Beautiful Budapest

My husband and i were together for 18 years now, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary by travelling to a place we have never been. Budget and time-wise, we chose Budapest. This time, we left behind our two kids in Milan. A perfect reason to have our “Us-Time”. I’m just glad there’s my mom to take care of the kids (and our fishes in the aquarium).
Bupadest, actually is not on my top ten wish-trip. Not even a bit of enthusiasm to put this city on my bucket list, for the main reason that no friends of mine recommended this, and i just don’t have any ideas of the city itself. But surprisingly, this adventure changed the way i thought about this city. During our trip, i am murmuring to myself, “I’m gonna regret not visiting this beautiful city.”

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Chain Bridge is the first permanent stone bridge that connects Buda & Pest. It becomes the symbol of Budapest and  indisputably the most beautiful of Budapest’s bridges
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A Cruise on the Danube River

Budapest is the capital of, and the largest city in Hungary. It was once two separate cities, Buda and Pest, before unifying in the early-mid 1800s. The two cities are divided by the mighty Danube River.
Buda is the western part, and the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary which comprises about one-third of Budapest’s complete territory. It is mostly hilly and offers sweeping panoramas. Buda may have the palace, but Pest houses the Hungarian parliament. But in fact the once-separate cities have such distinct characters, that one should spend as much time exploring each cities. It’s the only way to do them justice.

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From the Chain Bridge, overlooking at the right side, is the Royal Palace

Hungary is part of the European Union, but they maintain their currency, which is Forint. I’m not good in numbers for euro-forint conversion, but as what we’ve experienced from the trip, 300 forint cents is equivalent to 1 euro. We directly withdrew from our italian account to avoid converting and paying easily. I don’t want to torture myself calculating every time we buy something. In our case, we sometimes paid in euro but they give as Forint as change. But, i guess it depends on the establishment. When we ate in a restaurant, we paid in euro, the change is euro too.

Even though Hungarian is their main language, most of the people speak in English. What a relief. At least, we didn’t have a hard time asking for directions or information. Unlike in Italy, it’s so rare to encounter an English-speaking Italian.

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Buda Castle

Buda Castle is an icon, and the area itself somehow looks like a village in its own right: The castle, the Presidential Residence, museums, bars, restaurants, small cobbled streets. Just amazing.

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Another wonderful view of the Pest from the Castle Hill. Overlooking is the Budapest Eye, and one of the biggest 5-star hotels in Budapest, Inter Continental Hotel (the brown one)
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Map of the Castle Hill. It composes the St. George’s Square, Buda Castle & Fishermen’s Bastion, and the community itself
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History Museum

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Budavari Siklo (Buda Funicular). This is the exciting way to go up on the Castle Hill. Price for one way up is 1500 HUF (around 4.75 euro). There is however stairs if you want to go up for free. The funicular is 51 meters high.

If you’re touring Budapest, you can buy a Budapest card. It provides free public transport, free or discounts on museum visits, thermal baths, and restaurants as well. The card varies from 24-72 hours validity. According to the web: 24 hours (5500 HUF) Hungarian forint (21.00euro), 48 hours (6900 HUF – 26.00 euro), 72 hours (8300 HUF – 31.00euro). The cards are on sale at many info points around Budapest.

We didn’t buy anymore a Budapest card because we just decided to stroll around the city by walking. It’s healthy to walk, why not? I got a free map from the money exchange and i’m confident enough that my husband can take us anywehre we want, without getting lost. He’s a perfect navigator because he’s really good at maps. I’m a failure on that.
The tour bus is about 20.00 euro. That money could be for our cozy Hungarian dinner later, so we refuse the idea of a hop on-hop off tourist bus or a cruise.

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Fabulous view of the Pest, from the Castle Hill

There are eight bridges spanning the Danube River in Budapest, linking Buda and Pest, with each fascinating tale to tell: Most of the bridges are named after personalities. The (1) Megyeri Bridge (Megyeri hid) is the longest bridge; (2) Arpad Bridge (Arpad hid) is the second longest and busiest one; (3) Margaret bridge (Margit hid) the second permanent bridge; (4) Liberty Bridge (Szabadsag hid), was once called Franz Joseph, the Emperor, and the shortest bridge; (5) Petofi Bridge (Petofi hid) named after Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi; (6) Lagymanyosi Bridge (Lagymanyosi hid) is the  most southern of all the bridges; (7) Chain Bridge, the most popular one; (8) Elizabeth Bridge (Ersebet hid) was probably the most elegant bridge. It was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Emperor.

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Another great view from the Castle Hill, overlooking the Hungarian Parliament along the Pest

In 1000, King Stephen I (St. Stephen) founded the state of Hungary. He was crowned with the “Holy Crown of Hungary” and blessed by the Pope. The crown is now displayed in the Parliament building. For lack of time, we didn’t have the chance to visit personally the Parliament building. It’s located at the rear end of the Pest. We just strolled half of the Buda and Pest. Maybe next time we’ll explore the other half of Budapest.

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President’s Palace (Sandor Palace)

The first thing you will see upon arriving the Castle’s grounds, by funicular, is the President’s Palace or Residence. We were right on time for the “ceremony” of the impressive Changing of the Guards (see above photo of the two small guard houses). My husband caught “a little boy” imitating one of the guards. If you’re keen enough, you will notice that on the video below.

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The ornate gate that leads to the buildings of the Royal Palace
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Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion was built in 1905 by the architect Frigyes Schulek. It is composed by seven towers that are symbolizing the seven magyar clans’ leaders that came in the Carpathian Basin at the end of the IX century. It was built between 1890-1905, and is named after both the medieval fishmarket once nearby and the Guild of Fishermen who defended this section of the wall during past wars.

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Military Museum. So huge monuments. I feel like a tiny fence. Hahaha!
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Those sacks are filled with sands, and they’re real! I touched it.
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Castle Bazaar & Royal Gardens

Going down the Castle Hill, this fantastic Castle Bazaar & Royal Gardens will greet you. It’s big! I needed to use a “panorama” effect on my cell phone to capture the whole facade.This is a work of architect Miklos Ybl, and functions as a cultural and entertainment center with exhibitions, shops and restaurants.

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We’re not fans of selfie, so we have to ask passers-by to photograph us together. But just as expected, it’s not always the best photo background you’ll get.
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Gellert Hill

Upon reaching the Elizabeth Bridge from the Royal Gardens, there’s that magnificent Gellert Hill. Just looking at how high it is, i told my husband, i can’t possibly go upstairs alive. Hahaha! No elevators or funicular. It’s about 140 meters (460 ft) high! Gellért Hill is named after the bishop Gellért Sagredo, known for his mission to spread Christianity throughout Hungary. There are two other statues, one depicting a warrior slaying a dragon or snake symbolizing the death of fascism while the other bears a torch representing independence, peace and prosperity for Hungary.

Up there is the Citadel or Citadella. It is a structure built by the Austrian Habsburgs between 1850 and 1854 in order to better control the city after the suppression of the Hungarian War of Independence. There is an imposing statue of a lady carrying a palm leaf over her head, symbolizing peace. At night it is lighted and can be seen from the Elizabeth Bridge.

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Elizabeth Bridge is the third newest  bridge in Budapest

Now, we came to the Pest area. Pest is the eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest, comprising about two thirds of the city’s territory. In contrast to Buda, Pest is busy, buzzing and bourgeois, with an assortment of bars, café and gourmet restaurants. Pest is frankly where it all happens. Here, you can go to the opera or the zoo; you can catch some live music in the park during summer or skate on the largest open-air rink in Europe during winter.

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Jump for Joy! =)
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I don’t know what these circles mean. We just had fun posing here. They’re in front of the Inner Parish City Church

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Inner City Parish Church

Pest is where the administrative and industrial areas are located. Though the means of transportation is so efficient, we’re glad we end up walking. It’s the best way of catching the many fine Art Nouveau façades, hidden courtyards, enticing coffee houses and highly diverting Turkish baths along the way. There are more than a thousand hot springs in the country, 118 only in Budapest. It’s not our priority to try those thermal baths, so we didn’t even dare looking at the prices.

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There are many bronze statues along the Vigado Square. We found and captured some while we were walking.

Even mixed-use for pedestrian and bicycles, they’re wide. Even the tourists are roaming around, you will not even bumped into each other or crowd the statues when you want to take a picture. Buildings of different periods line the streets, many of which are tree-lined. In the old town quarter, the streets are often cobblestone pedestrian malls or narrow roads.

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“The Little Princess”: A bronze statue created by Laszlo Morton
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Formerly called Roosevelt Square. It was now named after the founder of Chain bridge, Szechenyi Istvan Tèr
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Gresham Palace (Gresham-palota)

The Gresham Palace is an example of Art Nouveau architecture. Completed in 1906 as an office and apartment building, it is today the Four Seasons Hotel Budapest Gresham Palace. Obviously a luxury hotel and, is located adjacent to Széchenyi Square, and the eastern terminus of the Chain Bridge.

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Photo shows: Hungarian money (Forint), signage, restaurants and those bronze symbols on the roads.

There’s one element of Hungarian cuisine that’s present in every kitchen: paprika. Paprika is the powdered pepper used to spice up just about every dish. Whew! Thank God i love spicy foods.

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Kurtoskalacs! Hungarian Chimney Cake, known also as Hungarian Twister or Horn Cake
I love the coconut flavor!
Kurtoskalacs! There are many flavors to choose from: vanilla, Cocoa, Cinnamon, Walnut. But, I love the coconut flavor!

One of the best things when travelling is tasting the country’s traditional food or cuisine. We saw this “stand” that says “Kurtoskalacs: Hungarian traditional cake”. Without hesitation we lined up to buy some. A piece costs 1500 HUF (around 4.75 euro). These spiral-shaped treats are not just delicious, for me it’s mysterious. While in line, my eyes are fascinated how it was being made. The dough is rolled by hand into an even strip and is wrapped, like a ribbon around a steel cooking roll. After that, it is coated in sugar and baked in a purpose made oven. A topping of choice is then sprinkled on the baked Kurtoskalacs while they’re hot & sticky. I chose the coconut flavor. So yummy! I even thought of buying and bringing some to Milan, but on the second thought, these should be eaten freshly baked, and of course, it will be deformed if i bring it inside the paper bag when travelling.

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Left to right (top) : Hungarian tram, police car. (below): Tourist sightseeing bus, Hungarian yellow taxi
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In Hungary the tap water is safe to drink. I guess most of the European countries have tap water all over each cities.
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Just a trivia: Did you know that Rubik’s Cube puzzle was invented in 1974, by a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik? Now i know too!
We had our brunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken
We had our brunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s not everyday that we got to see KFC. In Italy, there’s one KFC in Turin.
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Vigado Concert Hall: Budapest’s second largest concert hall

Vigado means “Place for Merriment”. Historically speaking, the Vigadó also hosted performances by the likes of Johann Strauss Jr., Mascagni, Dvořak, Debussy, and Arthur Rubinstein. Ernő Dohnányi had his first solo concert here. Béla Bartók and Annie Fischer made their debuts here in 1905 and 1932 respectively.

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Don’t be alarmed if there are so many spicy red peppers everywhere. You’re in Hungary! People love spicy foods.
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From the Pest tram railway, overlooking beyond is the Royal Palace

I just can sit for hours on the bench along side this railways, looking at the castle Hill and get fascinated on each side, by the Elizabeth and Chain bridge. If i have to compare Budapest and Milan, i would be hypocrite not to say Budapest is more fantastic. Yet of course, each city has their stories and own fascination. Let’s be fair! =)

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Orthodox Church
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To Be or Not To Be: William Shakespeare

If ever you find yourself wandering around the Danube bank and find a bowing statue, you will wonder why.The question could be asked if ever Shakespeare’s monument should be in Budapest to represent a cultural aspect of the city. Does he have a bloodline with the Magyars still living in Budapest today?

The whole reason is written on the walls below the monument.

Here’s the full English transcription/description below the Shakespeare’s monument. (from the web)

“The original of this statue, which depicts the Bard as an actor bowing t his audience, was created in 1960 by renowned Hungarian-born Australian sculptor, Andor Meszaros (Budapest, 1900; Melbourne 1972), for the Australian City of Ballarat.

This thriving city, founded during the Gold Rush in the 1850s, is a cultural centre in Victoria that takes pride in its history and rich heritage. In addition to the statue by Andor Meszaros, Ballarat has other Hungarian links to boast. Writer György Sarközy has a novel of his set here, and the First Gold Medal claimed by the Hungarian team during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games were won here by kayakers János Urbányi and Laszló Fábián.

On visiting Australia in 1998, Dr. Károly Nagy, a retired attorney and an admirer of Shakespeare, envisaged that a replica be made of the statue and be erected in Budapest. On returning to Hungary he founded the Shakespeare Statue Committee and began to raise funds for the project. His plans went into fruition when in 2002, with the approval of the city of Ballarat, the moulding was organised on site under the guidance of Andor Meszaros’ son, Michael, who is also a sculptor. The casting was done at the Foundry of Hungarian sculpter, Gábor Mihály.

Fundraising was organised in Australia, Hungary and England; contributions came from friends, relatives and associations; two-thirds of the costs were borne by Andor Meszaros’ widow, Elizabeth and their two sons, Michael and Daniel.

May the statue serve as a spiritual link among the discerning public in Australia, Hungary, Great Britain and visitors to Budapest from countries around the world.

Erected on the 23rd of April 2003, the 439th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and the 387th anniversary of his death.”

“The original of this statue, which depicts the Bard as an actor bowing t his audience, was created in 1960 by renowned Hungarian-born Australian sculptor, Andor Meszaros (Budapest, 1900; Melbourne 1972), for the Australian City of Ballarat.

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As compared to Italy or France, some of their souvenirs are expensive. I learned how to say Thank You in Hungarian: “Kòszonom!”

Váci utca is a popular shopping street in Budapest. The street starts from Vörösmarty Square, where it is pedestrianized and leads to the Great Market Hall near Fővám tér. Before, the avenue has long been a place where the rich and famous of Budapest enjoyed spending their money. However, as it became fashionable in the early decades of the twentieth century for the well-to-do to enjoy an early evening stroll down Vaci Street, the stores here became more exclusive. But, lately, it has become popular among tourists and vacationers. Here you will find now a fair number of souvenir shops, and the small streets that dissect it. It’s now a shopping area accessible to most. So, this is an ideal place to pick up souvenir magnets or mugs, or an “I Love Budapest” shirt for friends or loved ones.

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Anker Building. One of the impressive buildings on Pest
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Budapest Eye (Sziget Eye): 65 meters tall, 42 cars, and capacity of 332 people. It’s the Europe’s largest mobile Ferris wheel.

The ‘Sziget Eye’ was located at Erzsébet Square and it provides visitors with some exciting views over the city. We didn’t try this one. I’m afraid of heights! I just admired the Ferris Wheel from below.

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The famous Hard Rock Cafe on the corner of Vaci Utca. Some of my friends collect “Hard Rock T-Shirts”. I don’t.
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I can’t help taking a photo of these Funny T-shirts
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We didn’t try this one. Literally an ice bar where you will wear jackets and sit on ice chairs in an icy ambiance

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Vaci Utca (Vaci Street), the long busy street full of stores, bar and restaurants
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Little Boy Fountain (Kisfiús díszkút)

Three fountains embellish the shopping street. The most famous is the Fisher Girl Fountain (Halászlány-kút), at Kristóf Square. It was created in 1862 by László Dunaiszky. A bit further stands another nineteenth-century fountain, with a bronze statue of the Greek god Hermes. A third fountain, created in 1976 by Ottó Szenczi, is situated near the south end of the pedestrianized zone. It is known as the Little boy fountain (Kisfiús díszkút) and features a central statue of a nude boy.

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Typical Hungarian plate. Very sumptuous serving! Fries at the bottom, grilled meat on top,  and a very delicious salad (with red hot chili pepper!)
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La Porta di Taormina. An Italian/Hungarian Restaurant. The ambiance is country-like. Doesn’t cost that much though.

We obviously won’t miss a typical Hungarian food. We found this adorable Italian/Hungarian place. No waitresses. Just good-looking waiters. Good to know they speak English and Italian. The menu has translation too in English. Good relief. Needless to say, we ordered this Hungarian plate and their famous Goulash soup. Their servings were sumptuous! We literally didn’t mean “pigging-out!” Hahaha! Anyway, that’s OK. We might not be hungry by the next morning with these delicious dinner. The weather is getting cold at night, so we decided to eat inside. Although i enjoy watching the people walking outside.

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This dinner is the reason why we saved the money for the hop-on, hop-off tour bus. Better to walk, than spend 20 euro. But these servings are unexpected. A plate can be for 3 people! Hub ordered a plate of grilled sea foods.

After dinner, we feel like bloated so we decided to stay along the Danube bank, hypnotized by the Royal Palace lighted up at night. It was an exhausting day, but it’s all worth the walk, and how much we spent (shopping, eating, buying souvenirs and the whole travel fares).

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Fabulously lighted Royal palace

One has to visit the city to fully appreciate its beauty, and to marvel at the awesome grandeur of the centuries-old buildings that miraculously survived two world wars. Buda and Pest may be different, but as one city now, Budapest offers an amazing amount of history, art, architecture, religious buildings and museums. Probably this is one of best trips we’ve made so far. It’s been really a Happy Anniversary for both of us.

CHEERS!

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Elizabeth Bridge at night

Watch our travel video:

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– – – Until our next adventure – – – >

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