The next day was reserved for some serious sightseeing and we kicked off our city tour by visiting our neighborly Buda castle, the residence of the Hungarian kings. We are talking about a huge building complex that stands on a hill, overlooking the Danube, a hill full of artwork, beauty and travelers.
Check out our first day in Hungary here
We took an elevator to ascent to the museum and admire some of the artifacts. Among the artworks that decorate this magnificent place stands the Matthias fountain, depicting a hunting scene starring King Matthias Corvinus himself. Apart from that, you can admire the mythical Turul and of course the elegant war and peace statues, ornamenting the museum’s entrance.
After a while, we walked further up the hill among courtyards and gardens, looked around for some gifts and headed towards the Halászbástya (the fisherman’s bastion) and the Matthias church. This bastion is a 19th century masterpiece, equipped with seven towers, each one representing one of the original seven Magyar tribes that first settled in Hungary. The place is named after the guild responsible for this area’s defense during Medieval times.
We can only imagine…
“Hurry Miklós! I got a big one this time…”
“Don’t stand there man! Pull this fishing line harder!!”
“God be praised! We shall fill our bellies today! Hey! Just wait a minute…That’s not a Catfish…It’s an enemy soldier”
“I wonder If he’d make a good fish ghulash…”
We also visited the site where Beethoven gave a concert at the end of the 18th century and the place where Greek sculptor Memos (Agamemnon) Makris lived.
After admiring the view of the Parliament once more, we descended the hill and reached the Buda end of the Széchenyi chain bridge, which was the first permanent Danube crossing in the country. After seeing Charle’s bridge in Prague, we thought that we would not get the chance to view something of similar beauty, but we were happily proved wrong. Although there are vast differences between the two structures, artistry and charm are qualities they share in common. Greek merchant George Sinas was among its main financial supporters and four large stone lions guard the way to it on both sides.
We passed in front of Gresham palace and walked to the commercial Vaci utka, the main pedestrian shopping street in the city, where we found many gift shops, as well as many restaurants, cafes and bars. We visited St Michael’s church on this attractive street and at its end, we reached the great market hall.
Wow! what a great place! The ground floor was full of lovely smells and food (you should definitely at least buy some paprika to bring back home, that’s what we did) and the elevated floor was the place to shop some souvenirs and have a bite. We enjoyably spent lots of time inside this lovely place, taking quite a few photos. There was also a Thai promo week or something and Catherine decided to show off her suddenly acquired skills in Thai dancing, entertaining the visitors and herself. We also enjoyed local street food (or is it market food on this occasion?) and left the place to visit the National museum.
On our way there, I got a couple of old books, thus firmly establishing my newly born tradition of acquiring a book from every country we visit. The Hungarian national museum is situated on a fine building and I was more interested in the exhibits regarding the prehistoric and Avar period, as well as a certain display, the crown of the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus (the gladiator). This medieval gigolo figure ascended to the throne by being pleasant to the eyes of the old empress, yet he also kept his mistress and ruined the empire by the choices he made. For all his efforts, he wore a crown depicting him and the old hag as saints. How funny is that?
What was also amusing is the fact that we were informed with a significant delay that if we wanted to take photos we would have to pay a small special fare at the entrance. Since we had already taken photos of most of the stuff we were interested in and the entrance was a bit far we settled for what we had, forfeiting the chance to photo-shoot the most interesting part of the exhibition, the depiction of Hungarian city life in the 20th century arranged by decades. You can see the inside of apartments as they would be held by typical people of the time and that was really something inspired, giving of a scent of the continuation History entails.
After a couple of short visits to churches, we looked for the train station, to book tickets for Bratislava, where our flight would depart and upon our arrival at the place, we were surprised to face a somewhat familiar image from back home. Many refugees waiting stoically all around the train station square, for a chance to cross the borders to Austria, Germany or further. We were saddened by the struggle these people (lots of babies and young ones among them) were facing, yet as things got worse over the next months, they were the lucky ones. We got our tickets and walked for a while around the city. The world is a gorgeous place, yet contains a lot of drama.
After walking for a while, visiting some places we decided that we should catch a break, so, since Szimpla was near by we went there for some snacks and beer. Subsequently, we visited a small alley nearby, which was crowded and filled up with kiosks, serving street food from various cuisines. We couldn’t try anything though, as on our way there, while walking around for a while to take some shots, we noticed a small shop full of people. Sadly we do not remember the name, but we can assure you that we got to taste the best sandwiches and baguettes ever!
After our nutritional needs were taken care of, we reached Andrássy avenue (Andrássy út), a lovely boulevard with large pavements and trees on each side and lots of great buildings. The place gives of a somewhat Parisian sense and we greatly enjoyed our stroll, before getting on the metro to reach Heroe’s square (Hősök tere) a vast plaza dominated by the monument which features a high column with archangel Gabriel on its top, surrounded by the statues of the seven Magyar chieftains.
We kept taking photos, astonished by the place’s grandeur, before walking right into nearby Vajdahunyad castle. This early 20th century building is situated by the park’s lake and is not fashioned in any specific architectural style, rather it’s an amalgam of the different styles developed in the country over the centuries.
Inside the park, you can find the mysterious looking statue of the anonymous chronicler who wrote Gesta Hungarorum and we enjoyed our evening walk there. We also had a rather annoying, yet funny encounter as a man holding a violin approached us and insisted on playing Zorba when we informed him of our origin. Now, that music can drive me mad. It’s fine at first, but after hearing it everywhere year after year, decade after decade it’s really irritating. We would gladly give the man some money to stop this Zorba nonsense but we were out of small change at the time. So we walked away, while the guy kept calling me idiot among other Hungarian stuff we could not translate. I guess a handbook would be useful…
That ended a great day, as we got on a bus back to Buda. We had one more day to spend in Hungary and we decided that we had enough of our share of sightseeing on this trip, so we would simply let the wind blow and carry us anywhere around wonderful Budapest on the following day…