Our first sighting of the stunningly beautiful city of Budapest.
Budapest, what can I say, it has a soul that is obvious in so many ways even in the way the tour guide evoked its character and expressed her love of the city.
Our first taste was a bus tour round the big sights which gave us a sense of what to expect and what was worth following up as we passed by the river being the focal point of the city.
First up was the Castle/ Palace hill on the Buda side which affords wonderful views over the river to the Pest side which are best enjoyed from the Fisherman’s Bastion and the monument behind St Mathias Church.
The tour then took us back over to Pest where most of the action is and up to the major monuments at the Square which celebrates all the Hungarian ( Magyars ) leaders before the Austrians took over which they are very proud ofIt was then up past the Baths which we will get to and the big Jewish Synagog before dropping us back to the hotel .
We tried to get our phones to work without any luck and thought there must be some hiccup with Telstra and the Hungarian carriers so we borrowed the Avalon tour guides phone and finally arranged to get into our apartment. We are staying in a very nice area near the National Parliament building, one of the most Spectacular in the world and it is quiet, yet easy to get around.
Once settled in we headed out for a walk through our local park with its soviet monument set against the backdrop of beautiful Art Nouveau buildings from Budapests heyday and toook our time arriving at the Budapest lights tour we had booked on the boat.
We stopped off at one of the recommended restaurants from our guide book and had some lovely Goulash before taking our time through the lovely traffic free streets.
The night tour was worth it and we saw the theatre district, went up to the liberty hill and had a spectacular view over the whole city lit up before finishing up viewing the Parliament lit up like a Christmas tree.
The next morning John went to the local market to get some fresh produce to compliment his inadequate shopping the first day which worked out well.
There are many such indoor markets throughout the city which were established around the late 19th century and the biggest was one of the first stops on our journey today but first we had to cross the Beautiful Liberty suspension bridge over to The Gellert hotel and it’s Baths but on viewing it all we decided to go one day to the big public bath Palace up at Szechenyl.
We went back over the bridge and checked out the huge Central Markets and had an average lunch before wandering through the mostly rubbish market stalls before going down to the food aisles on the ground look. It was no Barcelona Market but that is hard to beat anywhere in the world.
Next stop was to find the massage centre we had booked and after a wrong street turn we found it and enjoyed a very nice 90 min session to untie all our knots.
We had bought a 3 day transport pass and had used it well so we caught the tram to the Jewish Quarter to visit the 2nd biggest mosque in the world which was both beautiful and haunting at the same time.
Budapest Jews also suffered from Hitler’s wrath and there are over 2,000 buried in mass graves in the courtyard who were left to starve in the ghetto at the end of the war until the Russians liberated them. There’ s also an amazing silver tree commemorating the 6,000 Jews exterminated from 1944 to 45 in Budapest. We metroed our way back to the main square and had a nice light meal in our local Square and watched the locals walk their dogs and play with their kids.
On the way home we discovered one of the best Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest and saw that it was a museum to the period so that is now on our must do list. We stayed in that night as it was already 9pm when we got back.
We sorted out the metro routes and walked up past the markets to the main square for the yellow line to The Baths. This is the original metro the second oldest behind London and the little tiled art nouveau stations are very cute.
The amazing bath house or bath palace is a flurry of activity with locals and tourists. There are massages of all kinds and so many baths! 3 large ones outsides and I lost count of how many were indoors.
Each one is a different water temperature from 17deg to 40deg and many have minerals and salts that have health benefits. We tried a few of the indoor ones out first but the smell of the minerals gets to you after a while so the great outdoors beckoned . It was refreshing outside and we tried out the pool with the whirlpool in it, which was fun. We bumped into an Australian couple from WA that we met on the river cruise and enjoyed having a catch up chat with them.
The hands and body were waterlogged , but it was nice to give the feet a rest from walking all day, and the baths are supposed to be good for aches and pains, so hopefully we are recharged; back on the train again to discover some more sights.
We checked out a few Art Nouveau buildings on our way back to the apartment as well as some of the abundant street sculpture and that night we stayed in a had a light meal in the apartment.
John got up early the next day to get tickets for a tour of The Parliament building and it took 20 mins and we were booked in for 12 noon. After breakfast it was off again and our first stop was St Stephens Cathedral, a stunning Baroque style that is like St Peters in Rome but much smaller.
It was then time for some excess so we dropped into the stunning Art Nouveau Gresham Palace Hotel for morning tea which was well worth it.
We had to get to the Parliament so we stopped by at the impressive Chain bridge another marvelous suspension bridge, the first to cross the river but of course the lovely retreating Germans blew up all bridges destroying at least 50% of the centres and they had to be rebuilt to the exacting standards of the original designs.
We passed along the river front to another chilling holocaust monument that has set over 50 pairs of metal sculptured shoes into the pavement where hundreds of Jews were told to remove their shoes on the edge of the river bank and then shot into the river, it was just impossible to sum up the emotional impact of such a thing.
The Parliament tour was fascinating and we also learnt a lot of extra history info while taking in the over the top opulence of it all.
Built when Austria was releasing its grip on Hungary they believed they were approaching the Golden age and the wealth was staggering so no expense was spared but just 8 years later they were dragged into a war they wanted nothing of because their Independence was not finalized and that was the end of the golden age.
Next stop was a tram ride downtown to the Museum of Applied Arts located in a beautiful but neglected ( currently getting restored ) Art Nouveau ( succession period) building that had such a fascinating Morrish and Oriental influence.
The displays were ok but we expected more turn of the century art and furniture but it had little to offer apart from the stunning building design and finnish.
Back down the very deep metro which we now have wired and we were ready for lunch when we surfaced near Vaci Utca, the main shopping street passing a few more Sessesion buildings along the way before stopping in at a famous chocolate cafe for afternoon tea.
We still had time to see the Art Nouveau museum near our apartment so a quick metro and we experienced a small but amazing two floors chock a block full of the most beautiful furniture and household items from 1890 to 1914 which was also near the 1956 soviet invasion memorial outside parliament.
A rest before one last outing to see what happens in Budapest on a Saturday night so we walked up to Erzsebet Ter the main square and discovered a whole new world with young people everywhere in this amazing square. There was food and drink stalls tables, grass a huge sunken beer garden/ food court and market stalls, it was brilliant especially the freshly cooked thin hot potato chips in a cone…priceless. We passed the spectacular St Stephens lit up briliantly against a stunning twilight sky on the way back.
We finished off the night and our stay in Budapest with Dinner on the roof of The President hotel and enjoyed a great view over the roof tops of this wonderful all lit up.