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February Travels – Budapest

Well, here we are again….if you read my last blog post you will know that I left Africa late January and popped home for my birthday and to spend some time it’s family and friends.

Then early February I packed my bag and headed off for a random solo jaunt around the world. My plan was to visit some ‘bucket list’ places that I just hadn’t got around to seeing and re-visiting some places to visit friends.

So my first port of call was Hungary and the city of Budapest. Hungary is one of the few European countries I hadn’t yet visited and Budapest was a city I had always wanted to see, even if it was middle of winter!

So after my cheap £20 Ryanair flight I checked in to my self catering studio apartment and set about tasks such as food shopping and planning sightseeing.

My first day was a lazy day really, I hit the City Sightseeing bus, which although they can be a bit lame, they are great for getting your bearings and listening to the factual audio guide so you can learn some of the history of the city and the buildings prior to walking around. So I just sat on the bus and did a 3 hour loop round…listening, looking and learning!

The following day saw me up and out on foot to explore the Buda side of the city, it was a lovely sunny day but incredibly cold!

I crossed from the Pest side of the city over the Danube via the Liberty Bridge

I then climbed up to the citadel for wonderful views of the city and the Danube.

I then reached the Liberty Statue which has pride of place atop Gellert Hill

I then took some time to meander around the citadel, which is pretty cool.

I then wandered in the vague direction of Buda Castle and the Budapest History Museum. My wanderings took me through an innocuous Park which on the map showed to contain a piece of art simply titled ‘Jesus’….well you know me…that needed checking out to see what it was!

So I wandered over to the area containing ‘Jesus’ to find this…..

It’s a sculpture by Nándor Wagner and is called ‘The Garden of Philosophy’. It depicts the world’s greatest religious figures meeting silently around an orb. Wagner intended for the piece to promote mutual understanding among the world’s religions.

The inner circle of figures shown above contains Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi and Akhenaten. There are a further 3 statues off to the side of Gandhi, Bodhidharma and Saint Francis who are leaders in spiritual enlightenment.

Wagner intended for a 3rd set of figures who would be representative of great lawmakers, however he died of cancer before being able to complete the work.

It’s an amazing sculpture which definitely warrants more exposure to ensure visitors trudge to the muddy corner of this innocuous park to see it.

I then reached Buda Castle and took a wander around the glorious exterior before venturing into the museum.

The museum houses numerous exhibitions on life in Budapest from Roman times to present day. Even just walking around the palatial building is amazing.

There are exhibits containing roman sculptures from Aquincum (the roman settlement in North Budapest), religious sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages through to exhibits on how Hungary was affected by World War 2. Its well worth a couple of hours of your time if you plan to visit.

I then wandered up to Matthias Church, which is a stunning gothic church by Fisherman’s Bastion.

I spent 10 minutes or so taking in the stunning views from Fisherman’s Bastion back across the Danube to the Pest side of the city.

The next day I went for a long stroll up Andrássy Avenue which is one of the main boulevards in Budapest and fashioned on the Champs Élysées. It is lined with Neo-renaissance mansions and houses and is a high end shopping area with boutiques, embassies and fine dining options. The Avenue ends at Heros’ Square which contains a beautiful monument to the Nations Heros.

I then wandered around Varosliget Park taking in some beautiful buildings that are now museums.

That night I took a walk along the Buda side of the Danube admiring funky buildings, sculptures, lit up bridges and the stunning parliament building.

The following day I decided to go on a mammoth hike towards Aquincum and the Roman ruins of the city. The actual archaeological site and museum were closed as out of season but there were still roman ruins to found in plain site.

Firstly I wandered along the Pest side of the Danube so I could check out the Parliament Building in day light. Amazing architecture!

I then continued upriver until St Margaret’s Island. This is a cool island in the middle of the Danube which in summer is heaving with families, dog walkers, picnic lovers, joggers, cyclists and tourists. Being winter I came across a handful of hardcore joggers, a few dog walkers and maybe 2 or 3 other tourists. It was wonderfully peaceful and I followed my nose the length of the island, stumbling across the ruins of a church with St Margaret’s grave inside.

After a good 2 hours of walking I made it to the furthest tip of St Margaret’s Island and crossed over a large bridge to the area of Aquincum and the now hip area of Obuda.

I managed to locate the remnants of a roman building and a smattering of columns by the exit of a metro station and an underpass…like you do!

I will have to revisit Budapest later in the year to benefit from warmer weather and gain entry to Aquincum proper.

I then started the long walk back from Obuda, along the Danube on the Buda side and walked back for over an hour until I could see the Parliament building again. I then crossed over the bridge and wandered back along the Pest side again to the hotel…taking in some cute sculptures and a Starbucks Caramel Hot Chocolate!

My last day in Budapest was spent firstly in the Hungarian National Museum, I spent a good 90 minutes roaming about the artefacts and visiting a special exhibition where the Seuso Treasure was being temporarily displayed.

The Seuso treasure is an amazing hoard of high quality silverware from the late Roman Empire. Not only are the objects strikingly beautiful and well made, they also have an interesting story behind them…being found by a Hungarian soldier who was illicitly digging at an archaeological site in the 1970s, he was then murdered and the treasure vanished.

Some of the pieces reappeared in the 1980s in an auction but the paperwork stating the place of origin had been doctored and forged. It took until 2014 for Hungary to obtain half the objects and 2017 for them to buy back the other half for the princely sun of €28 million!!!

After the museum I headed out to the Jewish Quarter and just roamed about for 2 hours taking in the old Jewish houses, narrow streets, street art and ruin pubs. Very cool.

Eventually I ended up back at the Synagogue and headed back to pack before my early morning flight to Jordan.

I can definitely recommend Budapest for a city break…it has things to do in abundance for both culture vultures and for the beer monsters who can while away the weekend drinking in the numerous ruin pubs.

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