Breaking in the new boots

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
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Trip End Aug 15, 2008


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Flag of Hungary  ,
Monday, December 12, 2005

A city that I actually really like! Something that doesn't happen often.

Budapest was once two cities separated areas by the Danube - hilly Buda and flat Pest. Now one city, the two halves are very different from one another. The Buda side contains the oldest, medieval area of the city, but seems to be mainly urban sprawl beyond that small area, whereas the flat Pest side is primarily a grand 19th century city centre, and an absolute pleasure to lose yourself in.

Most of my time here has been spent walking around Pest and marvelling at the consistancy and scale and grandeur of the architectural design; it's easily possible to spend hours walking without ever leaving the older parts of the city. Everywhere there are wide open avenues and boulevards so everything feels very open and light, yet the buildings on these streets are all so monumental and huge! Almost every building is about 3 or 4 stories high, but because everything is built to the same scale, nothing seems too big or out of place. After the mish-mash approach of Bucharest, it makes a welcome change.
All this is epitomised on the world heritage area of Andrassy avenue. Home to continental Europe's first underground, the broad, tree lined street framed by some of the most ornate building exteriors in the city seems to represent all that I love about the city.

The historic areas of the Buda side weren't quite so appealing. Usually, it seems the old town area is where most of my time in a city is spent, and the more recent areas not so pleasant. Not so with Budapest - the old town feels like it has been relentlessly modernised and tarmac-ed over, with the only real attractions (and corresponding crowds) being the comparitively recent additions of the neo-gothic Matthias church and the wonderfully surreal arcade overlooking the Danube, Fisherman's Bastion. Even this area was slightly diminshed by the ugly glass monstrosity that is the Hilton hotel. God knows how they acquired permission to put that up.
The best thing about the Buda side would have to be the views over the Danube to the Pest side, from the castle quarter and Gellert hill.

Of course, it's not just the city in general that has made my time in Budapest so good. The Mandragora hostel has to be the best place yet, and there have actually been people staying there! Such a relaxed place and so sociable - even the staff seem keen to stay up drinking and talking until the small hours of the morning. Spent my time with one of the most disparate groups yet - two from Canada, me, a japanese and an australian all travelling indepentdantly, can't really get much more wide reaching than that - yet it seemed to work well, had so much fun with them all.

Oh, and it's bloody cold in Budapest ;)
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