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Majestic Budapest

I recently had the chance to travel to Budapest in Hungary.

The city is actually two cities - Buda which has the castle hill and Pest which has the parliament house.

I went to see a dentist Dr Padanyi who was recommended to me for some corrective orthodontics (i.e. fix my teeth). His surgery was near the Buda castle hill and I could stay in an attached apartment which made it easy to see the most historic parts of Budapest on foot.

Hungary has many dentists and prices are much cheaper than in western Europe, so the dental savings more than paid for the visit. It was near the Mammut I & II shopping buildings.

Budapest lies on the Danube river, which is today an important tourist route, as shown by the many cruise boats moored on it.

I flew in on a Saturday morning to Liszt Ferenc airport (yes Liszt comes from here) and used bus, metro and tram to get to the dentist. The metro  line 3 goes from Kobanyi Kopest into the centre of Pest and onto to Ur-pest.I got out near the centre and took a tram across the bridge to Buda.

After the morning ministrations of the dentist I was able to wander around the Buda castle hill and see the cathedral, the steps leading down to the Danube, Buda castle and the old cavalry way to the base of the tiny funicular railway.

The Danube embankments and the Buda Castle District were world heritage listed by UNESCO on the 11th of December, 1987. Buda is an ancient town district, giving home to some of the most important historical monuments in Hungary. It was founded about 800 years ago. With restoration its beauty is apparent, despite earthquakes, fires, sieges and world wars. The buildings themselves in Budapest bear tell-tale signs of recent and ancient history with bullet holes and artillery cavities.

I wandered mostly around the Buda castle hill on the Saturday, returning in the evening to photograph from the Margaret bridge. 

Both the Pest and Buda embankments of the Danube stretching from the Liberty Bridge all the way up to the Margaret Bridge, the area encompassed by the Chain Bridge and some of the buildings belonging to the Technical University.

There are also nearby the Gellért Bath, the Gellért Hill with the Statue of Liberty and the Citadel, the Castle of Buda, the Baroque churches and Turkish baths of the so-called Water Town - these are all parts of the World Heritage today.

On the Pest embankment of the Danube, the listed items are the Parliament building, Roosevelt Square, the Academy of Sciences and the Gresham Palace (which today gives home to the Four Seasons Hotel).

There is more to the Castle District than just a royal palace or a castle. This is also where the historical old town district is situated, with countless venues providing a panorama of Pest.

The former Royal Palace and its supply buildings are separate part of the Castle District. The Budapest History Museum as well as the Hungarian National Gallery and the Hungarian National Libraryare in the Royal Palace.

The formal residence of the Prime Minister, the Alexander Palace, is the President's Residence and home today.

The most visited site is Trinity Square with the Mathias Church over 700 years old in its centre. The church is almost as old as the Royal Palace, and was used for many coronation ceremonies. The Gothic tower of the Mathias Church, with the Fishermen's Bastion in the background, is one of the most frequently photographed tourist sites in Hungary.

Trinity Square also boasts the Baroque-style former Town Hall, the Neo-Gothic former Ministry of Finance, St. Stephen's statue and the Fishermen's Bastion. The latter was designed and built between 1895 and 1902, replacing the former castle wall, and it offers great views of Budapest.

Next to Trinity Square stands the Hotel Buda Hilton, the first post-war modern international luxury hotel in Budapest, combining old and new with some success.

The depths of Castle Hill hides the Buda Castle Labyrinth. The cave labyrinth's size is best described by the fact that during WWII, 20,000 German soldiers fit in there.

The Castle and its beautiful buildings are in strong architectural unity with the rows of residential homes on the Danube embankment and with the medieval Rudas Baths, as well as with the rocks of the Gellert Hill and the bridges spanning accross the Danube.

The oldest one of these bridges in the Chain Bridge, erected in 1849. When I crossed over there was old lady begging and a young couple stopped to get a photo of themselves and the old lady. I also tempted fate on the Monday by climbing up on ther chain links to get some stunning photos across the bridge to the parliament building.

The sleekest bridge is the  Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Bridge, which was one of the first suspension bridges in the world.

Across the Danube, in Pest, stands the predominant House of Parliament, the Neo-Gothic star edifice by Imre Steindl master architect.

Not far behind from it is the biggest church of Budapest, St.Stephen's Basilica, whose height is equal to that of the Parliament (@ 96 metres).I have photos of the outside and also inside with the cupola visible.

Not far from there, at the Pest bridgehead of the Chain Bridge stands the monumental Academy of Sciences.

This part of the Pest side is crowned by the Secessionist building of the Gresham Palace, giving home to Budapest's most elegant hotel, the Gresham Four Seasons, see photo. The wonderful panorama is completed by the row of luxury hotels on the Danube embankment and the elegant buildings of the Redoute (Vigadó).

Heroes' Square along with its surroundings, and Andrássy Avenue with the Millenium Underground Railway have joined the Buda Castle District and the view of the banks of the Danube on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the year 2002.

In the downtown part of the avenue, some say that the most impressive building is the State Opera House, others think that the former Institute of Ballet deserves this title. This part of the avenue also gives home to the Old Academy of Music, the Old Art Hall and the Budapest School of Performing Arts.

One the way behind the parliament I cam upon a statue of Ronald Reagan.

Between Oktogon and Kodály Körönd is a blue but gloomy building, which used to house the secret police of the Nazis in World War II, and also the state police of the Communist regime, the dreaded AVH. Today it is a museum called the House of Terror, commemorating the victims of these brtutal regimes in a permanent exhibition.

Between Kodály Körönd and Heroes' Square stands the recently renovated 5-star Hotel Andrássy, designed by the 1896 Athens Olympic champion swimmer Alfred Hajos. The Neo-Renaissance building of the Art School of Budapest, and the apartment-museum depicting the life of Zoltán Kodály are also in this part of the avenue.

The first underground railway of continental Europe, the Millenium Underground was built under Andrássy Avenue (M 3). Used by the public since the year 1896, it is still an important part of Budapest's transport system. The line was later extended to be able to transport people to new parts of the city beyond Heroes' Square in 1973.

After my ministrations on the Monday I enjoyed another sunny afternoon before flying home.

As with all my photo pages, please feel welcome to enjoy and share the images freely for non-commercial use. Should you desire a photo for a commercial purpose (e.g. like Harvard University Historical Society did with one of my photos they used in a travel brochure), then contact me so we can discuss a suitable image, price and resolution to suit your needs.

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