THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & DRINK:
Walk around Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church on the top of the hill in Buda and overlook a great pano of the city and the river in the Castle District! Soak up the public bath scene with locals, visit the iconic Parliament building in Pest, and enjoy The Hungarian Opera – great reviews and even better ticket prices!
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
After a wonderful weekend in Germany (here and here) my in-laws and I flew from Munich to Budapest (my husband had to go back to work!) – a place one of my dearest aunts visited in the 90s, of which she always spoke fondly. (Hi, B!)
Budapest was a city we all knew quite little about, but found really intriguing as it a city which is a true master of reinvention. As of late, it has also become a Hollywood hotspot for filming.
We learned that Budapest is actually two cities laid across the sprawling Danube River – Buda and Pest which joined in the 1870s. Buda is the hillier side with more of the “Old Town” feel with the castle, St. Matthias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion, and Pest is the more populous, commercial area.
Budapest’s culture is somewhat undefinable, mostly because is a combination of cultures across the original founding Magyars from Central Asia, to the Turks, Germans, Slavs, Austrians – and many more. Furthermore, it has been governed by a myriad of systems – an empire, fascism, and communism.
We could hardly believe what a grand place it was for a relatively small country (10 million residents vs. 320+ million in the US!) mostly attributable to their past as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (1860s until the end of World War I.) While I haven’t been yet, anecdotally, Austrians love their opulence!
We also learned that many of the massive capital improvements were done in celebration of the millennial celebration of 1896 (the Magyars settled the area in 896) and made Budapest a truly modern city – complete with a London-inspired underground system, memorials, statues and museums. The tradition continues today – no building can be higher than 96 meters!
Nearly a century later, Budapest, while part of the former Soviet Union, was able to enjoy a sort of “communist-lite” version of Kremlin rule – blissfully far enough away to enjoy some Western pleasantries. A major proof point – Budapest was the first city in the USSR to open a McDonald’s in 1988 – is there any better indicator of incoming capitalism than golden arches? In appreciation for the work done to free the city from the Cold War’s oppressive rule, Hungarians built a statue in Liberty Square honoring President Ronald Regan on his 100th birthday. He never visited the city, but is near and dear regardless!
If you are interested in the city’s communist days, you can visit nearby Memento Park, where all of the statues honoring the years under Moscow are still standing together! For the darker side, the House of Terror Museum showcases the torture experienced by suspected spies during Nazi-occupied fascist years, and the Soviet communism which followed.
Please excuse this brief commercial break to enjoy our below family photoshoot.
Like my dear mom, I am one of those rare folks who enjoys grocery stores and as result, I love to check out markets when traveling. The Great Market Hall did not disappoint – such pretty interiors! Reminded me of course, of Reading Terminal in Philly! Watch your spending of course – while a member of the European Union, Hungary is on the HUF (Hungarian forint) instead of the Euro, and at present, 1000 forint is less than $4 USD. Spending 1000 on a coffee always makes me feel crazy, whether or not I’m at Starbucks!
WHEW! If you made it to the end – congrats! Coming up soon – Stockholm!