Travel Edition: Budapest

And now, for something completely different!

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From the ruin pub Szimpla Kert

My brother and my very good friend Jennifer have been on a major European adventure for the last two weeks, and I was fortunate to be able to join them in Budapest!

We were really only there for two full days, but we more than made the most of it! We saw Parliament, the Buda Castle, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, went for a boat tour on the Danube River, took a dip in the Gellért Thermal Baths, and finished up with a ride on the Budapest Eye. Our days were full, the food was great (especially the vegan food truck ‘Las Vegans’ we stumbled into!), and it was an amazing experience to share. In this post I’ve included photos of our favorite and most memorable parts of Budapest.

The city is huge, at nearly 2 million people, about 20% of the total population of Hungary. It’s actually two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. We spent a lot of our time in Budapest trying to figure out if we were in Buda or Pest  — and I suspect this is a typical tourist pastime!

The Hungarian Parliament building is absolutely astonishing. It’s enormous — 268 meters long — and features more spires than I’ve ever seen before. Up close, it’s so big it seems that it could be several buildings.

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Hungarian Parliament as seen from the Danube

We loved the impressive monuments of Hungarian national leaders at Heroes’ Square.

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Part of the monument at Heroes’ Square

And we were surprised to find a castle right by the square, complete with a pretzel and mulled wine stand. (And a nearby outdoor ice skating rink, unfortunately closed.)

I loved the bronze Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill, which you can see from all over the Pest side of the city. It was originally erected in 1947 to commemorate the Soviet liberation of Budapest from Nazi Germany at the end of WWII. Since the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and then the transition of Hungary to a democracy in 1989, the meaning of the statue has changed for Hungarians. This has led to an amending of the original inscription on the statue, which now reads (translated from Hungarian): “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.”

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A view of Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill

The Buda Castle is also on Gellért Hill, and we spent an entire morning wandering around the Castle and the Castle District. We loved the multicolored roof on Matthias Church, which you can see here on the left tower, and we were fortunate enough to be there for the noon ringing of the bells.

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Matthias Church in the Buda Castle District

We also went to the Gellért Thermal Baths to experience Hungarian bathing culture and the city’s famed warm water natural springs. This spa was founded in 1918 and features several geothermal pools, and is well known today for its art nouveau decorations.

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Gellért Thermal Baths

Just before leaving for the airport, we were able to get in a ride on the Budapest Eye, which is brand new — it just opened in March 2017.

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The Budapest Eye!

And finally, I was able to find a small memento of Martin Luther and the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at the Mary Magdalene Tower, the evangelical church in the Castle District, which also happens to be just across the way from the Hungarian National Archives.

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Mary Magdalene Tower, Budapest

We had such a wonderful time in Budapest, and I’m so glad I was able to join in. It was a great break from research, and now I’m back for two more weeks in the Genevan archives.

Thanks to Jennifer for letting me use a few of her pictures! Jennifer also blogs — see her post about Budapest

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