“See that black building? It’s black from air pollution,” exclaimed my tour guide.
Oh cool, I thought to myself. Industrial age at its finest.
Then he said, so casually, “and those holes in the building? Yeah, those are bullet holes from World War II. Or actually, maybe they’re from the Revolution against the Communists.”
As beautiful as Budapest is, it went through a lot rough times to get where it is today. On my tour (yes, I’m still a mega-nerd with the guided tours), I learned that only about 25% of the city is original, and wasn’t destroyed during one of the two most recent wars. Kind of a shame, but the buildings they built to replace the old ones are really cool.
My first day in Budapest I spent walking around and just admiring the gorgeous buildings. I saw a lot of things that I wasn’t really sure what they were, but I thought they were super cool so I didn’t really care.
My favorite building was this one, which I think is some sort of palace or governmental building because it was huge and fit for a king or president. According to google, it’s the Parliament building. Thanks google!
We walked through a couple of park areas and found this monument, which is supposed to show the innocence of Hungary with the angel Gabriel, which is getting attacked by an eagle (or another bird of prey that strongly resembles an eagle) which represents Nazi Germany. In front of the monument sit many belongings of Jews who were murdered during the war, placed there by family members who survived.
This monument is very controversial because apparently, the Hungarian government was not completely innocent. It wasn’t clear in the article posted next to the monument as to whether they actively participated in the extermination of the Jews, or whether they just sat back and watched it happen. Either way, they did nothing to stop the Nazis.
Along the river there are a bunch of shoes encased in metal, which also have a very sad, and similar story behind them. During the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Jews were brought to the river and forced to undress. They were then executed and thrown into the river. Very dark and depressing. These shoes sit here to remind people of the tragedies that occurred in Budapest.
On a lighter note, back to some pretty buildings. My friend and I walked across the river over the Chain Link Bridge, alllllllllllllll the way up the giant hill to the palace. There was a cute little shuttle car to the top, but we were too cheap to pay for that.
We didn’t end up going into the palace (again, too cheap), but we walked around the grounds and saw lots of beautiful statues and flowers. I technically went into the palace when I paid a whole euro to use the sub-par public bathrooms. Not worth it.
There seems to be a large going out culture in Budapest, but unfortunately we were there Sunday and Monday night, the two most unlit nights of the week. But luckily we were staying in a party hostel called Carpe Noctem Vitae, which has some sort of social, drinking-related event every night of the week. The hostel itself reminded me a little bit of summer camp… Take that as you will. But it was definitely a fun experience.
By far the best part of the city was the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, a giant complex with a bunch of different swimming pools/hot tubs all at different temperatures. It was a little pricey to get in, like $17 USD, but it was super relaxing and worth it. My friend and I pool hopped for like three hours, and then I realized that I brought nothing other than leggings and my swimsuit with me. So walked home in some soaking wet leggings which made for a very pleasant walk.
And of course, the most important matter: food!!! When in Budapest, you have to try goulash. Its a kind of soup with a maybe a tomato broth, and beef with vegetables. Sounds pretty plain, but its super good. Especially cause I barely eat any beef in Spain, it was a nice change. And the sausages were good. Super good.