I have been fascinated by Hungary for a long time, and Budapest was a city I was very much looking forward to visiting.
It always struck me as a strange country. The language is unique, the history is rich, and it’s right in the centre of Europe.
Now I’m about 80% sure that my train decided to change its final destination part way through the trip, and I ended up walking to my hostel from the wrong side of town. Anyways, after checking in I met a cool American girl who works with the UN in Vienna and we decided to do some Budapest exploring together.
There are beautiful bridges such as this Green Bridge over the Danube joining the two parts of the city. Budapest was formed by the joining of the cities of Buda and Óbuda (old Buda) on the side with the hills, and Pest on the opposite flat side.
Of course we’ll be going up there eventually.
The Hungarian people are also known as Magyars. The Hungarian word for Hungary is Magyarország, and the language can be referred to either as Hungarian or Magyar. Realising the equivalence of the names was helpful for navigating the history and names while staying there.
I am always interested in understanding why things are named what they are, and found it fascinating that a possible reason for the name “Hungary” is the claimed ancestry to the Huns.
Having been very interested in Attila the Hun and the Hunnic people, it was cool to be in the lands they conquered.
An important Hungarian figure that is going to come up frequently is their first king Szent István (Saint Stephen I).
Before climbing the hill we walked by the Museum of Mathematics. Some extremely important mathematicians came from Hungary, like Paul Erdős, and the Rubik’s Cube is a Hungarian invention.
This was a nice climb and a good way to start my visit to Budapest.
The two most impressive buildings that dominate the view along the Danube are the parliament on the Pest side and the palace on the Buda side.
We eventually reached the top and the Liberty Statue.
We walked down the other side towards the palace and some museums.
Eventually we made it to what had first gotten me interested in visiting Budapest years ago – The Chain Bridge.
After walking across the bridge, I was already happy with how my visit to Budapest went.
A little more walking brought me to my first encounter with Szent István Bazilika.
Wanting to try some Hungarian food at a nearby restaurant I ordered a venison dish that unexpectedly came with a blueberry sauce, and it was excellent!
I considered going to see Mama Mia in Hungarian but there were no tickets.
I stated at a place called Mandala Hostel, which I would highly recommend. The people there were fantastic and the location was nice and quiet.
It didn’t take long to find an original Hungarian dessert. This is somloi cake.
Another day found me on a walk to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and the Vajdahunyad Castle. It was a nice walk past embassies on tree lined streets.
I first arrived at Hero’s Square. The central monument has statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyars including Árpád, who is considered to be the founder of the Hungarian nation.
The monument behind the central pillar contains statues of significant Hungarian rulers, beginning of course with Szent István.
I also took a picture of Béla IV because he did something pretty cool. After getting thoroughly defeated by the Mongol invasion in 1241 (as everyone was), when the Mongols left he made sure that many new castles were built in case they came back. That foresight caused the Hungarians to be able to repel the Mongols when they returned, and they were not easily defeated warriors.
Continuing past the square I began to encounter some interesting buildings.
Crossing the bridge, I arrived at the Vajdahunyad Castle and some other buildings that were architecturally beautiful. The church especially!
The architecture styles are varied because this area was built to showcase some of Hungary’s landmarks for the Millennial Exhibition in 1896.
I checked out the outside of the thermal baths but didn’t go in as water isn’t really my element.
I walked around the park and then decided to head towards the Basilica to actually go in and see it.
I just so happened to arrive 20 minutes before an organ concert, and happily bought a ticket.
After all, I’m always happy to hear Tocatta and Fugue.
Partway through the first song I could hear a note being held that didn’t sound quite right. When the organist finished playing the Fugue, the effect of the final note was ruined by one pipe that had decided to go solo and just sound indefinitely. Anyways, I got to see the organist get up and remove a pipe from a large church organ, so I wasn’t even mad.
Clearly, Szent István Bazilika is beautiful.
The walk back to the hostel was nice, and took me past the largest synagogue in Europe.
I went to a Russian restaurant for dinner and had a cool dessert called Tatjana Kedvence, which is a Russian cream cake.
The church next to the hostel is nice at night.
On my penultimate day I went to the Hungarian National Museum, which was very much worth it.
The museum covered the history of Hungary from the Ice Age through to the 1990s.
There was a large mosaic on the lower level.
There was an Aurochs horn, which was pretty cool. Aurochs are very large, now extinct, ox like animals.
I saw some symbols I didn’t recognise, which turned out to be my first encounter with the Glagolitic script.
Like Cyrillic, Glagolitic was created by the brothers St. Cyril and Methodius, who spread Christianity throughout Eastern Europe.
One of the most interesting artifacts here was a Hunnic skull. The Huns practiced artificial cranial deformation, as an elongated skull fit an ideal of beauty.
So I’m already pretty impressed by the early history section of the museum, time to move upstairs.
This would be a cool piano style to get someday.
Surprisingly, the museum actually had Mozart’s traveling Clavichord. Furthermore, previously owned by Hungarian piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt, the museum is now home to Beethoven’s piano.
Hungarian National Museum – worth it.
On my final day I made it at last to the Hungarian Parliament.
One thing I like about the Hungarian flag is that the red on it doesn’t have the usual meaning. With flags, it’s usually a safe guess that any red on it represents the blood of the people who fought for the country, but in Hungary’s case the colours represent virtues with red representing strength.
Finally, I decided that the best way to end my time in Budapest was to spend the night walking down the Danube.
Buda Palace and the White Bridge looked great lit up.
The Chain Bridge was much better at night!
Parliament was nice too, though this one I prefer in the day because of all of the detail in the structure.
Now my trip down the Danube will continue, and I will be visiting a country that was not on my list at all.
The next morning I found my way to the correct train station, thankfully, and boarded my train to Romania.