A problem I’ve had recently with article writing is that I go too BIG. Instead of writing about a city or province or the beaches in a country, I try to write about the entire country and end up with an article that’s far too vague to be of much use to a prospective traveller aside from inspirational purposes (hopefully). So, I’m putting my foot down, and for my first zoomed-in article, I’ve gone for [Googles] the 8th largest city in Europe… Well, at least the transition will be smooth, I suppose.
Budapest is beautiful – years ago, when I took my first trip around Europe, I was forced to take the train through as I was running out of time and wanted to get a little closer to Paris from Istanbul without spending 3 days straight on trains. Everyone I met after that point called me an idiot (if they were feeling polite) for missing out on Budapest. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to agree with them.
Budapest reminds me a fair bit of Prague – and I really, really love Prague. It has a similar dark history and the same melancholic, beautiful style, like one of those delicate women you see in the more stylish of old black-and-white French movies. Maybe I’m overdoing it here a little, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Budapest is a great and very stylish place to visit. When you walk through the old town you’ll find yourself wishing you packed “that nice shirt” that you didn’t think you’d wear. It’s pretty enough to embarrass you, a little. Or maybe it’s just me and the weird relationship I have with some cities.
So, what’s there to do in Budapest except blush at how pretty she is? Exploring is, obviously, high on the list. The old town is full of grand, historic, architecturally brilliant sights to see, particularly in Castle Hill, where the sights jostle for space. Much of Budapest’s recent history from WWII and the years after under Communism have shaped and defined the city, and the evidence from it all is everywhere; even in Castle Hill, where the tunnels under the hill were used as air raid shelters during WWII, and as a secret military base during the Cold War.
Another scar from Budapest’s past takes the form of the House of Terror – the old headquarters of the AVH secret police. The walls are reputably twice as thick as they need to be in order to dampen the sounds of screams. What is now a moving and powerful museum was used by both the Nazis and the Stalinist regimes to hold and torture political prisoners. Anyone with even a slight interest in the history of Budapest and this region of Europe (and everyone should by rights have some interest) should visit.
Hungarian cuisine isn’t seen much outside Hungary which is a real shame, and not just for the punning opportunities – the food is excellent, and always comes with a wide variety of fresh vegetables and the small dumplings that are so popular in many areas of Eastern Europe and the one thing that I’d consider privately importing if I could afford it. Try the cold fruit soups that are individual to Hungary – my favourite’s the strawberry.
If you ever get a chance, visit Budapest – you won’t regret it for a second, particularly as the prices are still relatively low. Just remember to pack “that good shirt”. Thank me later.