When I was studying geography back in school, I was fascinated by this majestic river crossing or touching 10 countries: the Danube. So, when last year my friend and I were planning a trip to Prague and Budapest, I was extremely excited by the idea of finally seeing the Danube. I didn’t know much about Budapest, I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly was looking forward to the Danube.
When we arrived in Budapest, early in the morning, after a night bus ride from Prague, we were completely lost. We didn’t have a map or any sort of directions and we were in the middle of nothing in the suburbs of the city. We asked for directions, but weren’t very lucky in finding someone who could speak English, so we got on a tram, and got off in a huge boulevard who looked like a main street. Soon enough we found out that we weren’t too far from where our hostel was, but we had to walk for a long while and then hopped on a bus (a very old one) and reached our hostel.
Cleaned up and refreshed we were ready for our city exploration! We walked through some streets whose names looked so different from everything we have seen before, and then found ourselves in a lovely square with a huge cathedral looking at us.
There, we stopped for breakfast and then we continued… From the church a straight street goes directly to the Danube river. There I was, my first look at his majesty.. I wasn’t disappointed. It was as huge and as powerful as I imagined…
We took a stroll along the river and reached the Chain Bridge, the bridge that connects Buda with Pest and halfway through we stopped to absorb the wonderful view. On one side, Pest with the wonderful building of the Hungarian Parliament, on the other side Buda, with its castle looking down at the river. Us, in the middle of all that, amazed.
Once we crossed the bridge, we wanted to take the funicular to climb the hill and reach the Castle, but unfortunately it was closed for maintainance. So, we jumped on a crowded bus and let the driver climb the hill for us.
The castle and the surroundings seemed those we read about in fairytales, with its Gothic architecture and a falconer in his period costume.
Lack of time left us no time to visit any interior, so we continued our walk towards the museum and explored the surroundings.
After a while we started our descent and decided to stay on the Buda side for a while. We walked down the river, took some pictures of the Parliament from there and reached Margaret Bridge. This bridge is one of a kind, since right in the middle of it, a street connects the city with Margaret Island. We didn’t have enough energy to explore the island so we decided to try out the local food in a lovely wooden restaurant right at the beginning of the island. My friend went for a goulash soup, while I opted for a dish made of meat, bacon and potatoes. Of course, I have no idea about the name. The only thing I can remember is that is was truly delicious.
After lunch, our tired feet brought us to the Parliament and before we knew it, we were on the river side again, looking for the ‘Shoes on the Danube promenade’, a memorial concept created to honor the Jews killed in Budapest during World War II. Among all the monuments dedicated to the Holocaust, this was the most emotional and touching for me. The kids’ shoes left me with a lump in my throat. I don’t think I will ever forget it.
Tired enough from all the walking, after all we started walking at 7 something that morning, we decided to check out a couple of shops for souvenirs and when it started raining we found shelter in a Starbucks where we enjoyed a slice of carrot cake and a hot coffee.
Still raining heavily, we considered our chances of exploring more but opted instead for a cruise. We had one in Prague and enjoyed it so thought we would love this one too. It was great! We got to know a bit more history of the city thanks to the tape on the boat and enjoyed some night views of bridges, buildings and so on.
After the cruise we were too exhausted to do anything else, so went back to our hostel for a long night of sleep. The day after, time was not on our side, in the afternoon we had to take our bus back to Berlin. We took a long walk along Andrassy ut., stopping by some shops and enjoying some people-watching. At the end of this huge boulevard, an even bigger square welcomed us: Hősök tere, or Heroes’ Square. Its unique statue complex, the Millennium Memorial dates back to 1900 and represents different historical events.
A stroll in the City Park concluded our short but intense stay in Budapest.. a city we both loved and hope to return to one day.