A journey that has been tickling my imagination for a while would involve sailing along the Danube, on whose banks, apart from other delights, are two capital cities I have wanted to visit; Bratislava and Budapest. So when I got the chance to join my Canadian girlfriend Roxanne during her European Tour – how could I say no!!
We arrived in the city from Bratislava on the hydrofoil along the River Danube. The four hour journey was relatively uneventful, except for passing through one lock. I was a bit disappointed as the route wasn´t as scenic as I had imagined until we were about half an hour from Budapest.
Budapest, Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. Despite the destruction suffered during the World Wars and Russian occupation, the streets remain saturated with beautiful examples of Art Nouveau buildings and decorations. We managed to get a good feel for the place over a five day visit, but it would be easy to immerse yourself in this fantastic city for longer if you have time and your interests are varied.
Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and little wonder. From the World Heritage inscription:
“This site has the remains of monuments such as the Roman city of Aquincum and the Gothic castle of Buda, which have had a considerable influence on the architecture of various periods. It is one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes and illustrates the great periods in the history of the Hungarian capital.”
We visited the Great Market Hall where we bought spices – oh BOY, did we buy spices!! ( including Hungarian paprika), walked miles and miles, took an open-top bus tour of the city, climbed up Gellért Hill to the Citadella, ate goulash, visited Heroes´ Square and still had time for both a daytime and evening cruise on the Danube whilst drinking champagne!
On our final day we had a real treat. First of all, we visited what must be the most beautiful bookstore in the world. Situated near the Opera House on Andrassy Avenue, the Alexandra bookstore and coffee house has beautiful chandeliers, comfy leather chairs and a fresco-style ceiling, painted by Károly Lotz, whose paintings also decorate the rooms of the Parliament building. The grandiose, palace-like interior makes visitors feel like they are in the residence of an aristocrat.
Later we tried out the latest craze – a fish pedicure. Roxanne absolutely loved it, but I found it a bit weird having living creatures nibbling at my feet! I was a bit freaked out at first, but eventually settled down. I´m glad I tried it, but to be honest, I enjoyed the foot massage afterwards the best.
Our last treat of the day was to see the some of the fantastic warriors of the Terracotta Army, which is touring the world, and luckily for us is in Budapest at the moment. Hmmmm maybe we should visit Xian in China to see the rest of them!
If you get the chance to visit Budapest, don´t hesitate. Now I need to take Michael there!