With some extra vacation days to use, and KLM offering an inexpensive vakantie deal, we found ourselves in Budapest for 4 nights last week. Budapest is known as one of the prettiest cities in Europe, and it did not disappoint. I’m ashamed to admit that up until a few years ago, I had no clue what country Budapest was located in. It sounded to me like it should be near Istanbul. Regardless, after learning about the history of Budapest (and Hungary), I’m amazed at how well the city looks.
The history of Hungary is sad. It was ruled by the Turks for many years before the Austrian Habsburgs drove them out. The Habsburgs initially promised simply to rid Hungary of the Turks, but evidently they liked the country so much they decided to stay as an occupying force. After being on the losing end of World War 1, Hungary lost 70% of its territory. It quickly fell to the Germans, and Budapest suffered heavy losses during WWII, including all of the bridges over the Danube. After the war was over, Hungary became a part of the Eastern Bloc of Soviet-controlled countries. In 1989, Hungary finally broke free of their Soviet masters, and the country has been flourishing as an independent nation ever since.
Most of the bridges over the Danube have been re-built in their original style, leading to a very pretty waterfront area. Budapest was formed by combining several cities, among them Buda and Pest. Buda is the hilly side of the Danube, and Pest is the flat side. Buda contains more historical sights, while Pest is the more modern side, with the majority of the hotels, shops, and attractions.
While under Soviet rule, some Hungarians rebelled in 1956. They took a Hungarian flag, complete with a communist coat of arms in the middle, and cut out the communist symbol. The flag with a hole in it became the symbol of the revolution. It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the flag is still a source of Hungarian pride to this day.
I won’t lie, certain parts of Budapest reminded me of the movie EuroTrip’s portrayal of Bratislava, complete with people bathing themselves in the street. I guess you can’t expect an entire city to rebound from years of communist rule in just over 20 years. Look how long it has taken Berlin. Most of Budapest is pretty, but it really shines when the sun goes down.
All in all, we definitely enjoyed our trip to Budapest, despite me leaving a bag containing our iPad and my Nikon Digital SLR camera in the taxi on the first night. We got it back the next day, but it could have started our vacation out on a disastrous note. As it was, it was a lot of fun, and we get to check another city off of my Travels & Plans list.