Saturday, October 18, 2014

Budapest - Andrassy Street, Heroes Square and more


We took a short 5 day break to Budapest. Why Budapest? Because it is supposed to be very beautiful. When planning this visit, we found that there were a surprising number of people we knew who had been to Budapest. Almost everyone we spoke to said it was a beautiful city. The old style beauty is something we are suckers for, Ghent, Bruges, Strasbourg, Prague, Vienna, Turin and Bergamo are some of the more memorable cities we have been to. The city has the Danube flowing thru it, so boat rides, walks along the banks are all charming. An added bonus in Budapest is the food. The stodgy, meat dumpling and potato heavy, cream laden food is great. The Paprika, the Sour Cream, the Pastries, the Beer and the Wine. What more could one ask for? This was going to be a fun visit.

Hungary has had a troubled history. First every invading race inhabited Hungary – the Slavs, the Romans the Huns all invaded. Then it was part of the great Austro Hungarian Empire. Nazi Germany exercised extreme cruelty in Hungary during the Second World War with half a million Jews being sent to concentration camps. The end of the Second World War resulted in some 40 years of Communism which lasted till 1989. Finally from 1989 Hungary has been a democracy.

The language is not really a challenge. We did not see any words that are known to us English speaking people. But the script is Roman so that really helps. Also, almost everyone speaks English in varying degrees of fluency. Lastly, there are always dumb charades.

Not many Indian tourists here and I am glad for that. We saw Debashish, Mondira, Ma and Baba at the Parliament along with Ritesh, Viral and baby Hrushit at someplace else. But besides that no Indians to speak of. As far as other tourists are concerned, lots of Americans, lots of Brits and lots of other Europeans all generally older. Thankfully very few backpackers and flashpackers and gap year students.  

Budapest in actually two cities separated by the Danube. Buda and Pest. We are staying in Pest where most of the hotels are. Buda is across the river and is along the side of a hill. Budapest is also well known for its medicinal spas the natural hot springs that are part of the city.

The currency in Hungary is Florint or HUF. A Florint is about INR 2.5. They also use Euros but manage to smash you on the exchange/conversion rate. We got some Florints when flying out of Heathrow and the rest I simply withdrew from an ATM in Budapest. There are lots of ATMs in the airport so converting there is no problem, unless you are paranoid about exchange rates. Taxis from the airport are a breeze. You walk up to a booth, get a token, get into the cab and pay by meter. No feeling of getting ripped off. Very civilised. A decent airport not Communist or third world at all. The only bit of Communist influence I could see was that in typical mean, cruel and unthinking ways, the tram tracks are along the river. Thus a most beautiful footpath along the river, which any right thinking man would have done, is missing here. So guys in trams have the best views while pedestrians have to walk well inside.

But the city, what can I say? It is one of the most beautiful we have been to. The buildings are absolutely gorgeous and stunning and beautiful and pretty and every other similar adjective you can think of. While buildings in Turin were majestic and the Piazza’s that they led into were charming and beautiful, Budapest beats all that. This is a truly beautiful city with beautiful buildings. The river itself is not pretty but the buildings are absolutely fabulous. The churches and squares are wonderful.

The first day we spent walking along the main upmarket shopping boulevard called Andrassy Avenue which is lined with spectacular Neo-renaissance mansions and townhouses with brilliant facades and interiors. The Opera House is also on this Avenue. The Opera House building and the Avenue have been recognised as a World Heritage Sights. The Avenue leads up to the Heroes Square a most magnificent square. Behind this is the City Park and adjoining the Park is the public baths.

The city has statues all over, each one more beautiful than the other. The famous Chain Bridge over the Danube is quite beautiful.

Lots of photos. Some during the day some at night. All I think gorgeous. Do come to Budapest. And now it is even easier. From 27th October Emirates will fly direct to Budapest from Dubai. That will be really nice.

Enjoy the photos.

This is the Four Seasons Hotel. 

Crumbling but still great

The Opera House.

The Opera House.

The Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo - Public Baths from outside

The Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo - Public Baths from outside

The Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo - Public Baths. A beautiful statue inside

I have no idea what these are. Senior Mrs Stonethrower may know. They looked damn pretty. No they are not cabbages.

No need for a `Mali'. Automatic watering with inlaid pipes.

The famous Chain Bridge

The more beautiful Szabadsag Bridge

Heroes Square

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