Five Days in Budapest and a Bit of a Book

I’ve been wanting to go to Budapest for some time. I remember it popping up on the departure board at Munich station when H and I caught the train down to the Dolomites for a walking holiday a few years back. Then we hopped on and off the Hamburg to Budapest train last year but veered off from Bratislava to Vienna. We’d thought about another, shorter railway journey Margaret Island (Budapest) taking in the city but plumped for a long weekend break instead. The trip seemed to be jinxed in the weeks running up to it: first thanks to Ryanair’s fit of cancellations (we were lucky) then a health crisis for H’s father who, fortunately, was well enough for us go after all.

Spending much of our first day on Margaret Island, slap in the middle of the Danube which divides Buda from Pest, was a much-needed laid back start after all that stress and finally getting to bed at 2 am after the flight. It’s a large and lovely area of green space, beautifully planted with trees just on the autumnal turn with squabbling red squirrels running up and down them. There’s a splendidly kitsch musical fountain at one end which knocks the Las Vegas Bellagio’s into a cocked hat. Hard to do it justice but, as ever, YouTube comes to the rescue. Museum of Applies Arts (Budapest)

The following day we crossed the river and wandered around leafy Buda, taking the cog railway a little way into the hills. Back over the Danube to Pest after lunch in search of a bit of culture we headed for the Museum of Applied Arts, unfortunately closed for renovation but it was enough just to see the outside. Readers of this blog who’ve followed my travels House of Art Nouveau (Budapest) around the Baltics, Central Europe and Antwerp will know that I’ve a weakness for Art Nouveau architecture, the more extravagantly flamboyant the better. It’s the sheer bonkersness of it all, and you can’t get more bonkers than the Museum of Applied Arts, although there are many rivals for that in Budapest. The rather more restrained Bedő House, whose upper floors house a museum, is an excellent example of the Secessionist architecture we’d seen in Vienna last year but if it’s extravagance you want – and I did – the former Török Bank fits the bill nicely. Impossible to walk very far in Budapest without coming across yet another extraordinarily ornate building. If you fancy seeing a little more outrageously exuberant architecture you might like to visit this Pinterest site.

Sunday seemed like a good day to visit the Great Synagogue but apparently every other tourist in Budapest had the same idea so we went to the Orthodox Synagogue instead. I’d expected it to be Orthodox synagogure (Budapest) somewhat spartan but it turned out to be anything but with its gorgeously painted walls and stained-glass windows. On to the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre, our only bit of culture thanks to the glorious weather, housed in a beautiful, converted Art Deco cinema. Capa famously documented the Spanish Civil War as did his Polish photographer wife, Gerda Taro, who was killed in action. Sadly, Taro doesn’t get much of a mention at the centre. I remember reading Susana Fortes’s novel based on their lives, Waiting for Robert Capa, which tells their story from her point of view, and enjoying it very much.

With the museums closed and another bright shiny autumn day in the offing, we decided to spend Monday morning in City Park after a brief visit to Heroes’ Square in front of which were parked a huge number of police vans and cars, a reminder that Hungary is not quite the free and easy state it might appear when walking its capital’s streets. We spent our last evening wandering around both sides of the river, marvelling at the gorgeously lit Parliament, Parliament (Budapest) a palace of democracy, over which hung a huge harvest moon. Five days, and we’d barely scratched the surface of this lovely city with its elegant tree-lined boulevards. We need to come back to visit at least one of its many baths, take the Children’s Railway around the Buda Hills and eat more fabulous cake at the stylish Cover image Dunapark.

And the book? Not much luck with reading on this holiday. My first book was pleasant enough but hardly worth mentioning. The second was Louisa Young’s Devotion, the third in a series which began with My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You set against the backdrop of the First World War. Young moves her characters on to the interwar years taking some of them to Italy where Il Duce is on the rise. Unlike the first two, both of which I loved, I found it a little difficult to get into and am contemplating giving it up.

15 thoughts on “Five Days in Budapest and a Bit of a Book”

  1. Great pics of your latest travel adventure. I went to Budapest a few years ago and loved it too. A highlight was an evening cruise on the Danube which I’d recommend if you return.

  2. I was surprised when friends went to Budapest for their honeymoon a couple years ago — it didn’t strike me as a place with much to see or do. Your photos have proved me wrong! Sorry the reading didn’t go so well, but you can make up for it now you’re back.

    1. It’s a lovely city. Lots to see and many museums we’d have visited if the weather had turned wet, too. If you offered me a choice between Budapest and Vienna I’d pick Budapest without a doubt.

        1. We were there twice last year: once for a winter break, and the second time for just a day in the summer at the end of our train holiday. It seemed quite dull and frumpy in the winter. I liked it better in the summer but still didn’t take to it as much as I’d expected having heard so many positive reports.

  3. Your vacation posts always remind me of all the places to see in the world. Just like there are too many books to read, it seems as though there are also too many places to visit! Thanks for sharing so I can visit vicariously. 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing. I love reading about people’s holidays (I know, I could read travel blogs but somehow not the same as bookish blogs with holiday posts!). The Children’s Railway looks adorable.

    1. I know – we have to go back for that. It’s a pleasure to write these posts. I agree with you about travel blogs which are often interesting but a little slick for me. Much prefer to read what bloggers I’m acquainted with get up to on their holidays.

  5. Sounds like a lovely trip, and I’m glad you were able to make it after all. I hope H’s dad is okay. Shame about the reading, but sometimes I find reading on holiday virtually impossible, too much else to capture the attention, so perhaps it is a sign of how absorbing Budapest is that your reading didn’t turn out so successfully. Lovely pictures too.

    1. Thanks, Belinda. It was, indeed, a great trip. I’m enjoying travelling further into Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks also for your kind words about H’s father. He’s out of hospital, now.

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