Monday, May 9, 2011


Growing up on the countryside, Budapest has always been a tourist attraction to me.  I have visited numerous times back with my school class or with my parents.  But now with my sister living there I have more chance to actually go and stay in the capital, and really get to know the city with all its history and glory.

 When one is from a small country such as Hungary, where there's really only one main city and the rest is the country.  The two sides become very different.  There are country people with farms, horses, pigs and endless lands.  Then there's Budapest.  Of course there are other decent size cities scattered around the country, but the capital takes the cake with its population of almost 2 million people.  Which is nearly 1/4 of the entire population of Hungary.

 People are different in Budapest.  When I was still living home, going up to the capital always felt I was visiting a place I didn't belong to.  Even after I started to travel I never felt truly home.  I'm used to  the country people, their language and social behavior.  The way people act always felt down to earth and normal - to me.  More welcoming, friendly, hospitable.  Of course there are rude people everywhere, and the struggle of Hungary throughout history really made some of its citizens sour and liveless.  But when you really get down to some of those tiny villages where people still practice some of the old original professions.  The people you find are like nowhere else.  The kindness most welcoming crowd.  Nothing fake or pretended, just pure, simple souls living a simple life.  Which for most of us is impossible to imagine in the 21st century.  I mean no computers or cell reception at all!

 Though all the love I have for the countryside, I feel an enormous respect for my capital.  Budapest is one of the oldest cities in whole Europe!  Its history starting about 1 AD with the first settlement of the Celts.  Then later it was occupied by the Romans (of course - who didn't they occupy).  They built the historical city of Aquincum.  Which is also identified as the "Town of Attila".  Yes I'm mean the in-famous Attila the Hun.  Who ruled around the 5th century and was one of the most fearsome enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.  My mom told me if I was born a boy I would've been named Attila.  Just saying!

Aquincum - Ancient Roman ruins in Budapest

 In 829 Aquincum was lost to Bulgaria.  That's when Budapest first arose out of two Bulgarian military fortresses Buda and Pest.  A lot of people don't know this but Buda and Pest used to be two separate cities before they were joined together. Wait! A lot of people don't even know Hungary exists! Whatever!  Screw them!

 Finally Hungarians (led by our famous Árpád) settled in the territory at the end of the 9th century.  Who not long after officially founded the Kingdom of Hungary.  That's when Budapest became the capital.

 One have to mention the significant cultural role of the city especially during the Renaissance era.  The National Library (which still stands today) was Europe's greatest collection of historical books and scientific works of the 15th century.  And second only in size to the Vatican Library.  I know!  Impressive!

 Then the Turks came in 1526, liked the place and decided to stay for about a 150 years.  The only good thing they had done is to build some of the fabulous baths that we still have and enjoy today.  Otherwise they almost completely destroyed the city.  And also turned it into Muslim.  At some point during their occupation there was only about 70 Christians there.  Which seems so crazy to me, knowing if they wouldn't have been defeated, Hungary could be a completely different place today.  And I mean the architecture and life style, as I really don't care for religion.

 But with the help and support of neighboring countries, we kicked them out nice and easy.  Just to be incorporated into yet another empire, the Habsburg.  Lovely!  Though in 1867 after some reconciliation the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was born, which gave us a bit more freedom.  All though 80% of the country was still German-speaking.  Which eventually was taken over by the Hungarian language.

 Also I have to mention the HUGE Jewish population (which of course didn't help us during WWII).  In fact Budapest was often called the "Jewish Mecca".  The 2nd biggest synagogue in the World is in the heart of the city still standing today.

 We'd really done it all!  Christians, Muslims, Jews.  We had everything!

 Then the Treaty of Trianon happened which made us a completely independent country after hundreds of years of foreign occupation.  And we did go out and celebrate by joining WWI.  Which turned out to be a hell of a party.  Where we lost over 2/3 of the entire country and more then 10 million ethnic Hungarians.  How messed up that is!  Even today if you travel outside of Hungary to any direction, you'll find hundreds of us living everywhere.

That's messed up!

 Then with WWII came the Nazis then the Russians, killing pretty much everyone and making us into a communist piece of shit.

 Most of the damage caused by the wars was repaired surprisingly quickly and well between the 60's and 80's.  With that they also further constructed our famous subway (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002).  Which I proudly say the 2nd oldest underground system in the World(why we are always 2nd?).  Dating from 1896.  Can you imagine using the subway in the late 1800?  Wasn't the healthiest choice in transportation as they used steam engines to pull the trains.  Yuck!

 In 1989 communism fell down, and all the last bit of the Russian soldiers marched out of the country. I know because we watched them on television stepping over the boarder.  I remember I was already 8.  After that the West suddenly opened up.  And we were able to travel.

 And that's just the history of Budapest.  I hardly mentioned the architecture, the beautiful buildings, coffee houses, the Royal Palace, the Parliament in Pest, the Hero's Square, the amazing Chain Bridge, Margaret Island, the Opera House, the St. Stephan Basilica, City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle, National Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Central Market Hall, Fishermen's Bastion, Matthias Church, the Main Railway Station, Citadella and the Crown!  And all this all lit up to perfection every single night. 

 And at last but not least the gray Danube flowing through the city, creating an airy atmosphere.

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