In case you’re coming to Budapest and have no clue about Hungarian history, long story short :
The leader of a tribe from the Ural mountains decides in the 9th century to hit the road in search of better food and housing. And so he settles in Pannonia (the geographical feature in which Hungary lies).
His immediate follower, Stephan, is the first crowned king of Hungary, around the year 1000. The Hungarian kings are great supporters of the church and, as all eastern europeans at the time, hate the Ottoman Empire.
Mathias Corvinus is the last king under whose reign Hungary was self-standing. Calamity strikes in 1526, at Mohacs, when the Turks defeat the Hungarians. In 1686 the Turks are chased away by the christians.
The Habsbourgs’ (that you might know as Sissi’s folks) internal and foreign policy becomes that of Hungary. However, artistically, Budapest benefits from new urbanism projects.
What’s more, the Habsburgs vote for the austro-hungarian duality in 1867, meaning that Franz Joseph is now emperor of Austria and Hungary, the latter being awarded the right to have its own internal policy.
As this brief history leads to think, there are much more colours to Budapest than green, white and red. I spent my day trotting the streets of Pest and trying to put a label on it. Eclecticism is the word that best defines the East Bank of the Danube.
For instance, wherever I went, at the Parliament, at the Opera or at St. Stephan’s Basilica, I was told stories about marbles from Italy and France, gold and stones from Transylvania, blue-pinkish textiles from local manufacturers, all reunited in « mammouth » architectural works meant to convey the Hungarian identity through art.
Moreover, the artists of the 19th century, exploited a wide pallet of sources : the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroc, the Hungarian folklore, antique frescoes, and surprisingly, ottoman curves. If someone woke me up in the night in front of a window of the Parliament’s main stairs, I would think myself in Istambul.
If you choose to visit the Parliament, you’d better not stay in line for a ticket or you might have to queue up for 30 minutes, and end up doing your tour in Hebrew or Russian … because those sessions are the only ones available . Be practical and buy your ticket online for 200 HUF additional charges. Prices : Parliament 1750 HUF and Opera 2 900 HUF . Both visits are too short for the money, around 30 minutes …on fast forward.
Another proof of eclecticism is the co-existence of labyrinth-like streets and large open spaces. As I wandered the streets surrounded by tall white and beige buildings, I felt the need to breathe. And that’s exactly what happens : Pest’s lungs are its many squares and parks. Budapest’s squares are huge crossroads. Have you ever got lost in a public square ? You will in Budapest.
If you are looking for relaxing music, nice terraces and a sparkling crowd, have cake at Gerbeaud Cukraszda, on the Vörösmarty Square, just before the Vaci street. For a quiet moment in the middle of the city, have a bite on the Egyetem square, at the southern end of the Karolyi street in Pest. The open book-fountain there is surely something you have never seen before. The Magyar street park with its open air café is also a beautiful place to rest in. It comes with a visit at the National Museum.
Until next time ! Viszlát hamarosan!