Budapest Stories and Tips

'Pest' - Domes, gypsies and Stalins nose

The Hungarian Parlament Building Photo, Budapest, Hungary

Across the Danube from the heights of Buda is the younger city of Pest. This is where the city really swings with restaurants, offices, bars, discos and monuments - a world away from the tourists on Varhegy.

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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