My flight from London Heathrow to Budapest was delayed, so on arrival in Budapest at 5:35pm it was PITCH BLACK!
I caught a taxi to the Wombat’s Hostel where my tour was due to start the next day. In preparation I had booked one night at the hostel, in my own room, the night before.
That night I had next to no sleep due to the girls running up and down the hallways screaming, and being able to hear that plus the coughing through the paper-thin walls all night.
The next morning I decided that as this is the start of quite a long European holiday for me, I would make a reservation at another location so that I would be able to enjoy myself and so I would get a good night’s sleep!
I was able to book a room at a hotel very close to the Opera House, called K+K Opera Budapest. It is a lovely hotel and I have a beautiful room on the 7th floor. It is much more my style and I think it is safe to say that my days of being able to tolerate hostels are over!
It is interesting here as the day doesn’t really seem to start until 11:00am when all the shops open. At night, supermarkets are open until quite late.
The city is absolutely magical. It is also bitterly cold (today the top temperature was 2 degrees Celsius! I came prepared for the cold, so it hasn’t affected me at all, other than that I take forever to get dressed in order to put on my layers of clothing.
On the first night of the tour we had dinner at a Hungarian restaurant. My meal of Mushroom Stroganoff was delicious, however we were rushed through our meals as there was another booking immediately afterwards of another large group. This was disappointing as there was a gentleman playing some kind of instrument that I did not recognise and which I would have enjoyed listening to for longer.
The next day we did a walking tour which included sights such as Buda Castle, Deek Square, Hero Square, Vajdahunyad Castle and Szechenyi thermal baths.
The tour was fantastic and our Topdeck guide, Jemma, really knows her history! Below I have noted some information about the places we visited today:-
In 1241 the Mongols viciously attacked Hungary in what is known as The Battle of Mohi a.k.a. Battle of the Sajo River or Battle of the Tisa River. Hungary lay in ruins after the devastation of this attack – where the Mongols had been met with resistance, they ruthlessly destroyed those in their path. Those who did not rest, were to serve the Mongol armies.
This link https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mohi provides more information about the battle.
I had noticed there seemed to be a lot of Turkish influence around Budapest, and I realised during this walk why that is (not having known a whole lot about Budapest before this).
The Siege of Buda took place in 1541. At the time the Habsburg Monarchy was ruling (they were originally of modern Switzerland and came to rule much of Europe by marrying into royalty).
In 1686 the ‘Second Siege of Buda’ took place.
A couple of pointers that I jotted down but won’t go into all the detail of:-
- The history of Budapest began in the late 9th century; – a Celtic settlement later influenced by Romans;
- Buda and Pest joined to become Budapest on 17 November 1873;
- Austrian/Hungarian empire was a large contributory factor to the start of World War 1;
- First part of the “Iron Curtain” (the divider between Eastern and Western Europe / Communism and wealth) came down in Hungary (barbed wire fence);
- Due to the communism in Hungary, the people are all very good with their hands and can fix anything. They were not able to purchase something new to replace an item that broke so they would have to fix it;
Inventions from Hungary:
- Rubik’s cube;
- Ballpoint pen;
- Colour television;
- Houdini from Hungary
- After World War 2 the Jewish quarter in Budapest was very quiet and affected the city greatly. There were many Jews from Budapest that had been deported;
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- Designed by William Tierney Clark;
- Opened in 1849;
- First permanent bridge on the Danube River;
- Bridge has the name of “István Széchenyi” who was a great supporter and the initiator of the construction of the bridge. The story is that István’s father was on the ‘Pest’ side and István lived on the ‘Buda’ side. István’s father became very ill and died. István was unable to get to the other side of the Danube and was devastated…. hence he wanted to support the construction of the bridge (or so the story goes);
- First permanent bridge in Budapest;
- Adam Clark saved the bridge from being blown up twice;
- Blown up and destroyed in World War 2; however very promptly rebuilt;
The story goes that the man who designed the statuesque lions on the bridge was a perfectionist and spent years ensuring their accuracy. Upon completion a young boy asked why the lions did not have tongues. This was devastating to the perfectionist so he jumoed off the bridge!
There is a tunnel opposite the bridge which goes under Buda Castle. The tunnel is the exact same length as the bridge and locals say in jest that this is so they can pack their beloved bridge into the tunnel to keep it dry when it rains. (The bridge is very loved!)
The Danube River which runs through Budapest is the second longest river in Europe.
“Once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire, the river passes through or touches the borders of 10 countries: Romania (29.0% of basin area), Hungary (11.6%), Serbia (10.2%), Austria (10.0%), Germany (7.0%), Bulgaria (5.9%), Slovakia (5.9%), Croatia (4.4%), Ukraine (3.8%), and Moldova (1.6%). Its drainage basin extends into nine more.”
“Classified as an international waterway, it originates in the town of Donaueschingen—which is in the Black Forest of Germany—at the confluence of the rivers Brigach and Breg. The Danube then flows southeast for 1,914 km (1,189 mi), passing through four capital cities before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danube
- First completed in 1265;
- Rebuilt 6 times over 7 centuries;
- 2 museumz;
- Beer and wine festivals as well as Polinka festivals held in the castle grounds
Interesting excerpt about the Ottoman Era:
“After the Battle of Mohács, the medieval Kingdom of Hungary collapsed. The Ottoman Turks occupied the evacuated town on 11 September 1526. Although Buda was sacked and burned, the Royal Palace was not damaged. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent carried away all the bronze statues (the Hunyadis, Pallas Athene, and Hercules) with him to Constantinople. The statues were destroyed there in a rebellion a few years later. The Sultan also took many volumes from the Corvina library.”
Hungarian Parliament building
Budapest was united from three cities in 1873 and seven years later the Diet resolved to establish a new, representative Parliament Building, expressing the sovereignty of the nation.
- Constructed commenced 1885 and completed 1904;
- Crown jewels of Hungary stored here including thw Coronation Crown of St Stephen;
- Largest building in Hungary;
- 691 rooms.
- named after Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose “incorruptible” right hand is said to be housed in the reliquary.
- Art and collectibles stored in the basement during World War 2.
- Oldest in Budapest;
- King of enlightenment;
- Patron of the arts;
- When Turks invaded – one of walls bombed down. Statue of Virgin Mary revealed when wall bombed and this frightened the Turks who were not Catholic – many fled;
- Pipe organ with 7700 pipes.
- Built 1896;
- Guild of fisherman looked after the bastion
- 7 turrets represent 7 chieftains Magyar tribes.