all ages even infants they killed. An extremely sad and heartbreaking story. 

I walked the next morning to the Chain Bridge, the capital’s first bridge, which was built between 1839 – 49. After WWII it was rebuilt on its 100th anniversary. There are 2 lions on each side which guard the Chain Bridge. And they’re missing their tongues!

  

You have to take a mini tram to get up to Sandor Palace (the official seat of the President of the Republic) and Budapest Castle. It only takes a few minutes and then you’re at the castle district.

I walked to Matthias Church. It was stunning. It’s Budapest’s most famous Catholic Church and has a neo-Gothic architecture.

  
  

I was the only person who bought a ticket to walk up the tower. The guy at the ticket desk told me “It’s 200 steps” three times. “I’m cool with that!” So basically I got a personal tour guide, walked up 197 steps and learned more about the tower. It’s 500 years old, and they have time capsules carrying not only old documents but also cigarettes! There’s a couple of bell rooms and the Bell of the Holy Spirit was made in 1723. The largest bell is named Jesus Christ and it’s 4.4 tons. The guide also said that Budapest is actually 2 cities: Buda and Pest and they were united in 1873. 

 

It was a beautiful walk around the Castle district. I saw the Royal Palace and next time planning to visit their National Gallery of Art. The streets are colorful, their architecture stunning. And you can’t go without some mulled wine during the wintertime. I’ll be back one day 🙂

    

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