Beau­ti­ful Bu­dapest

A city that has been At the in­ter­sec­tion of euro­pean his­tory for hun­dreds of years, bu­dapest of­fers more than most of its neigh­bours’ cap­i­tals com­bined

Virtuozity - - Cigar News -

With a unique, youth­ful at­mos­phere, a world-class clas­si­cal mu­sic scene as well as a pul­sat­ing nightlife, Bu­dapest is one of europe’s most de­light­ful and en­joy­able cities. in­deed, such is the qual­ity of the his­tor­i­cal sites and the majesty of its sur­round­ings, Bu­dapest is of­ten dubbed the “Paris of the east”.

Such a nick­name is hardly given lightly. a trav­eller of any age, and of any per­sua­sion, could have the trip of a life­time in hun­gary’s cap­i­tal. his­tory buffs will revel in the touris­tic spots in­spired by the bad old days un­der Soviet rule dur­ing the cold war; ad­ven­ture junkies will jump at the chance to take part in the city’s world­fa­mous paint­ball and air­soft tour­na­ments; while new­ly­wed cou­ples will ro­mance the ev­ery­one here, and per­haps that’s be­cause the city has been at the in­ter­sec­tion of euro­pean his­tory for hun­dreds of years.

Mod­ern Bu­dapest is the re­sult of a his­toric amal­ga­ma­tion of the cities of Buda and Pest, sep­a­rated by the river Danube, and it is still typ­i­cal to re­fer a restau­rant on the “Buda side” or “liv­ing in Pest”. Pest is gen­er­ally seen as more mod­ern and cos­mopoli­tan, while the Buda side fea­tures many of the his­toric sites, and is gen­er­ally more con­ser­va­tive.

Whichever side you choose to visit, it’s pos­si­ble to re­ally live the high life in Bu­dapest—you don’t even have to have

the in­come of an oil baron to do it. Life in Bu­dapest is cheap, thanks to the reper­cus­sions of Soviet rule still be­ing felt. This is not to say that life is nasty, how­ever—in the right parts, the city can be as glam­orous as Monaco. On the Pest side, at the city cen­tre over­look­ing the Danube, Fer­raris and Mclarens wind­ing through the streets, cruis­ing from one fancy ho­tel to the next, are a com­mon sight. While at the cen­tre of Buda, large Bent­leys waft­ing im­por­tant busi­ness­men and dig­ni­taries up and down the hill of his­toric build­ings are more com­mon.

If you’re a his­tory buff, that’s the side you’ll want to be on first. The first stop would likely be the Hun­gar­ian Na­tional Par­lia­ment build­ing, the largest in Europe, and de­signed by Imre Steindi in 1896. It is based on Eng­land’s Par­lia­ment build­ing, and sup­pos­edly is one me­ter wider and longer than that au­gust build­ing, just a lit­tle bit of ar­chi­tec­tural con­ceit. The build­ing is so im­mense, the weak al­lu­vial soil along the Danube had to be re­in­forced with a seven-foot-deep con­crete foun­da­tion. Not sur­pris­ing, as the build­ing is 300 yards long and 140 yards wide, with 691 rooms and

12.5 miles of cor­ri­dors.

That said, the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tion on the hill is the Royal Palace. The first known build­ings where the palace stands to­day were built by Charles Robert’s el­dest son, Stephan Duke of An­jou (1308-1342). It was later re­mod­elled, but the reign of King Matthias brought about the golden age of Buda (1458-1490). Leg­end has it that when a Turk­ish am­bas­sador came to Buda, he saw all the wealth and grandeur, for­got his greet­ing speech and all he could say was, “The em­peror sends his re­spects.”

Af­ter sev­eral re­mod­el­ings, the unique Palace to­day is the recre­ation of Ala­jos Hausz­mann and Mik­lós Ybl’s 1896 mil­len­nial de­signs. Dur­ing its his­tory the Royal Palace has been de­stroyed and re­built at least six times.

The other main at­trac­tion on the Buda side is the Fish­er­man’s Bas­tion, which of­fers im­pres­sive views across the Danube to Pest. This neo-gothic con­struc­tion was built in 1905 by ar­chi­tect Fri­gyes Schulek. It is com­posed of seven tow­ers that sym­bol­ise the seven mag­yar clans’ lead­ers that came in the Carpathian Basin at the end of the ninth cen­tury. It was named af­ter both the me­dieval fish­mar­ket once nearby and the Guild of Fish­er­men who de­fended this sec­tion of the wall dur­ing past wars.

The Buda side is also home to its fair share of his­tor­i­cal sites, but they cer­tainly take on a darker tone. One of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions is the House of Ter­ror, a build­ing that was used both by the Nazis and the com­mu­nist regime as a se­cret po­lice head­quar­ters. In 2002, it be­came a mu­seum fo­cused on Nazi and com­mu­nist ter­ror, with the aim of help­ing vis­i­tors to un­der­stand Hun­gary’s trou­ble­some 20th cen­tury.

Else­where, the mood is de­cid­edly lighter in mod­ern-day Pest. For a re­lax­ing day out, no vis­i­tor could do bet­ter than a trip to Bu­dapest’s fa­mous ther­mal baths, where tourists and lo­cals go to swim, re­lax, and soak in hot or cold min­eral wa­ters. The big­gest ther­mal baths, lo­cated near the He­roes’ Square, are large, his­toric com­plexes vis­ited as a cul­tural as well as a bathing ex­pe­ri­ence. Other ther­mal baths are op­er­ated more as spa ho­tels, with ther­mal wa­ter but in a mod­ern, spa-like at­mos­phere.

On top of this, Hun­gar­ian food de­serves to be men­tioned among the coun­try’s main sites. As in other cul­tures, the Hun­gar-

ian ap­proach to food com­bines pride in their own tra­di­tions with a readi­ness to ac­cept out­side in­flu­ences. The re­sult is a vi­brant restau­rant scene where an AsianHun­gar­ian fu­sion restau­rant may well be of gen­uine in­ter­est. Lo­cal spe­cial­i­ties of­ten re­volve around meat and in­volve lib­eral use of pa­prika, how­ever not nec­es­sary of the hot kind.

And if you’re pre­pared for it, trav­el­ling out­side of the city brings its own re­wards. One of the most pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties for vis­i­tors is em­bark­ing on a his­toric ‘Tra­bant tour’. The Tra­bant was a sta­ple car in East­ern Europe— con­sid­ered by many to be East Ger­many’s

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