Settling in to the Budapest Life

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Exploring Budapest: history, architecture and lifestyles

The guide to an affordable holiday in twinkling Budapest: describing a newly-graduated student’s thoughts as she embarks on the exploration of an alluring and unfamiliar city. Join Sarah as she takes you through the streets of Budapest, outlining the best accommodation, travel routes and attractions whilst illustrating the charms of this city.

Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary containing stunning architecture and fascinating history. Cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is divided into two parts by the River Danube; Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east, unifying to become Budapest.

The River Danube running between Buda (foreground) and Pest (background). (Photographer: Michela Simoncini; Flickr)

The River Danube running between Buda (foreground) and Pest (background). (Photographer: Michela Simoncini; Flickr)

I visited Budapest in April during the Easter break. My friends and I had planned the trip a month before, booking cheap flights through Skyscanner and a hotel through Expedia. We flew via Ryanair, which was uncomfortable as well as being a panic-fest. The luggage allowance for carry-on luggage bothered me quite a bit; my suitcase was just a bit larger than allowed and I was praying that I wouldn’t be caught for it. Thankfully I wasn’t, as the Ryanair staff didn’t check the sizes of luggage. The plane took off on time and my friends and I spent most of the journey catching up on sleep.

After landing in Budapest we didn’t find anything different to what we’d left behind in the UK, the only difference was the Hungarian which was playing over the loudspeaker. We grabbed our luggage, got a licensed taxi from the airport and were driven to our hotel, Prince Apartments. The journey took around 25 minutes; the hotel was in the central part of Pest with easy access to all public transport. Once we were on the road, we saw the ’foreign-ness’ of Budapest; the billboards were in Hungarian, the buildings were colourful and exquisite, and it was definitely less populated than the UK. The taxi driver had American pop music on which was a contrast against our surroundings.

Ferihegy in Budapest isn't the most unusual, but once you leave you'll begin to see true elements of Hungary. (Photographer: Twang_Dunga; Flickr)

Ferihegy in Budapest isn’t the most unusual place, but once you leave you’ll begin to see true elements of Hungary. (Photographer: Twang_Dunga; Flickr)

On arrival at Prince Apartments, which was located just behind a main road called Kisfaludy, we were greeted by the hotel’s staff at the reception. They handed us the key to our room, which was luckily in the newest apartment building and answered all our questions thoroughly and with a smile. The building had a reception just as a hotel does, but it was really a bunch of apartment buildings. We took the lift to our room, and were pleasantly surprised when we walked in. At €177.65 for the total of 4 nights, we had a booked a studio complete with 3 single beds, a kitchen and table, a television, cupboards and a toilet. The room was clean and comfortable, there was three of everything, whether it be cutlery, cooking pans, toilet rolls or towels. DVDs and an iron were supplied upon request and we had a balcony as well. It was the ideal place to come back to after a tiring day of sightseeing and very good value.

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Budapest: The Allure of Religion

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Exploring Budapest: history, architecture and lifestyles

A guide to an affordable holiday in twinkling Budapest, describing a newly graduated student’s thoughts as she embarks on the exploration of an alluring and unfamiliar city. Join Sarah as she takes you through the streets of Budapest, outlining the best accommodation, travel routes and attractions whilst illustrating the charms of this city.

The impressive interior of The Great Synagogue.(Photographer: Rachel Titiriga; Flickr)

The impressive interior of The Great Synagogue. (Photographer: Rachel Titiriga; Flickr)

After the museum, our exploration of Budapest’s religious sights began. Located less than 10 minutes away on Dohány Street is the largest synagogue in Europe. Seating 3000 people, it was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, with the decoration based chiefly on Islamic models from North Africa and medieval Spain (the Alhambra). The synagogue’s Viennese architect, Ludwig Förster, believed that no distinctively Jewish architecture could be identified, and thus chose “architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs.” The Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum.

After paying 2,700 forints (about £7.30), again at student price, we walked into the synagogue. Upon entering I took a sharp intake of  breath: the one word I would use to describe the synagogue is ’peace’. Shades of baby pink and peach covered the walls and the interior of the domes, and chandeliers of round, white bulbs hung from the ceilings with wooden seats stretching to the front of the synagogue. We walked cautiously to the front, as there were some worshippers praying. At the front was a raised platform with a gold and silver structure on it. After taking too many pictures, we sat down on the wooden seats, taking in the architecture and the feeling of serenity that comes with being in a religious place.

Detail from the synagogue's interior. (Photographer: Chad K; Flickr)

Detail from the synagogue’s interior. (Photographer: Chad K; Flickr)

On exiting the synagogue we made our way to the graveyard and memorial. Black graves with names written in gold rested on a sea of green. Trees rose to the sky, it was quiet as low whispers of the visitors and the leaves could be heard rustling in the wind. At the front of the graveyard was a wall that lists the names of the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust, and a platform on which it said:

Holocaust Memorial Never Again! 1944: In memory of the six hundred thousand Hungarian Jews murdered in the Holocaust during the second World War and in memory of the members of the relief and rescue committee of Budapest…

It was very poignant. Passing through the graveyard, I encountered an odd mix of emotions of sadness, pain, anger, happiness and tranquility. The nature of the crimes against Jews was indescribable and it upset me greatly. However, their peaceable resting place in the synagogue made me glad; their violent lives were over and now they could rest in peace, and the Hungarian officials had made sure of that. I felt that they deserved that; to be able to be remembered in the best way possible.

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Emmanuel DYAN

The Tombs and Castles of Buda

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Exploring Budapest: history, architecture and lifestyles

Our third morning in Budapest started with sandwiches from a nearby SPAR. This was the day we had planned to cross the Danube River to the Buda side. On our agenda was the Tomb of Gül Baba and the Buda Castle. Due to the availability of various modes of transport, I didn’t think it would be difficult to cross over to the other side of the city however, due to everything being labelled in Hungarian, it proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. From Prince Apartments, we headed to the nearest underground metro station, Corvin-negyed, and after explaining our destination to the man at the information counter, made our way by metro to Deák Ferenc tér. From there, we caught a bus which went over the Margaret Bridge to the Buda side. The bus journey was about 30 minutes long; luckily the view of the Danube River was enough to keep us entertained during the journey.

kirandulo

Margaret Bridge connects Pest with Buda, and is right next to Margaret Island which has several pretty gardens and walks. (Photographer: kirandulo; Flickr)

Upon arrival to the Buda side, we got off at the stop nearest to the bridge. That wasn’t our best idea — with no proper inkling of the way to Gül Baba’s Tomb, we ended up walking in the wrong direction. On our expedition to find the tomb, we noticed that the Buda side of Budapest was quieter and less populated. To me, it looked more like a foreign country than the Pest side did. After a good 15 minutes of staring at the map and checking road signs, we realised we were lost in this more alien Budapest. That was when we stopped at a local shop to ask for directions.

The directions definitely helped; we finally made it to the road leading up to Gül Baba’s Tomb, which is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims from all around the world. The tomb is located on Mecset Street, in the district of Rózsadomb, and was built by Mehmed Paşa between 1543 and 1548. Oddly, the road leading up to the tomb wasn’t labelled and it was only due to the presence of two other tourists that we figured out it led to the tomb. We began the climb up the road, which was uneven and very steep. A mark of my unfitness was that I had to stop a couple of times during the climb, and I also almost slipped on some loose bricks which were no longer embedded in the road.

Top Budapest

The view of Budapest from the hills of Buda is something that needs to be savoured. (Photographer: Top Budapest; Flickr)

On arriving at the top of the road, we found out there were more steps to climb. I wasn’t too overjoyed about that, but when we got to the top it was worth it. Budapest was stretched out before our eyes; a peaceful city with colourful buildings, dotted boats floating along in the river and tiny specks of cars zooming on the roads. After spending a few minutes staring at the view and getting some pictures, we made our way to the doors of the tomb, which had a shallow dome covered with lead plates and wooden tiles.

That was when we received a surprise; there was a sign in front of the tomb, stating that it was closed for remodelling until March 2017. Needless to say, we were disappointed and felt quite stupid for not checking the tomb’s opening times beforehand. However, we found the whole situation quite funny and were glad to have made the journey to the tomb, because the view was definitely worth it.

helen

Nothing like a quick stop at a bakery to replenish lost energy! (Photographer: helen; Flickr)

Laughing about our silly oversight, we made our way down the hill. It was lunchtime and the climb had made us hungry, so we stopped at a nearby bakery café on Frankel Leó utca called Dolcissima. A cute and sunny bakery with light, pastel-coloured walls and white furniture, it was the ideal place for a light snack. I had chocolate éclairs, which were deliciously soft and creamy, with thick chocolate coatings. The cheerful ambiance of the café combined with the pleasant service of the owner made Dolcissima a great rest stop, and after a hearty meal, we left to make our way to Buda Castle.

Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill and is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. It was first completed in 1265 and is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. Over the years, the castle has been extended and each king has added to its architecture, but it hasn’t had an easy life. When Ottoman Turks conquered Hungary, the palace suffered; it was left to decay and was mainly used as barracks, stables and storage.  Continue reading

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Benjamin Thomas

Leaving Budapest in Royal Fashion 

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Exploring Budapest: history, architecture and lifestyles

Our final day of touring Budapest was here. After yet another brunch of pizza bread and baked goods, we headed out to make our way to the Hungarian Parliament. Upon entry into the Corvin-negyed metro station, we again inquired about our travel route at the information counter. With a bit of help from the people at the counter, combined with our map skills, we took the metro going to Deák Ferenc tér. From there, we were supposed to change Continue reading

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