Thursday, April 21, 2016

Budapest, Hungary

Day 8 - April 20, 2016

Budapest is cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

The flight was from Stockholm Skavsta Airport which is about an hour drive from Stockholm. I drove down E4 highway to Skavsta. A nice sunny weather and was a pleasure driving through Sweden.

The flight time was nearly 2 hours to Budapest. We landed at 5:30pm local time and took a cab straight to our apartment. It was at the city center next to the main train station Nyugati, a conscious decision to help us with the commute. The first thing we did was to purchase a 2 day travel pass that allowed us to access any mode of transport across Budapest city. The plan for the evening was to visit as many famous pubs and night clubs as we could. We set the itinerary and got along our way.
Budapest for one is known for its nightlife. The city offers plenty of bars, clubs and dance halls. It is always better to get some knowledge about the places you plan to visit before you venture out because there are many out there that may not appeal to you.

Ruin bars are a rage in Budapest and we went to the best and the very first that made this trend possible – Szimpla Kert

This is supposed to be the mother of all ruin pubs. The bar looked normal from the outside but as we walked in we were in the middle of a buzzing crowd talking, dancing and simply having fun. What caught my eyes was the awe-inspiring interiors. The bar is built in the ruins of an abandoned building, filled with cheap furniture, graffiti on the walls and ceilings, and all of it designed differently. I could see a bicycle hanging from the ceiling, the walls looked like it hasn't been painted for ages. But that is the way it’s supposed to be.

The pub offered a variety of drinks ranging from local brands to international ones and also some bar menu bites. When in Rome, be like Romans, as the saying goes, we chose to have the local beer and it was the right choice. We spent a couple of hours there and had some snacks to keep us awake for the rest of the night.

Our next stop –Ötkert, which is one of the most popular clubs in Budapest. 

The music in Ötkert is trendy and the drinks in my opinion are fair priced. We went there on a week day and in spite of that the club was packed. The floor was very lively with people dancing to the music, some in groups, some couples and yet some solo.

We got our drinks and in a short while, we were also part of the crowd, dancing away. This went on until 4 in the morning and what a night it was. We were high on drinks but never over board, just strong enough to make it safely back to our apartment. Truly clubbing, truly dancing and truly amazing.

Day 9 - April 21, 2016

The following morning was laid back with all the head banging the previous day. We got up by 11 and got ready to explore the city. But before that we needed to have some serious food as we were dead hungry. We found out a nice Indian restaurant called Haveli at the famous Andrassy Avenue street. Trust me, it was THE right choice. I’ve not had such authentic Punjabi dishes in a foreign land. All the dishes we ordered were excellent, right from the mutton shorba, fish tikka, lamb chops and the main course Naan and chicken tikka masala. It was finger licking good and value for money too. We thanked the chef for making our lunch so special. It was time to explore the city.

Heroes Square
Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary. It became a single city in 1873 with the unification of Buda on the west bank of the river Danube and with Pest on the east bank. Budapest is known for its extensive world heritage sites that includes the Buda Castle, Heroes' Square and the millennium underground railway which is the second-oldest metro line in the world.

We wanted to see all that was possible in a day. Hop on-hop off was the best option to do that. There are quite a few hop on-hop off companies plying through the streets of Budapest. We got our tickets from the official hop on- hop off bus. All the seats have a provision to plug in the ear phones to listen to details of every city attractions. I will list a few that I found to be a must see in Budapest. One must be interested in ancient buildings, monuments, history and museums to enjoy the true nature of how Budapest has come to be, as it is today. If not, then this could well turn out to be a disappointment.

Heroes Square-
Is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue. Heroes’ Square is an iconic statue complex featuring the seven chieftains of the Hungarian tribes and other national leaders, from its history in bronze, held by the crescent-shaped monument from left to the right. The square is one of the most spectacular venues in Budapest.

Buda castle-
The first Gothic style palace was completed in 1265. It is built on the southern tip of Castle Hill. The castle is a part of the World Heritage Site, which was declared in 1987. It was one of the largest Gothic palace of the late Middle Ages. At the end of World War II, the palace was badly damaged. It was rebuilt once again, in Neo-Baroque style, using many original parts.

Buda castle
Today, Buda Castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library. Other attractions include the Lion Courtyard, the Matthias Well and the statue of the Turul Bird, the mythological bird of the Magyars.

Turul Bird
We only saw the palace from the outside and took pictures due to shortage of time. The view of the Danube river embankments and the Buda Castle District is one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of the city of Budapest.

Fishermen’s Bastion-
St. Stephen
This is another top Budapest attractions without a doubt. The Fishermen’s Bastion serves as a viewing terrace for visitors that gives a beautiful panoramic view of the river Danube and Pest side in the east. The Bastion was built to commemorate the fishermen who protected this part of the city during medieval times. It was built 1902.

View of Danube & Parliament
There is a bronze statue of St Stephen, the Hungarian king mounted on a horse between the Bastion and the Matthias Church. The pictures gives you the beauty of this magnificent structure.

Chain bridge –
This is a suspension bridge over the river Danube connecting Buda on the west and Pest on the east. This was officially opened in 1849. The bridge was destroyed during world war and was rebuilt in 1949. It was regarded as an engineering wonder.

The bridge is a symbol of advancement, national awakening, and the linkage between East and West. The view of the bridge is beautiful especially in the evening, when it is all lit up.

Parliament building –
The parliament built in Neo-Gothic style is located in the bank of the river Danube. It is a noted landmark of Hungary and currently the largest building and the tallest in Budapest. The Parliament of Hungary is the world's third largest Parliament building.

We didn’t go inside, but took pictures around it. Some of the best views of the Parliament is from across the river. The distant view illustrates the complete beauty of the building.

Gellért Hill-
The hill is named after bishop Gellért (Gerard), who was thrown to death from the hill by pagans in the fight against Christianity in 1046. His statue holds a cross, can be seen from many parts of Pest.
Gellert Hill

We were quite tired by the end of the tour at the same time elated by the beauty of the cosmopolitan city of Budapest. The city that has got some structure or statue almost all of the places we went. A beautiful city and sometimes felt it was even better than Paris. Budapest offers a mix of attractions and entertainment, right from buildings and monuments each with an interesting history to nightclubs, bars and dance halls. I found Budapest to be affordable in comparison with Paris and London.

I’ve decided to come back again because 2 days was too short to cover the enchanting city of Budapest. There is much more to see & experience the once called ‘Queen of the Danube’. I’m happy we were able to visit as many places as possible considering the time we had. Two days spent wisely.

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