Day 13: Budapest: Buda and Pest
Split by the Danube River, Budapest is two cities joined by seven bridges. Buda, the city of the hills, rises on the south side of the river featuring such monumental architecture as the Baroque Royal Palace on Castle Hill, 700-year -old Gothic Matthias Church, and next to Matthias Church the 100-year-old Fisherman’s Bastion with it’s seven tent-like spires symbolizing the seven original Magyar tribes that settled Hungry more than 1,000 years ago.
Pest (pronounced Pesht), on the north side of the Danube, is much flatter, but also has a rich architectural past. Most obvious is the Parliament building, at one time the largest in the world and currently ranked third But there is also Hero’s Square, the Fine Arts Museum, and the Baroque Széchenyi Baths.
On today’s bus/walking tour, we managed to visit all these locations and a few more that I forgot quickly as the tour bus whizzed by and the guide hurriedly described in accented English (“Hunglish” she called it). Our first walking stop was Hero’s Square where we had a brief lesson in Hungarian History, beginning with the Magyar tribes, going through the relationship with the Hapsburgs, the growth and shrinking of the country over the centuries, its role on the losing side of WWI and WWII, the occupation by the Soviet Union and the installation of a communist government, and democracy (limited as it may be under the current authoritarian leader).
Our tour took us over two of the important bridges (the Catherine Bridge and the Elizabeth Bridge) with nice views also of the world famous, 700-year old Chain Bridge that first linked Buda and Pest.
But we also had time to walk around one of the historic shop and residential districts and take in some of the local Sunday-morning flavor of the Buda side of Budapest.
That meant another visit to another coffeehouse/bakery, this one recommended by our excellent guide Agnes (aka Aggi). Starbucks and even local coffee shops in the states just don’t have the atmosphere of these small coffeehouses that have histories, including recipes for their various cakes, pastries and chocolates, going back hundreds of years. Today’s cake to go with my cappuccino and Marilyn’s coffee Americano was made with the same recipe the same shop developed more than 200 years ago. It was easy to see, after only one delicious bite, why the recipe was a keeper.
During our free time we walked to the edge of the Royal Palace (currently empty of furniture while its interior is being renovated) just in time to see the changing of the guard at the President’s Office next door. Not a big or long ceremony but still interesting as the guards went through their gun slapping routines while a loan drummer provided a steady beat.
Tonight, the ship will loose its moorings for a 90-minute night time cruise on the Danube to allow us to marvel at the city as it lights up. Maybe more pictures tomorrow.
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