Finally, Budapest. Budapest has been on my list of places to travel to for some time and now finally, I was about to go there.
I was so excited to be here and unlike my first few places, it was a smooth arrival. Suitcase arrived and public transport was an absolute breeze.
For my time in Budapest, I decided to book and Airbnb. I’m a first timer at this kind of accommodation and wasn’t sure how easy this would be. Finding it, checking in and checking out, all that sort of thing. Much to my surprise and relief. It was super easy, and it was so nice to have a whole apartment to myself with so much space. I could cook my own meals, spread myself out over a few rooms and I could also do a load of washing. Which was so needed.
I had big plans for my first day. There is so much to do. St Stephens Basilica, Chain Bridge, Castle Hill and Buda Castle. My day jam-packed, even the wind, coldness and rain could not stop me. I had gone from shorts and a light jacket in Berlin, back to a puffer jacket and scarf in Budapest. That was okay though, I was in Budapest, nothing could phase me. My day’s plans would take place in the ‘Buda’ district of Budapest. My apartment was in the ‘Pest’ district. Walking between attractions didn’t seem all that far in distance. Not sure if it’s because there was so much to see on the way, or it was not that far between each.
On my way to Castle Hill, I passed St Stephen’s Basilica. A stunning building inside and out. Surrounded by restaurants and roads leading from every direction. I then crossed Chain Bridge, this is the Charles Bridge or Golden Gate bridge of Budapest. It is a big deal.
Arriving at Castle Hill was a hike, but I loved it. Having gone the “scenic route”. I passed through tight lanes, climbed more stairs than necessary and some saw odd sights. Having finally reached the top I entered a large space that closed around me. Surrounded by white walls, like a fortress. You can climb the walls and see a view overlooking the Danube river, Budapest Parliament House and the whole of Budapest city.
Within the “fortress” are water features with statues and flowerbeds in every possible place. The roads made of cobblestone and well kept, not a piece of rubbish lying around. The streets lined with buildings of different colours and patterns. In the centre of this “village” is Fisherman’s Bastion. Large and spectacular in detail, its exterior has the most brilliant roof I have seen. It is beautiful and meticulously tiled with colours of orange, yellow and blues.
Having been all over Castle Hill, I wander over to Buda Castle. Which can be reached by the main road through Castle Hill. Buda Castle is the main palace of Budapest and is now the Budapest Museum of History. On my walk over I passed so many beautiful sights and antique stores. Buda Castle, as expected was busy and loud. Entering the museum, the yells turned to whispers, rushed walks turned to light steps and large groups turned into pairs.
Stored in the museum was old ruins of the castle before the restoration happened. You could go from the very top floor to the basement. I entered the very pit to the stone basement/cellar/cells, the rooms were dark and lit by only a few lights. The smell was stale, and it was deathly silent. Walking further I saw more artefacts and passed a couple of people, too scared to talk because of the echo. Walking deeper into the room I began hearing music. Beautiful voices bouncing off the walls making its way down through tight spaces and staircases to find my ears.
I followed the sound and it took me to the Gothic Hall and in the corner a choir of 12. I’m not sure what song they were singing or what they were saying but their voices gave me goosebumps. They were signing acapella style before a cello and violin joined in and created a beautiful sound. The sound bounced off the stone walls and vaulted ceilings, filling the small room with a sweet sound.
The space occupied with about 50 people. Some of us sitting on the steps and others standing on the stone platform that kept us higher than the choir and those seated. The stain glass windows letting a breeze flow through. I listened for almost 20 minutes before I left to see the rest of the museum. Seeing displays of the interior of homes and learning about the war. Becoming a little more knowledgeable on how Buda and Pest became Pest-Buda and then Budapest.
After the museum, I walked the streets some more. Seeing that all the street and alley used to complete capacity. Restaurants and shops everywhere you turn. Down small tight streets, in basements and in the smallest possible confinements.
By the end of day one, I was in love. Is too soon to say I am in love after one day? Budapest was ticking all my boxes and blessing my eyes with so many sights.
Day two began with a walk through the Jewish Quarter. So far, each place I have been too I have tried to see the Jewish Quarters and each one looking so similar. Colourless and although filled with life and energy, it still carries sadness and an eeriness. This is something I don’t think will ever disappear. In these quarters you can visit the church and pay your respects at the memorial wall. On the wall is a pray and special words in dedication to the Jewish. This is the only quarters I have been to where there have been such acknowledgements to the previous residents.
Later, it was a long, steep, but scenic hike up to the Citadel. Trees ever so green and birds chirping – well from what I could hear over my painting and gasps for air. It seems no matter how much you work out, these types of walks never get easier. The further I got up the more people I began to see. When I started the walk, I was alone. It wasn’t long before I was meeting with other hikers, who like me were out of breath and needing a rest. When I finally made it to the top, I was seeing the best view possible of Budapest and the Citadel was huge. Just as you would imagine looking from the bottom of the hill.
The walk down was so much easier, I went down the opposite side of the hill to get the Central Markets. If you ever visit Budapest, this is a must visit. The building was once an auction house, now they sell fresh produce; meats, vegetables, fruits, kinds of honey and spices. And that is only the bottom level.
The second level was a thin walkway that I don’t think when the place was being built this was what they had in mind. There was dark green railing either side of the stalls of Knick knacks that took up most of the space. Anything and everything from faux handbags to homemade table cloths and Budapest momentous sold. The walkway was beyond squishy and I’m sure it does not meet health and safety regulations. The top floor also filled, not only with knick-knacks but food stalls too. Many traditional types of foods. The lines for the stalls blocking the walkways. I was trying to take in the different foods and trying not to trip over the tables and chairs all at the same time. While making sure not to bump into people coming to the opposite direction or run into the backs of the people stopping in front of me. It is magnificent chaos.
The markets took some time to see. Once I had gone up and down each row and memorised what it looked like, the smell of the foods and the sounds that rang all through, I walked down the Danube. The Danube is a large river that separates Buda and Pest. Along here, a few kilometres down from the markets is a memorial; Shoes on the Danube Bank. A piece dedicated to those shot in into the river between 1944 – 1945. The Danube is a murky brown colour with river cruise’s, tour boats and restaurant boats all docked along. The other side of the river almost not visible, that is if there weren’t brief gaps between the boats. The walk was uneven and consisted of different terrains underneath my feet. One minute it is cobblestone, the next dirt, grass and gravel.
I knew when I was beginning to get closer to the memorial because packs of tour groups were becoming visible around me. This memorial piece is very different from the others I have seen. Copper shoes lined somewhere between 25-50 metres, right along the water’s edge. In the place where over 3000 people were forced to stand naked before being executed and landing in the water. Buda Castle, Castle Hill and the Citadel visible across the Budapest Parliament House. High heels, runners, boots and child-sized shoes. Some of them upright side by side, other as if there had been a step taken and a few with one shoe or both shoes on their side. Nearby is a plaque, explain in the piece and why it is here.
The last day was here. A day I wanted to go slow but also fast because my next stop excites me so much. I walked up to City Park to begin my day and let me say; I have never been to a park with so many different things happening. As I approached the park in my view was a large monument. Millennium Monument and to either side of that was Museum of Fine Arts and Kunsthalle. I walked over a lake where tourist could hire row boats and as I approached the other side I caught a glimpse of a gorgeous building. Smaller than your typical castle but not your average lake house; Vajdahunyad Castle.
Once I was over the bridge it was a much better view. Vines were crawling up the walls and the medieval-like gate raised. The garden is so well-manicured with water features and statues. Surrounded by the lake and well-established trees. One tree that caught my eyes was a large weeping willow tree. It is a gorgeous building to have come across on a chilly Tuesday morning. You can enter the castle to see the Budapest Agricultural Museum.
I walked further into the park passing by a carnival that was being set up and over from that, was a gallery. I then passed the circus, the zoo, sculptures, several restaurants and food stalls.
My stroll through the park was followed by a visit to Budapest Parliament House and sadly I could not enter. *sigh*. Turns out you must book in advance. If I had known that tickets at the venue sell out so fast, I would have gotten there at opening or booked online. Budapest Parliament House is over 100 years old and is the third largest in the world. The outside is spectacular, I only wish I could have seen inside. I hear it’s as incredible inside as outside. I guess it gives me another reason to return, which is fine with me. I later looked at the online booking and they were booked out three days in advance.
Since I could not see inside I walked around and took in the sights of Budapest for the last time. But just like that my time in Budapest were over. What place it is, shops and restaurants at every turn. Quirky statues all over the city, amazing street art on the walls of large buildings and something around the corner. Now it is off to Edinburgh and Glasgow for a reunion with my best friend. If a reunion doesn’t make a fabulous holiday, I don’t know what does.
Goodbye for now Budapest.