Archive for the ‘parliament’ Tag

Budapest – Fountains of Fun and Gellert Hill   10 comments

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One the reasons I really loved Budapest was that it felt open and spacious. The Communist era saw huge wide boulevards and streets and the city has many large open squares. Walking back into town from Parliament we came across Szabadság tér a huge open space surrounded by impressive buildings and containing fountains and sculptures

The Soviet Army Memorial, the last one in the city

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The fountain of the post title wasn’t the most beautiful we saw on our travels but it was the most fun. It has sensors that turn the water on and off as you approach. You can make the water dance to your tune by a variety of hand gestures (steady!) and walk through the water.

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We were already finding this highly entertaining until I realised that the other Funsters and Sherpa seemed to employing a range of strange (and unnecessary) walks while doing this. A little video accompanied by my hysterical laughter

 

I’m still not entirely sure why we found it so funny and everyone else thought we must have been on a day visit from the home but who cares. One of the highlights of the whole trip. We are a strange family

We lunched on local fare from the street market in Erzsébet téri park under the wheel that every city seems to have these days. I jokingly called it the Budapest Eye until we walked past and realised that was its actual name!

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A word now for Budapest’s public transport system. If you were building a city from scratch and wanted ideas on what your transport network should look like I’d tell you to go to Budapest

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It has a decent metro system, loads of trams, punctual buses and even a river bus. Most of our days in the city were built around using it and often we just hopped on a tram or metro and took it somewhere we thought might be interesting. We used the trams as an ad-hoc hop on/off tour bus

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They were never crowded and we never waited more than a few minutes

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Even the escalators were good. The Metro lines are deep and they seemed to give a weird sense of perspective. Most importantly of all it was cheap. About £13 each for unlimited use for 3 days. It was fun and we wanted to use it. In short everything a city public transport system should be. Well played Budapest.

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We took a tram to the Liberty Bridge (my favourite in the city) to climb Gellert Hill

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Its a rocky bluff around 230m high with spectacular views across the city

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One of the Danube River Cruise Boats

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South across the city

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North over the Elizabeth Bridge

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On top of the hill is the Liberty Monument. It was erected as a tribute to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the city in 1945

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Parliament building

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The Royal Palace

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St Stephens Basilica

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Across the Danube to Pest

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The Royal Palace

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North over the Danube

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It’s a steep climb but well worth it. Best views over the city

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We walked back down, hopped on a tram for a couple of stops (every city should have trams!) and stopped in Clark Adam Ter for an ice cream (the square is named after the Scottish engineer who designed the Szechenyi Chain Bridge).

This curious piece is the 0km stone. All Hungarian roads to and from the city are measured from this spot. A city packed with interesting stuff

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We wandered along the river to reach Batthyány tér for the best view of the Parliament Building. We passed this fine church on the way

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And the view across the river was indeed superb

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Added interest from seeing the curious bus that runs tours on land and down the river. Very surreal seeing a bus floating down the river

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We spent a relaxing couple of hours back at the apartment before heading out for a meal

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We’d been told that we had to see Budapest at night. The Parliament building was only 5 minutes away so we went for a look. It’s dazzling at night although as usual my photos don’t do it justice

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Using our new found love of Budapest’s transport system we then hopped on a series of trams to look at the nighttime views across the river

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The Parliament Building took pride of place

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The Gellert Hotel, one of the oldest in the city

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The Liberty Bridge

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The nighttime illuminations really enhanced its green colour

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Along the Danube to the Elizabeth Bridge

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Elizabeth Bridge and the Royal Palace

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The Liberty Monument

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Massive river cruise boats

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And the Liberty Bridge again. The rest of the family seemed somewhat concerned by my tendency to step out into traffic to take photos. Risky in Budapest but worth it I think

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And back to the Budapest Eye for a new found Hungarian delicacy, Kürtőskalács, is a sort of sweetened bread that is rolled around a cylinder and cooked over hot coals before being rolled in sugar, chocolate etc. Its totally delicious and replaced gelato in our pudding hearts. Wish I’d taken a photo.

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Loads packed into our first full day and tomorrow we were off to sample one of the city’s more unique experiences

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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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