Archive for the ‘danube’ Tag

Budapest – Danube River & Margaret Island   10 comments

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After lunch we hopped on another tram and headed down to the south end of the city to pick up a river bus

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It was the only time my trusty Lonely Planet guides let me down. Heading for the recommended boat stop we had to cross some busy roads and dusty road works to reach it. When we got there and after several minutes deciphering the timetable it turned out that only a couple of boats a day stopped here and the main route was on the opposite side of the river. We had to retrace the busy roads and roadworks to cross the bridge although it did afford us a nice view up the river

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The boat arrived shortly after and we were pleased to find that it was included on our 3 day transport pass 🙂

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We found a table at the back and settled in for a very leisurely trip along the Danube

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The boat is slow and stops many times but it does pass by all the sights and under all the bridges at a nice steady pace. Very relaxing

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The Liberty Bridge overlooked by the monument up on the hill

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The Elizabeth Bridge

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And the Royal Palace. Loads of people got off here so we were able to snag some seats at the front

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The Szechenyi Chain Bridge

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And then pride of place, a close riverside passage by the Parliament Building

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It looks absolutely stunning and magnificent from the river

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The Margaret Island Bridge

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Having cruised up the river for over an hour we decided some exercise was in order and we hopped off onto Margaret Island

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As the name suggests it’s an island in the middle of the Danube and it’s really rather splendid. In effect a woodland and park with huge expanses of grass and gardens. When we set foot, we heard music and were drawn to a large fountain. It was a display set to the cheesiest music you could imagine. Think fountains set to the music from a cartoon aimed at 4-year-old little girls, My Little Pony or the like, and you get the idea. It was hilariously bad and I wished I’d taken some video.

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There are several art exhibitions, bars restaurants and such-like and a huge open air swimming complex. The island is pretty much traffic free and would be a great place for a leisurely cycle around. In fact on a hot summers day you could spend a whole day here rather than the brief stroll we had

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Near the northern end were some Japanese style gardens, beautiful in the afternoon sun

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All we had to do was to wait by the riverside for our bus off the island and catch a metro back home

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Our evening meal was from a Hungarian takeaway. Not only was it excellent (in a huge portions of greasy meat and potatoes kind of way) but astoundingly cheap. I bought 3 huge portions for the grand sum of a tenner in total. The Hungarian Forint is one of those with lots of zeros in before you convert to pounds so it sounded a lot when I paid up before realising how cheap it was. A cracking day finished off with an evening stroll to scoff some more chimney cake

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Budapest – Welcome & Parliament   10 comments

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New country, new city.  A short – relatively – train ride and I was into my first eastern European city, Budapest

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As we agreed with friends before set off we’d try and take a photo of all the trains we traveled on. This is an Austrian Railjet train

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Budapest Keleti station. A wonderful old building that I neglected to take a shot of the equally impressive outside.

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We stayed in an apartment hotel in the middle of the city. A huge apartment that we felt immediately at home in, probably on account of the fact that everything seemed to be from IKEA much like our own house!

As we’d lost a few hours of our time in Budapest there wasn’t a moment to waste. We dumped bags and headed straight out for a quick look around

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I like Budapest straight away. We were lucky with the weather, clear warm and sunny. Budapest can be brutally hot in the summer but the rain of the night before had delivered a warm, clear, perfect evening. We took an amble through the city towards the river for our first glimpse of the mighty Danube

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And mighty it is. A huge expanse of fast flowing water. All great cities need a river or waterfront. The Danube gives Budapest a perfect reflection for its bridges, castles and contemporary architecture

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One of the older hotels across Szechenyi Ter (Ter is Hungarian for Square)

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We strolled out across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge probably the most famous of the Danube bridges in the city. A view looking downstream towards the Citadella

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I love this panorama shot for the weird effect of seeing the bridge stretch away on both sides of the image

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Buda Castle across the other side of the river. In case you didn’t know the city is divided into two parts. The urban sprawl of Pest and the more rural wooded and hilly side of Buda, separated by the Danube

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Looking back to Pest

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Across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

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And upstream towards Parliament and Margaret Island

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We wandered back into the city and discovered that Budapest is not built for pedestrians. main roads packed with traffic were everywhere and crossing points were few. I was nearly run over a couple of times on this first outing. No matter with views like this, St Stephen’s Basilica. It’s the main place of worship in the city and hosts the much revered and grisly remains of Hungary’s greatest Saint (his arm if you must know)

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A nice walk, an exciting introduction to the city, a bit of shopping and home for tea. Ready for a full day in our new home

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I’d booked a tour of the Parliament building as it sounded interesting. In a trip of extraordinary buildings this one is up there with the best of them. It’s the largest building in Hungary (268m long). It was built at the end of the 19th Century opposite the Royal Palace to signify that the future lay with democracy not royalty. It dominates the city and is always a tremendous site when it pops into view. This is the classic view as it were from across the Danube

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The tour was presented by a friendly and quirky lady and was fascinating. It’s lavishly decorated with gold leaf, statues and artwork

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There are two houses of parliament but only one is now in use (they got rid of the upper house in 1944). One of the stories is that Hungarian politicians smoked cigars and lots of them especially when discussing points of debate outside the chamber. Every alcove had one of these numbered cigar holders. Smoking was not allowed in the chamber so they would leave their cigar for later in a numbered position so they knew which was theirs when they returned

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In the centre of the building was the massive dome with the hall below housing the most treasured icons of Hungarian history. The Crown of St Stephen, a ceremonial sword and a Persian sceptre. The Crown is the symbol of the Hungarian nation with a colourful and eventful history (it went missing on several occasions!)

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Guarded permanently by soldiers of the Hungarian army these are treasured and priceless relics yet you can stand a couple of feet away (unlike our own crown jewels which you get a fleeting glimpse of for a massive exchange of cash). Alas but not surprisingly photos are not allowed

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We were allowed to see into the old higher chamber now used for ceremonial events and presentations. One thing that became very clear in the short tour is that the Hungarians are a proud nation with a very long history, not something I was really aware of. They treasure their history with reverence but open-ness. I came to like the people and their capital all the more after the tour which is how it should be

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The tour was brief but thoroughly enjoyable and I’d strongly recommend (it was pretty cheap as well as were most things in the city). As with our tours in Venice and Rome it gave us a brief history and set much of what we saw in context

We took a walk around the outside afterwards as we explored more of the city. A beautiful building both inside and out

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Not sure what the building opposite was but it was very grand and impressive.

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We saw the changing of the guard by the national flag. Much like the one outside Buckingham Palace but without the crowds. It was just serious but so much better for not sharing it with a couple of thousand tourists

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This image is taken from an unusual statue of Imre Nagy looking wistfully from a bridge. He was the reformist communist PM at the time of the 1956 uprising and was executed 2 years later for his part in it

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More fine views as we walked further into town

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Lots more photos of the building from various angles and places in the city. Further adventures and silly fun in the next post

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