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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Budapest, Hungary

20-21st October 2012


It was already dark when the Wizz Air flight from Eindhoven landed in Budapest. My work had taken me to Netherlands and I had decided to spend the weekend in Budapest. One reason was I was always fascinated by Eastern Europe and Budapest topped the list of places to see. Best part was that there were direct flights from Eindhoven to Budapest at convenient times. But I had to make the trip alone. While life is so simple and easy in Western Europe, it may not be same in Hungary as the country was freed from Soviet’s influence just 20 years ago.

It just took few minutes to come out of the airport. I went to information desk and purchased 48 hours Budapest card. For 37 Euros, I could travel in all kinds of public transport for free. It also provided unlimited travel in “Hop off Hop on” bus, cruise on Danube River and discounts for all museums. A good deal!! They did not accept Euros and hence I had to convert Euros to local currency “Forint”. 1 Euro = 275 Forint.

I had decided to cover Budapest only on public transport. Bus 200E connects Airport to M3 metro line. It took 20 minutes to reach Kőbánya-Kispest, the terminal station of M3 metro. I change over to metro and take the train going towards city. I had booked Ibis hotel near Határ út station. And I was glad to see the hotel just in front of the metro station.

After checking in, I looked for a place to have dinner. There was McDonald’s nearby which served standard food. Being a vegetarian is not an easy thing in Western Countries. Having learnt the art of survival in such countries, I did a standard trick. Asked the lady in the counter to give me a “Chicken burger” without chicken!! The lady gives a smiling look at me and nods her head.  The bill gave me little surprise but in a pleasant way, Hungary was a cheap country!!

With dinner consumed, it was time to sleep. The next day would be long!!

Before diving further, let me little few things about Budapest and Hungary. Budapest, the capital city of Hungary lies in the Eastern part of Europe. River Danube splits the city into Buda and Pest. While Buda side is hilly, Pest is completely a plain land. Budapest witnessed one of the bloodiest battles in World War 2 resulting in destruction of the city.

Back to story.

At 8AM in the morning, I was all set to go. The first destination was castle district in Buda. I take the Metro to central station “Deák Ferenc tér” and switch to M2 line to reach the station “Széll_Kálmán_tér”. Difficult names to spell, isn’t it? Well, I come out of the station but did not know what next to do!! With no indications about the directions to Castle hill, I struggled for few minutes. Went around the station but to no avail. I ask a news paper vendor who guides to a bus stop where I find the bus to Castle Hill (Bus no 16). The bus moved slowly uphill and dropped me at Matthias Church.


I had reached the place early and no tourists were seen. It was good as I could enjoy the place and take few snaps of the place.


Next to the Church was Fisherman's Bastion which provides nice view of the Danube River and Budapest.




The place was so peaceful that I walked aimlessly for sometime on the streets of Castle hill.


A statue next to the road.


It was then time to visit Royal Palace. On the way to Royal Palace were the ruins of the old one (medieval Palace).


Great views of Buda can be seen here.


Finally I reached Royal Palace. Budapest saw one of the worst battles in the final days of Second World War. The Royal Palace was burnt which was then rebuilt.


View of the chain bridge from Royal Palace. Danube, a major River in Europe flows peacefully.


National Gallery, attached to Royal Palace.


Beautification in front of National Gallery.


I took a stroll from Royal Palace to Museum of Military history. It was so refreshing to walk thanks to great weather on that day.


A Church on the way.


And then there was this statue of Hussar general András Hadik. This seemed to be a popular place!!


Statues near Mathias Church.


By now I had seen enough of Castle Hill. I could have spent a whole day here but I had some important places still to see. First thing was to walk on Chain Bridge!! I got down from Castle hill to reach Chain Bridge. Oldest of the bridges across Danube, it is well known for its beauty. During World War II, all bridges across Danube were destroyed including this one. It is great to see how the city has recovered from massive destruction. Power of construction always leads the destructive power.


It was already noon and I was hungry. I sat at a garden next to Chain Bridge and silently ate an Apple that I had taken from Ibis hotel. I was looking at Gellert hill and Citadel. Somehow I had to reach it. It was time to make use of Budapest card I had. Hop off Hop on bus!!


It was nice to sit and relax after walking continuously for several hours. They had head phone where I could get continuously get the information about the places on the way; helping me to understand Hungarian history better!!


From Citadel, the view of Budapest from the top was unmatched!!


Statue of liberty!!


I continued on the bus which brought be to the Pest side. By now I was ravenously hungry. I badly needed something to eat. And then I saw an Indian restaurant “Govinda”. Without much thought I barged into the hotel to eat whatever I could get. They had meals!! What a surprise. Indian restaurants in abroad are horribly expensive but this was an exception!! But I was in Eastern Europe which was less expensive. The food was tasted well mostly because I was hungry.


With stomach taken care of, I had to continue my Budapest journey. It was time to visit Heroes square!! I could have taken Metro but I wanted to experience Andrassy way, a beautiful Boulevard in Budapest.  It is one of the main shopping streets and has many iconic buildings like Opera.


At the end of Andrassy way was Heroes square. This is the place “memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of Hungarian people and its national independence.” The monument is a semi circular arch having sculptures of seven statesmen at each side.



‘Heroes square’ is surrounded by two important buildings. One is Palace of Art.


And the other is Museum of fine Art!!


I had few more places to visit on Andrassy way. To make it quicker, I decide to take Metro. But there is more important reason than this. It is the second oldest Metro line in the world!! (Oldest being London) It was opened in 1896. Yes, 116 years before!! And in 21st century our Government is struggling to bore a tunnel for six kms in Bengaluru!!


Travelling on this Metro was an experience by itself. Nothing modern but works smoothly.


I get down at the next station to visit a museum. This is the only museum I will be entering in Budapest. Called as “House of Terror”, it was close to my heart.  Before World War 1, Hungary was ruled as part of Austro-Hungarian Empire.  But it lost 70% of the territory in First World War. In Second World War, it came under the influence of Nazi Germany. The final days of the war brought catastrophe to Budapest. Budapest witnessed one of the worst battles of Second World War where the city was completely crushed. Hungary then came under the influence of Soviet Russia. What followed next was the dictatorial regime of Communists. Hungary revolted in 1956 but was suppressed violently by USSR. The dream of real freedom was only realized in late 1980’s where communist regimes across the World collapsed.


The museum clearly shows the horror under communist regime. It took some time for me come out of that hangover.

Victims of Communism
Near other end of Andrassy way was St Stephen’s Basilica. One of the largest Churches in Hungary.


Visitors were allowed freely inside.


I then headed to Dohany Street to see Jewish Synagogue.  Being Saturday, it was closed for tourists.


By the time I walked back to Danube, it was already dark. I spent some time in taking night shots.


Walkway next to the River.


Castle hill as seen from the tramway.


The last activity of the day was the cruise in Danube River. I wanted to experience it during the night.



Mathias Church seen from the River.


Royal Palace on the castle hill.


I was happy at the way the day went. It was exactly the way I thought off!! Headed back to Ibis hotel. After dinner at McDonald’s nearby, I crashed into bed.


Day 2 saw me heading towards Parliament building. As I came out of Metro, I was shocked!! Not a soul seen on the road!! It was Sunday and 9 AM was still too early for tourists!!




Parliament House had some statues and memorials. One of them was the statue of Kossuth, one of the President of old Hungary.


1956 revolution still haunts the people of Hungary. And we can see it in the memorial near Parliament House.


But I could not get the front view of the Parliament. To get that I had to cross Danube!!


Near Parliament building was Szabadsag square. It was surrounded by several Gothic buildings!!


Beautiful streets of Budapest.


Parliament House.


The last place of visit was National Museum.


My visit to Budapest was coming to an end. Now I was time to head back to Airport and catch the evening flight to Eindhoven. Lunch was at a food court at Kőbánya-Kispest where I went to a KFC and asked for a food without chicken!!