I’ve decided that some places just steal your heart. There is no other way to describe the feeling of absolute amazement, excitement and wonder. Budapest is one of those places. I left a piece of myself in that city, and one day I will go back; for I am not done exploring the wonders there. Thinking about those four days I spent in Hungary leaves such an appreciation for my time, yet a longing in my heart to return.
I waved goodbye to beautiful Prague and hopped on a bus for the eight hour journey to Budapest. Closing my eyes I imagined the wonders that awaited me. I have a soft spot in my heart for European History and was looking forward to learning more about the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Perhaps it was the long bus ride (that due to traffic took longer than expected) but pulling into the bus terminal sent a shiver of excitement through me. My anxious (half asleep) feet combined with the tales of travelers before had me immediately ready to jump into the heart of the city.
My first day there I quickly learned about how Budapest used to be separate, with one side of the Danube River named Buda and the other side was Pest (I have a feeling if we lived in the nineteenth century that is the side my father would have lived on. “Sir Robert of Pest” that sounds right!) It wasn’t until 1873 where the two sides came together to create Budapest.
Needless to say this spectacular city did not disappoint. I got to go on several tours of the city, saw my favorite church to date, enjoy a few pints at the ruin bar, ate amazing food, relax in their thermal pools, and meet several lovely people including one of my dad’s customers!
I spent a lovey afternoon outside the busy city and visited Szentendre with Gabi and her brother Charles. This was such a treat for me, and not just because they took me to a marzipan museum with some of the tastiest cakes ever! It was amazing getting to spend time with a local who you immediately feel connected to. Thank you again Gabi and Charles!
I try to incorporate banknotes within these little travel stories, and yes the current Hungarian Forints are very nice notes, however I think there is something so special about their older currency. When my dad and I were at the FUN show this year he seemed to make a B-Line to old Irish notes while I flipped through old Hungarian ones dreaming of the beautiful city I had seen.
One note I am particularly drawn to is the 1 million Pengo from 1946. (See above)
I took this photo of the city from across the Danube River. Earlier that morning I had been to St Stephen’s Basilica and was informed that it was the tallest building in Budapest standing at 96 meters tall (315 feet). I crossed from the “Pest” side to the “Buda” side via the lion guarded Chain Bridge and found a beautiful view point from across the river where I snapped this photo.
I talked with a local about the Parliament Building and he explained to me that the building was the tallest in Budapest. Showing off my knowledge from earlier that day I asked him about St Stephen’s Basilica, pointing out that that was 96 meters tall and therefore the tallest building. He smirked and praised my knowledge, adding that I was partially right.
The Parliament Building is 96 meters tall as well. Both monuments are the same height. In fact 96 is no random number, and stands to remind them that 896 is the year credited with the first settlement of their land. He told me that during the Communist occupation a large red star was added to the tower above the dome in order to add height turning it into the tallest building, and therefore sending a statement to the city. After the fall of communism the star was taken down, reducing the height back to that of 96 meters and the same height as the church.
All that was to explain my love for this note – The Parliament Building in its glory. A beautiful land mark.
Another note worth highlighting is this 10 Pengo from 1936. (See above)
Apart from being a beautiful note the back features the statue of St. Stephen (same St. Stephen from the 96 meter Basilica) St. Stephen was the first Hungarian King, and you cannot go to Budapest without learning about this amazing man. The statue is situated at one of my favorite places I visited, and as I mentioned earlier – the most beautiful church building to date I had seen.
I’ll end this blog talking about the church I fell in love with. During my travels I had more “whoa” moments than I can count; this was one of them.
If you look at the 100 Pengo note from 1930 p98 you will see the profile of a regal man. That man is Matthias Corvinus. He was a Hungarian King in the 1400’s and the church dedicated to him is called the Matthias Church; it is stunning:
On my last day in the city I returned to the Church, for I could not get the building out of my head. I was completely wrapped up in the awe and beauty of the city. I remember sitting in the arches taking in every last moment I had there. Consumed by joy I sat there overlooking the city that had just stolen my heart. I could have sat up in those arches all day, but I had so many things left to do so I made a promise to return one day.
And I plan on keeping my promise.