Back in the winter of 2011 my boyfriend and I had the honor to spend two awesome weeks in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, where I have learned for the very first time that traveling means nothing without knowing the history of the place beforehand. Thankfully, two weeks were enough to read about the places that we visited within the capital and about its glorious past, which is strongly connected to Romania’s rich history. Due to freezing temperatures, the streets were quite empty, especially in the evening when people gathered inside warm restaurants and pubs. This was an ideal situation because it felt like we almost had the city to ourselves and we wandered for hours without using a map, but we didn’t feel lost at any time; instead it felt like a home I have always known.
Budapest is a wonderful modern citadel that despite its size and nearly two million inhabitants, exhibits nothing of the fast-paced lifestyle of other European cities. Life flows slowly and peacefully much alike the Danube river that sunders the old capital with eternal grace. The glorious history of Budapest is represented by massive buildings, monuments, and a multitude of architectural elements that abound everywhere you look, invoking in Hungarians a certain pride that is both respectable and profoundly inspiring.
The journey towards Budapest can begin by road, railroad, by water or flight. Either way the destination is the same splendid Central European jewel that shines like an emerald in summertime, resembles a cozy modern fortress in winter, playful in spring and nostalgic when autumn falls.
Budapest consists of three former historical settlements that were united in 1873: Buda, Pest and Óbuda respectively.
One masterpiece area in Buda would be Géllert Hill (Géllert-hegy) which is a 235 m tall butte, named after Saint Gerard, who was thrown to death from the hill. He remains one of the patron saints of Hungary, immortalized with a monument on the northeast slope of Géllert Hill, a bronze statue that commemorates the man who brought a new religion to Budapest.
At the top of the hill is the Citadella, a fortress built in 1851 that occupies almost the entire 235 m high plateau, offering a unique view over Budapest and its eight bridges. The way up to the Citadella is by a stone path or a road built in the southern side of the Citadel, allowing an easier and faster access to all the areas around the fortress, but walking is a better experience and it can make you feel as if you pay a small tribute to those who fought for freedom.
If you choose to walk by foot, you will find yourself facing the wonderful Liberty Statue (Szabadság Szobor), first erected in 1947. The 14 m tall statue stands on a 26 m pedestal and it gracefully holds a palm leaf. On the memorial are engraved the following words, translated from Hungarian language: “Erected by the grateful Hungarian Nation in memory of the liberating Russian heroes.” After the transition from the Communist rule to a democratic government the text was modified: “To the memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and success of Hungary.”
Apart from Géllert Hill, Buda on the west bank shelters the Royal Palace, which has several names: Budavári Palota, Királyi-palota or Királyi Vár. It was built in 1265 and it is connected to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Palace’s inner courtyard reveals several monuments such as Matthias Fountain, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Statue of the horseherd, the mythological Turul bird, Fishing Children by Károly Senyey and many more.
On the east bank of the mighty river, Pest is adorned with wonderful buildings and the architecture is extremely varied, including Roman, Gothic, Neo-Gothic, Renaissance, Ottoman, Baroque, Romantic, and Art Nouveau influences, yet one of the most outstanding buildings in Pest is the Hungarian Parliament, on the immediate bank of the Danube river.