October 4, 2008. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is three cities rolled into one, with the Danube as a main street. Buda, with Obuda, on the western bank, and Pest on the eastern bank of the Danube. Officially joined in1873, the three areas still retain their own distinctive characteristics.
When we de-barked, it was a rainy day, which accounts for the washed-out photos
The Megyeri Bridge, the longest in Budapest, spans the Danube. It is the first cable-stayed river bridge, part of the M0 highway that goes around Budapest. The Parliament Complex is situated between this and the Margaret bridge, in the Pest bank of the Danube. It is a neo-gothic structure overlooking the Danube River. It was modeled on the British Parliament.
On the opposite bank of the Danube, in Buda, stands the Royal Castle, AKA the Buda Castle. During the 15th century, under the rule of King Matthias, Buda became one of Europe's most influential cities. The Turks invaded the district in 1541 and ruled until 1686 when the Austrian Habsburgs took back the hill, leaving the castle in ruins. The Habsburgs moved in, and reconstruction started immediately. Its elegant Baroque appearance was apparent by the mid 18th century. Then, during WW II, the place was bombed and destroyed again. Luckily the plans of the Medieval City had been preserved, and much of the architectural features have been restored. Cars are banned from Budapest Castle District, and only people who live there, taxis, and guests of the Hilton Hotel are allowed to drive up there. Nowadays it houses the Budapest History Museum, some restored areas of the Medieval Royal Palace, and the Hungarian National Gallery. It is the best viewing point for the sights of Budapest.
St. Stephen's Basilica. Construction began in 1851. It is Hungary's largest church and the second highest in ecclesiastical ranking. Technically, it isn't really a basilica but the sheer size of the structure has led it to be referred to in this manner.
In the lobby of the church there are scale models of the building and a sculpture of St. Stephen.
The interior of the church is incredibly ornate, and many special documents and treasured works of art were stored here during WW II as the building was considered sturdy enough to withstand any bombings that might occur.
Around the basilica's neighborhood there is a great open area, the St. Stephen's Square, and we walked all over it in the rain.
Another important connection between Buda and Pest, is the Chain Bridge.
At the bridge entrance there is a funicular going up Castle Hill, and some rails for a UV tram, consisting of two motor cars and an intermediate 2-axle one. The public transportation system in Budapest is excellent, and many trams are remotely driven, with no conductor on board.
Around the Chain Bridge there are some parks and gardens. The rain had stopped by then.
Next to Castle Hill there is another hill, Gellert, named after Bishop Gellert (Gerald), who spread Christianity throughout Hungary. On the top stands the monument dedicated to him, and the Liberation Monument, erected in 1947, paying homage to the Soviet soldiers that freed the city from the Nazis during World War II.
We stood on top of the hill to appreciate the incredible views.
There is a city park whose main entrance is through Heroes' Square, one of Hungary's World Heritage sites. The Archangel Gabriel presides over the square.
We then went on a bus tour to St. Matthias Church, officially known as The Church of Our Lady. Located in the heart of the Castle District, it was built in the 13th Century and was Budapest's first parish church.
It became a mosque in 1541, when the Turks captured Buda. Many of it treasures were shipped to Bratislava, and its frescoes were whitewashed. In the 19th Century St Matthias was restored to its original splendor, and throughout the centuries it has remained as a preferred site for celebratory events, such as royal weddings and coronations.
The church is undergoing repairs, thus the scaffolding around its towers.
It was difficult taking pictures of the interior of the church, since it was dark.
The last stop was the Fisherman's Bastion, near St Matthias. Built in 1905, it's a combination of neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque elements, full of turrets, parapets, projections, and climbing stairways. It's made up of seven towers, each one symbolizing one of the seven Magyar tribes that came to Hungary in 896. It is said that its maintenance was in the hands of a fishermen's league. In its front there is an equestrian statue of St. Stephen.
On the way back to the boat we passed by a turret sporting a sculpture of the mythical Hungarian bird called the Turul. According to the legend, a descendant of Attila dreamt that the bird appeared to her, and a crystal clear stream started to flow from her and grew into a mighty river. Thus symbolically she'd give birth to a line of great rulers.
We passed in front of the Belvarosi Plebania Templom, the Inner City Parish, dating back to the 12th Century. Also served as a mosque during the Turkish occupation. The Baroque towers were added in the 18th century. Franz Liszt hosted musical Sundays, which often began in the oldest building. He held numerous masses here, among them the first performance of Missa Choralis in Budapest.
Another church we passed by was the Carmelite Church, 1725, modeled after the Carmelite church in Rome, and thus one of the few examples of Italian baroque to be found in Hungary.
A monument to Lajos Kossuth greeted us along the way. He was the father of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
We had to go into a local crafts open air market to buy souvenirs. Then we continued back to the River Empress, exhausted after walking for about 6 miles in the course of the day.
The following photos are unidentified. If you know what they are please send me an email.
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