Friday, June 24, 2016

Castle Hill in Budapest

Up early on June 22, 2015 and one final city tour before we actually head upstream on the Danube.  For three days now we have been exploring the amazing city on the Pest side of the river and this morning we will cross the river into Old Buda where the museums, palaces, and churches make up what is called Castle Hill.  Some sections of the precinct date from as early as the 13th century, but most of the current buildings are much later and have been rebuilt as a result of WW II bombing damage.

In diagram it looks like this.

From the river it appears like this.

There are several ways to get there.  You can cross the famous Chain Bridge (below)

and walk up. This is only for the supremely fit or the supremely stupid as the photo below shows.

Alternatively you can cross the Chain Bridge and and take the cute little funicular up to the top.

Or, in this motorized world, you can cross the bridge and pass through a tunnel cut through the mountain and drive up the road on the back side.  That was the route our coach followed. 

 If you choose to drive you may not wish to take this vehicle.  Our guide pointed it out.  It was parked on a side street and is a Trabant.  This was a car manufactured long ago by the East Germans and reputed to top the list of the worst cars ever built.   Even worse than the Yugo.  We were not sure whether this was still operative or was simply parked as a museum exhibit.  

After you get up the back of the Mount you wind your way through streets filled with nicely decorated old buildings now mostly containing cafes and souvenir stores.

I like this one as it makes sure you appreciate its age by artfully leaving the older stonework exposed.

Even the mailboxes are cool.

A few short blocks more and you are in the crowded square that houses the magnificent Matthias Church.  


with its colorful patterned roof decorations

and all the requisite gargoyles

The interior is also crammed with color but not so gaudy as to seem garish. Controlled serenity is how I would describe it. 

Leaving the church you walk just a bit further to encounter the massive equestrian statue of Hungary's patron saint,  St. Stephen. 

And finally you reach the Fisherman's Bastion. As the guidebooks proclaim it is a kind of  Disneyesque medieval fairyland with turrets and towers and romantic stairways. As you wander about you would not be surprised if you ran into Rapunzel letting down her long golden hair over the parapet.    The name actually comes from a fish market that used to be behind the church in medieval times and it was apparently the  fishmonger's guild that was responsible for defending this section of the castle walls.  


No matter the history, today it is the view from the ramparts that draws the visitors. You have gob smacking views up and down the Danube from Margaret Island to the Gellert Hill.   The panorama below starts at the Parliament complex and sweeps downstream until you can just see the Liberation Monument on Gellert Hill.

Although we saw a good deal of Budapest and were glad we took the two day pre-cruise option, there is more than enough in this historic city to justify a much longer visit. Unfortunately our Viking Long Ship is waiting lunch for us a few miles up river, so we will have to depart now.  
Stay tuned for a little bit of cruising. 

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