My first jaunt of 2017 was south and east, to Hungary, and afterwards, north west to Austria.
Travel plans first formed when I worked with a great group of Hungarians early in 2016. Every year the hotel they work at closes and they can head back home for a couple of months. Last year, we hatched a plan to meet up in Budapest in January 2017.
It was my first time in Hungary and visiting Budapest, so on my first day my pal Toni took me on a walking tour of the city. We saw the sights; St Stephens Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika), visited Parliament, walked across the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd), went to the Fishermans Bastion, walked up Castle Hill, saw Matthias Church, and passed through Vörösmarty Square (Vörösmarty tér) multiple times. We also saw the Little Princess statue (Kiskirálylány) – which is a great wee sculpture and one of many figures to be found in and around the city.
After a morning wandering, I was beginning to get an inkling of the history of the city, the country, and its people. We stopped for lunch at Hungarikum Bisztro. I opted for stuffed sour cabbage in cream; it might not sound hugely appetizing, but it tasted delicious, and honestly I would stop in Budapest again, just to try more food off the menu.
Next day, Wednesday, was another day of touring about. Meeting up with a second friend, the three of us walked to Heroes Square (Hősök tere), passing through the Jewish Quarter and seeing the Dohány Street Synagogue (the largest synagogue in Europe); it’s a beautiful building. Once we reached Heroes Square, my friends pointed out various figures from their country’s past, it was truly fascinating. The statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars have to be my favourite, I think. It’s a stunning space, and well worth a visit.
We continued the whistle-stop tour with a wander to Vajdahunyad Castle and paid a breif visit to the statue of Anonymus, who is thought to have written the Gesta Hungarorum (Deeds of the Hungarians). It is estimated to have been written circa 1200, and it is the first existing chronicle of the Hungarians. In short, he’s a pretty important figure.
In the afternoon, Toni and I went to the Budapest Hall of Art (the Műcsarnok Kunsthalle) for a couple of hours. It was pleasant, after a hectic couple of days, to just relax and look at the artwork. We managed to catch The First Golden Age exhibition. I actually found it quite moving – as art should be, I suppose. After hearing so much about the history of the country, seeing some of the pieces in the exhibition was surprisingly touching. In particular, the painting ‘Wake‘ by Hungarian artist Laszlo Pataky was, when seen in person, heart breaking. As was ‘Queen Isabelle Saying Goodbye to Transylvania‘ by Alexander von Wagner. A great exhibition, on until the 12th of March, well worth a look if you’re in the city.
Due to birthday celebrations the night before, my final day in Budapest was slow to start. Food being the first mission, we found a great cafe/restaurant, Vigodo Sorozo Etterem. Again, I would definitely come back for the food. In the afternoon, I went to check out the climbing gym, Spider Club, where I spent a pleasant couple of hours climbing off all the food I’d eaten in the last few days. After that, it was time to head back to the flat, and grab an early night before catching the train north to Austria.
Whilst I’m not a city mouse, I did enjoy my time in Budapest. It’s a stunning city, steeped in history, and abundant with good food. I look forward to heading back.