That time I went to Budapest
Budapest, Hungary (Currency: Forint; Languages: Hungarian, German, Romanian, English)
Last summer, I made my way to Budapest, a city with an interesting and complex history that it displays with pride. The capital of Hungary, Budapest sits in the section of Europe that was once part of the Eastern Bloc, and that history still has significant influence on the city today.
Something that I would recommend for Budapest (along with every European city, for that matter) is to spend a day wandering around the city, and whenever you need a break, pop into a cafe for a drink. There are few things I’ve experienced that are as pleasant as drinking a beer while watching all the people stroll through the city as they go about their days.
Also, here’s a little tidbit about the name and the city: Budapest is the name of two combined areas, Buda and Pest, which were cities separated by the Danube river, and were unified into a single city in the later 19th century. In case you ever go there, it helps to think of it as two different cities, because they are considerably different places.
Highlights of the city to check out:
- Buda Castle
- The Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- The Shoes on the Danube Promenade
- Szimpla Kert
Beautiful, enormous, and built into the hilltop overlooking the city, Buda castle is a combination of beautiful and ominous, just like the rest of the city. Covering a large area, Buda Castle is an ancient city in and of itself. Not only is there the magnificent structure of the castle itself, but there is also a city within the fortification. Filled with some shops that look like they have been there since the turn of the century, it is the perfect area to find gifts for your friends and family. The castle itself is astounding, with statues and fountains throughout the grounds, but the best part of the castle was the view from it. Overlooking the all of Pest and the Danube was definitely a view meant for royalty.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge:
If you are going between Buda and Pest, this is the main channel. An enormous bridge, guarded by some pretty big lions, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a popular place for couples to take pictures, as the backdrop is always the Danube accompanied by the Buda castle, or on the opposite side, the Parliament building. If you couldn’t tell from the picture I prefer the view at night.
The Shoes of the Danube Promenade:
The Danube is a beautiful river that is integral to the city of Budapest, and along its banks, there is a memorial to the victims of an uglier side of its history. The brass shoes along the promenade on the Pest side are a permanent installation that serve as a haunting memorial for Jews that were killed during WWII in the city. The shoes were chosen because those killed were forced to remove their shoes and shot into the Danube. Seeing this fixture was easily the most sobering aspect of the trip, and something that I would say everyone should do.
This place is the bee’s knees. A sprawling 2 story bar built in the rubble of a building shelled in WWII, Szimpla Kert is a roofless bar in the heart of the Jewish quarter. In case you didn’t know, the Jewish quarter is the place to go out for a night in Budapest. There are a couple of “Ruin Bars” in the area that are great places to lose an hour or seven. Szimpla Kert is a casual bar, has a great selection of alcohol and a laid back environment that is as quirky as a hipster bar in Brooklyn.
Pro Tip: Get used to pickles, potatoes and paprika almost every meal has some aspect of those three in it. For most meals: pickles are the go to vegetable, potatoes are the go to carbs, and paprika is the go to seasoning.
Something that I wish I could have done, but didn’t have the time, was to see the Roman Bath Houses in Buda. If anyone has gone, I would love to hear what they were like.
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