A bit of a shorter one this time. I need to get caught up, plus it has been a couple of months since I was in Hungary (certainly doesn’t seem that long), and the details have already started to fade a little.
When we were planning this trip, for me at least, Budapest was very high on my list of places we had to see. So much history, conflict and conquest was concentrated on this place. When we arrived from Serbia, I was quite excited.
However, reality did not quite live up to the hype. That’s not to say that it was a waste of time; on the contrary, Budapest was an incredible place, but was perhaps let down by the sky high expectations I had.
As we walked to our hostel from where we were dropped off it became apparent just how touristy this place was. Heaps of people standing on the side of the street, spruiking their club, bar or restaurant. My favourite was the guy standing out the front of the ice bar. His tagline was “Visit the Ice Bar, a Bar made of Ice!”, delivered in the style of a gameshow host.
Our hostel would have been impossible for us to find had it not been for the specific directions on the booking email. We climbed the stairs (why are their always stairs!) and, after the usual paperwork, got settled in.
The next day we did our usual thing of taking a walking tour around the city, learning about the countries troubled history. Hungary seems to have been invaded and occupied constantly throughout it’s history.
One particularly touching monument was on the banks of the Danube, and consisted of hundreds of bronze shoes. This was a memorial to the Jews that were executed by the fascist Arrow Cross on the riverbank. They were ordered to remove their shoes, and were then shot, their bodies falling into the river.
As we crossed from the Buda side to the Pest side, we were guided around the Buda Castle. One monument of interest was dedicated to communism in Hungary, and the designers certainly put their opinion of the regime into it’s construction…
It was on this tour that we learnt that many of the attractions and features around the city were built for the millennium celebrations. Not the millennium we think of, but the celebration of 1000 years since the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 896.
Just like the 2000 millennium celebrations, many monuments were built, many of which are still around today. One example is Vajdahunyad Castle, just a short metro ride from the centre of town. It is built in a number of different styles including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque. It is a strange mix, but it does seem to work.
While wandering around I noticed a bust protruding from the corner of one of the structures. Thinking he looked a bit like Dracula, I was actually correct in a way when I read the name was Béla Lugosi, who played the character in numerous films in the 1930s, leaving his impression on the character forever. Sadly, his success did not last and his last film was Plan 9 from Outer Space, largely considered the worst film of all time.
Although I did whine a little earlier about how this city didn’t quite live up to my expectations, one aspect that exceeded them was the food. They are definitely meatasauruses in this country. The cuisine consists of hearty, rustic food, with lots of meat, and plenty of paprika. I happen to love both of these things, so I was in heaven. My favourite dish was csabai sausage with a rich gravy and vegetables. As I type this months later, my mouth is beginning to water. Life must be hard for vegetarians here.
Another traditional delicacy was Chimney Cake, a pastry made by wrapping dough around a metal pole and cooking it in a similar fashion to a spit, before rolling it in cinnamon sugar. I only mention it because as you walk, you would get a delightfully pungent scent of charcoal and cinnamon wafting over you, and you would, as if by instinct, start looking around for it’s source.
Finally, it was time to head onto the next country, which happened to be Slovakia. It was on the train trip there that we learnt the value of paying the couple of extra euro to reserve our seats, but I’ll save the description of the journey for next time. Note: There are heaps of photos that I was too lazy to weave into the text, so keep on scrolling down to see them.
— Thomas 2015.11.03
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