I was meant to visit Budapest on a Saturday but much to my disappointment, my tour operator didn’t pitch. I suppose there was a plan somewhere. As in some other European countries, most shops are closed on Sundays so this afforded me an opportunity to see families leisurely enjoying the day. And what a gorgeous day it was! It was surprisingly warm for an Autumn day and I was in awe of everything I saw in the architecture, vibrant coloured trees and flowers and monuments everywhere!
I was particularly struck by the Museum of Hungarian agriculture, formerly known as the Vajdahunyad castle. Its designer, Ignác Alpár merged different architectural styles, made use of different elements and details of well-known buildings of historical Hungary. I was mesmerised by this hauntingly picturesque building which was shrouded by beautiful Autumn shades.
As much as I love the beauty of the great architecture of a bygone era, I love the beauty of nature from which so many of us draw our creative inspiration and food for the soul. So, I was equally enchanted by the brightness of the day, the lush green lawns, the brilliant colours of a lingering Summer and gentle transitioning of Autumn.
Soaring above Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Column, the focal point of the the column is topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel.
Behind the column is a semicircular colonnade with statues of famous men who made their mark on Hungarian history. Statues atop the colonnades symbolize War, Peace, Work and Welfare, and Knowledge and Glory.
Around the base of the monument are a number of equestrian statues honoring the seven chieftains of the Hungarian tribes who, led by Árpád, conquered the area now known as Hungary.
Since we had left Vienna before breakfast, the Varosligat restaurant was the perfect place to stop for a delicious light meal for brunch.
Certainly an interesting ambience.
I enjoyed a meal of peppers stuffed with chicken and immersed in a tasty paprika sauce. The Turks introduced the pepper plant (Paprika) to Hungary during their rule in the 16th-17th centuries. At first it was regarded and used as an ordinary plant and decorated the gardens. Shepherds and herdsmen who had more contact with the invaders started to spice their meals with the fiery powder.
Then paprika got to the kitchens of the peasants. Aristocrats found the peasant foods flavoured with the red spice very tasty and slowly they started to use it too.
By the 19th century paprika became a dominant spice in Hungarian kitchens and restaurants.
Budapest which is referred to by some as the Paris of the East, has shops, cafes and ambassadors’ residences lining the street below which is beautifully tree-lined and resembles the Champs elysees in Paris.
Budapest is one city with two personalities. The Buda part is situated on the hillside on the western banks of the Danube river. Property on this side of the city is more expensive and belongs to those who can afford it. It is from this vantage point of Castle’s hill that one can marvel at the striking building of the Parliament and other awesome views.
Today, Castle Hill is recognized as a World Heritage Site, and has many must-see attractions, Gothic arches, eighteenth-century Baroque houses and cobblestone streets. Though Castle Hill has changed much since building began in the 13th century, its main streets still follow their medieval paths. Some houses date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, giving an idea of what the Castle District may have looked like back then. Practically every house has a plaque indicating the century in which it was built, and providing details of its history. A surprising number of the buildings are still private homes, as Castle Hill is also a residential area. Cars have been banned – only people who live and work here are allowed to drive; however, public transportation is available.
Below is the modern version of the square where the community gathered for their market in medieval times.
Below: one of the few buildings which retains its original form from medieval times that survived bombings of WWII`
The church was used as a coronation church by Hungarian kings for centuries, also a mosque for over 150 years by the Ottoman Turks, once owned by Franciscans, Jesuits, now a thriving Catholic church with holy masses, concerts, plenty of weddings, thousands of tourists. Mathias Church offers the historical beauty of traditional Gothic churches with delicate turrets and colourful tile roofs.
The bastion, a neo-Gothic masquerade that looks medieval and offers some of the best views in Budapest, was built as a viewing platform in 1905 by Frigyes Schulek, the architect behind Matthias Church. Its name was taken from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the castle wall. The seven gleaming white turrets represent the Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century.
The Chain Bridge was the first permanent stone-bridge connecting Pest and Buda, and only the second permanent crossing on the whole length of the river Danube. It is one of the symbolic buildings of Budapest, the most widely known bridge of the Hungarian capital.
Its construction was proposed by Count István Széchenyi, one of the leading figures in 18th century Hungary. Its official name is Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Works were started in 1839 to the plans of English engineer William Tierney Clark with the financial support of Baron György Sina, a Viennese financier. The construction was supervised by Scottish engineer Adam Clark, who later on went on to marry a Hungarian girl and settled down in Hungary. The place at the Buda end of the bridge has been named after him. The inauguration of the Chain Bridge took place on 20 November 1849. Below is a view of the bridge from a tunnel.
After a very enjoyable walk through the medieval nostalgia of the Buda part of Budapest, we crossed the river and were ready for lunch at the Spoon Restaurant – a ship anchored on the Danube river. Together with friends I had made in the tour group who came from Columbia, California and Mumbai, we enjoyed a delicious light lunch, beautiful views of the Danube, delighted in learning about each other’s countries and cultures and marvelled at the wonderful weather.
View of the Danube river from the Spoon restaurant
I thoroughly enjoyed the intriguing blend of tangy flavours of the grilled chicken,strips of parsnips and pureed rhubarb served with mash potatoes as seen below:
Thank you for reading and travelling this journey with me.