A May 1997 trip
to Budapest by actonsteve
Quote: If you want the big juicy East European experience come to Budapest. There is modern history at every turn, beautiful baroque buildings, and a joy for life that is intoxicating. All set on a beautiful bend on the Danube - Budapest is one of the Europe's most underrated cities
Homestays are a good idea and the forint so devalued - an absolute bargain. Those old ladies at Keleti-pu station holding pictures of accommodation are genuine and very useful. Also watch out for the gypsies around Vaci Utca. They aren't as sweet as they look.
Situated in a very classy area of Buda, a short walk from Castle Hill this is a lovely hotel. Not far from Deli-pu so useful if you are coming from Warsaw and the Ukraine. The rooms are clean and tidy and a jolly Magyar with a big bristling moustache manned the reception. This was a great place to come back to after a day's sightseeing in Budapest.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 1, 2001
Attraction | "Ancient Hungary - "The Great Synagogue""
It is easily reachable from the eastern end of the shopper street of Vaci Utca. To the right leads down to the Danube and the Elisabet bridge, to the left will take you across Lajos Kossuth Utca and the synagogue. It's outside appearance is striking with ornate red brick and a faintly oriental dome.
Before you enter there will be stringent security checks. When we were there a young man asked very searching questions and if he wasn't happy with the answers denied access. This is quite understandable as ROUGH GUIDE notes there have been firebomb attacks in the past. A small skullcap is given to visitors and must be worn upon entering the synagogue.
The interior is colossal with bubble lighting on the ceiling and rows and rows of pews. Above the altar is a vast dome encased in blue tiles which gives in an eastern feel. That was what so memorable about Budapest, it was Europe, but once in a while a wisp of the east could be detected.
Next door was a museum with priceless judaica down the ages on display. There was also a room devoted to the Holocaust. It was quite blatant in naming the guilty partners and there was a picture of Fascist Admiral Horthy standing next to Hitler and some harrowing pictures of the concentration camps. The synagogue stands on the old jewish ghetto and outside is a garden that was built over mass graves from 1944-45.
I would recommend this synagogue to anyone who is interested in Eastern Europe. And being much less crowded then similar attractions in Prague, it is well worth a visit.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 11, 2001
Dohany utca, 2-8
Budapest, Hungary 1074
+36 1 342 1335
Attraction | "soul of Budapest - St Matyas Templedom"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 18, 2001
Matthias Church (Matyas Templon)
Szentharomsag Ter 2 Castle Hill, District I
Budapest, Hungary 1014
36 1 355 5657
But the real find was a set of pastel coloured buildings leading into an attraction called 'the labyrinth'. A pre-war attraction which has just been restored, we were entranced by dark atmospheric tunnels accompanied by throbbing music. The mysterious effect was enhanced by animal statues and cave paintings. In one room we found a gurgling fountain - imagine our surprise when we found it was spewing matthias rose wine!!
That is what is so good about Budapest - it always surprises. Like the city itself, there is alot more then you think to Castle Hill.
Vigado and Vaci Utca
At Vigado Ter in front of the big international hotels and flanking the Danube they have set up a tourist market. Here you can buy lace, chessboards, T-shirts and leatherware from a large number of stalls. Nearby is the pedestrianised square of Vorosmarty Ter with its showrooms, IBUSZ and record shops - scalps/touts will hang around there trying to get tourists interested in tours of Szendre of the Buda Hills. But nearby Vaci Utca is the capitalist showpiece street and probably the best shopping street in Hungary. Designer shops, electronic shops, nightclubs and working girls line this street. But also the international chains have moved in including Burger King and McDonald's. Even the British have moved in on the act with a very popular Marks and Spencers.
Horos Ter and Varosliglet
The great boulevard of Pest is Andrassy Utca. It stretches from Opera over two miles to the Varosliglet (City Park). This is often too much to walk so a handy subway traverses its length ending at the vast Horos Ter (Heroes Square). This is a vast stone expanse with the Palace of Fine Arts on its south side and traffic swirling around its perimeter. At the rear of the Ter, backing onto the Varosliglet is a semi-circular colonnade decorated with statues of wicked looking Magyar tribesmen on horses. And behind that it the verdant expanses of Varosliglet, worth visiting for Vajadunjad Castle. A Transylvanian gothic fantasy with its own moat and drawbridge and one of the best kept secrets of Budapest.
This is a very rewarding place to wander with its boulevards laid out with "turn-of-the century" buildings that are as grand as those in Paris or Vienna. And Hungarian life goes on around you especially in the shopping street of Vaci Utca and the showpiece square of Vorosmarty Ter.
To reach Pest from Buda take the excellent subway to Astoria or Deak Ter (where gypsies lurk) or simply walk across one of the Danube bridges. There is an international bus station in Deak Ter and trains roll into the cavernous station of Keleti-Pu from all over Eastern Europe.
One of the best things to do is walk the embankment alongside the Danube. Here are fantastic views across to Varhegy (Castle Hill) on its rocky bluff. Spread in front of you is the Chain Bridge with its stone lions, the steeples of St Matyas, the domed royal palace and the fairytale turrets of Fishermans bastion. The whole vista looks spectacular lit up at night from Pest side.
Pest is a wonderful place just to go wandering. But below are some suggestions to add directions to your ambling.
The Parliament Building.
Perched on the edge of the river is the symbol of Budapest and its most famous building. This stretches for a hundred metres with its towering brownstone walls and gothic lines topped off with a giant brown dome. Tours are taken each day at 10.00am (except mondays) and while waiting for these you can look at the park and monument dedicated to the 1956 uprising against the Soviets.
National Museum of Hungary
If when you are wandering around Budapest you kept wondering why there is not much to account for forty years of communism - the reason is simple - it has all been put in a museum. Set in its own park near the Elisabet bridge is one of the most fascinating museums I have been too. It covers Hungary under the Habsburgs, Ottomans and Nazi's (the Hungarian crown jewels are its main attraction, given back from Hitler by the Americans)But the modern history section is most fascinating especially about the cult of Rackosi and Stalin. All the statues of Lenin, Marx and Stalin have been moved here and there is a piece of the nose of Stalin from a statue that must have been colossal. If you are interested in communist retro kitsch there is the famous statue park on the outskirts. Every taxi driver in Budapest knows the way as it is very popular with tourists.
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