A Few Days in Budapest (2014-05-15/05-19)

Creative Commons License
A Few Days in Budapest, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


The short holiday started well enough as I set off with a friend to Gatwick to catch the flight to Budapest. Everything worked as expected until I went through the security frame at the airport - beep! I had emptied my pockets, but I did not know that my shoes contained a metal bar in the sole to give it stength and springiness. So they had to X-ray them.

After everyone had boarded the plane, we heard an announcement that someone had checked in a bag but not turned themselves, so we had to wait while they found the bag to remove it. We took off a half-hour late - not a bad result.

At Budapest airport the wind and rain were string enough that the floor of the covered walkway from the aircraft to the terminal building was under a centimetre of water, because the wind was blowing the rain through a wire grid on one side, and there was no hole on the other to let it drain away. However, soon we found the "Airport shuttle" and got to the hotel - on foot, since they were laying sewer pipes right outside and the road was closed.

Later in the evening we took opur first view of the river Danube and the parliament building. After dinner the chain bridge and the Erzsébet bridge sparkled with wet light and the Gresham Palace hotel hung in the night like a ghost.

In the morning the weather had improved as we set off past the colourful flowerbeds and the statue of Saint Gellért, across the river to the busy streets in the shopping centre of the city, to see some street art and details in the stone facade on several buildings. As it was early, we made our way to the market hall already busy with locals looking for and tourists looking at the foodstuffs and other wares. In addition gantries and walkways formed an upper storey containing coffee stalls and souvenirs. Below ground in the cooler part were stalls selling fish, fresh meat, etc.

Returning to the street we examined the various architectural styles and statues, like the "Fishergirl" while we contiued on to the Parliament, which stood out brightly against darkening clouds. The design was based on the London Houses of Parliament, and was finished in 1903, but used lighter coloured stone. However, they did not stone of such high quality, and the repair work started within 20 years, has carried on until now and will continue into the foreseeable future.

Across the road stood the Ethnographic museum with its large spaces and ceiling paintings. The displays gave a good idea of the history of the region and the way of life in centuries past.

Outside nearby was a sitting statue o Jozsef Attila, a Hungarian poet from a poor background, who considered himself an outsider.

On Saturday, we visited someone with whom I've been corresponding for over a year. She came to the hotel to accompany us by tram and bus (free of charge for EU citizems over the age of 65) to her home in Budafoko a few kilometres south of the city centre, from where we walked up a low hill to get another view across the Danube. It's impossible to avoid the Danube in and around Budapest.

After lunch we all visited the museum part of a wine cellar, where we joined a small group. First we dressed ourselves in cloaks, red for the women and black for the men. The cellar acts as a warehouse for several winemakers, and has 17 kilometres of tunnels, from where they earlier had dug the stone for among other things the Parliament building. Inside we foud old examples of barrles, traditionally made from oak; each one had its own carved design. Also we saw a smaller training barrel, where the glass side allowed the apprentice to watch how the wine was maturing.

They had adapted them as displaycases for samples and techniques. Later we saw displays about the various regions where wine is made in Hungary, followed by wooden figures making ships and barrels to carry the mature wine to the buyers.

It is worth visiting, and I do not say that just because they gave us a free glass of good wine from their own cellar which cannot be purchased.

Afterwards we tried to get in the castle Nagytétényi, but we were too late. On the way back to my correspondent's home we passsed the local war memorial on top of which stood the Turul bird, and important symbol of Hungarian identity.

The next day we set out on foot to the Buda castle, first passing more road works in front of interesting buildings, until we came to the funicular, which took us up to the flat top of the hill, where the old royal offices used to be located, but now ther are museums and churches and other official buildings. A few of the roofs are colourful, like that on Saint Matthias church, or the National Archive. Unfortunately even at such an attractive place they were laying new cobble sets on the roads.

It is easy to understand why the castle was built there on the Buda side, since the location provides and excellent view across the Danube to the city of Pest, where most of the population lived. In the corner of the square near the enormous National Museum stands the fountain of Saint Matthias showing men ready to hunt deer, while the woman protects a fawn.

Returning to the level of the river, we looked at the so-called Chain Bridge, built by Adam Clark, a Scottish engineer in 1849, and where the well-known lions stand guard. Crossing the river we went into the fairly light Basilica, but we cold not stay long due to a service - it was Sunday - so the outside had to do.

We were flying home Monday afternoon, so I spent the morning climbing to the statue of Liberty. The path started at the bottom of the cliff under the monument to Saint Gellert. Coming down from the monument there is a waterfall past which the path follows steps through a quiet wood slowly rising to the top. On the way I saw the parliament near which were moored cruise boats to let the tourists see the city. At the top stands the Citadella a military fortress used over the centuries, from where one can look down on the Castle and National Museum, where I had been the previous day. The Liberty Monument consists of human figure holding a palm leaf, and was erected after the second world war, first to thank the Soviet troops, but aftger 1989 the inscription was changed to thank all those who died to free Hungary.

Goig down the other side I passed roses and a strange stone pelican near a children's playground. At the bottom lay the "church in a cave", but I did not see inside due to a long queue and short time. Across via the Liberty Bridge, past the market hall with its coloured roof, I met my friend again when we ate lunch alfresco enjoying the warm weather. The last  noteworthy sight we found in the park built over the ruins of the Roman camp Aquincum.

Arriving at Gatwick we discovered that the train to Reading had been cancelled due to a broken down train blocking the line, so we had to go by Victoria and Paddington en London, but unusually that enabled us to catch a train through Reading earlier than the one we inended to catch, getting us home half an hour earlier than expected!

Andy Pepperdine


Creative Commons License
A Few Days in Budapest, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.