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Actually, it’s Buda and Pest.
My only knowledge of the city came from the famous movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which, ironically, I have never seen. Nonetheless, it left a mysterious impression on me until I had the chance to visit myself.
After departing from Vienna and making a brief stop in Bratislava, we arrived in Budapest at 2pm for a guided tour of the Buda area. This is the old town center, home to the Buda Castle. In contrast to Pest, the financial district, Buda is the historical zone.
At our guided tour meeting point, this church truly captivates everyone present. It’s as pristine and modern as those I’ve encountered in Vienna, but with a distinctive Hungarian design. On the roof, there are also unique tile designs, which are actually extremely durable, colorful porcelains - an invention and mastery of the Hungarians. This is in remembrance of their King Matthias, who made significant contributions to the Hungarian state.
We then explored the Castle area, which included Fisherman’s Bastion, the office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, and the residence of the Hungarian President. Interestingly, all government buildings are either located here or are under construction in this popular tourist spot. There is a significant amount of modern construction taking place, designed to resemble castles, which will be used for the Ministry of Defense and various other government agencies. Our guide informed us that Hungary is making efforts to recreate the grandeur of its past culture and history through these constructions. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment and believe it is a step in the right direction.
We eventually arrived at the National Gallery, which was commissioned by the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. It was fascinating to see how my limited knowledge of both countries could intertwine. The gallery featured a stunning overlook offering views of Pest, where the magnificent Congress building is also situated.
Buda -> Pest
We then embarked on a strenuous 1.5h walk from Buda to Pest, crossing from the west to the east side of the Danube River. Along the way, we enjoyed the best view of the Congress from the Buda side.
The night cruise took an unexpected turn when it began to pour rain an hour before departure. The city was alive with the sounds of thunder and pattering rain, and we found ourselves seeking shelter in front of a shop to avoid getting soaked. Fortunately, we managed to board the cruise in the end, even though it was densely crowded with people.
Considering it was only 20 euros for unlimited Prosecco and the night cruise, I really couldn’t complain. After all, you get what you pay for.
Standing atop the cruise ship, feeling the wind breeze by and taking in the night view from the Danube River, was indeed very pleasant.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The next day, we visited the renowned basilica named after the founding king of Hungary. The locals hold him in high esteem and with St. Stephen’s Day approaching, we could already see an abundance of food, concert equipment, and party decorations being set up around the city.
We also ascended to the Panorama at the top, which offered an incredible view of the entire city. It was quite an amazing sight.
Central Market Hall
I proceeded to the Central Market Hall, a bustling hub where locals vend their goods, akin to a farmer’s market. Much to my surprise, the market’s offerings were indeed very local. Hungarian specialties such as chillis, peppers, sausages, and an abundance of raw meat were on display. It bore a striking resemblance to a local Chinese food market. Additionally, the market was hosted in a massive hall, which was quite impressive.
This is indeed a fantastic city filled with wonderful people. Apart from an unfortunate incident with a taxi driver overcharging us and a crowded cruise, everything else was exceptional. The Buda area was impressive and with all the construction work completed, I believe it’s on its way to becoming a major tourist destination.