Monday, February 28, 2011


Budapest may not be anyone's idea of an ideal vacation spot in February but when unrest in the Middle East made me nervous about my original idea of heading to Morocco and my husband announced that he had to be in Budapest last week for a meeting, it seemed to be kismet.  It's a place that had been on my radar screen for some time, somewhere that we would be much less likely to take the time and expense to visit after our European sojourn comes to an end.  And the city did not disappoint.  In fact, in many ways, it charmed and intrigued me more than Vienna, the city to which it is historically linked, as someone told me, always Chicago to Vienna's New York.

Budapest's streetscape is a sprawling patchwork of crumbling 19th century grandeur, bleak Soviet era architecture, and a mishmash of what's cropped up, for better and for worse, since the fall of Communism in 1989.  There are broad boulevards, stone plazas, quirky statuary, and an idyllic city park.  And then there's the Danube, which separates the hills of Buda from the flatlands of Pest.   The city was bombed heavily in World War II.  Much was rebuilt and then neglected;  in contrast to the bright white limestone of Paris, many buildings are dark with soot and pitted by acid rain.  A few well managed rehabilitation projects suggest, however, that perhaps there's a brighter future ahead.

And for the tourist, there's plenty to keep one busy. Our two favorites were the House of Terror, the former headquarters of both the fascist and Communist secret police made into a chilling and compelling modern museum, and the Szechenyi baths. If you had told me two weeks ago, that I'd be enjoying a dip in an outdoor swimming pool on a day when the temperatures were hovering around 0 degrees Centigrade, I'd have told you that you were nuts. But with sunshine and a clear blue sky, an amazing Neoclassical setting, and a water temperature of 36 degrees Centigrade, it was hard to beat. Follow that with a hearty chicken paprikash and a nice glass of Hungarian red, and you've got a vacation. 

Four story collage of victims of terror at the hands of fascists (German and Hungarian) and Communists

Couldn't resist getting a shot of the "So Frenchy" sandwich.

I found this inscription on the window of an elegant restaurant enigmatic -- why only for those with small appetites?

Saturday and Sunday, we were treated to folk dancing performances on the plaza just outside the apartment where we stayed.


Lisa said...

We had the pleasure of visiting Budapest in October and were pleasantly surprised. I am sorry we did not take part in the bathouse experience. I think it would be an even more lovely city to visit in the summer. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

Starman said...

Budapest and Prague were high on my list of places to visit this year. I chose Prague so maybe Budapest will be next. And of course, there is still Strasbourg.

Ta. Girl said...

I love your misty photograph! I paid the city a brief visit while doing a cruise on the Danube and have always wanted to go back, maybe to one of its great spas. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

No way! We were just in Budapest, too! Did you have a chance to go out to Memento Park? We had a good time there. But mostly it was about the food. So. Good.

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