Underrated Budapest (1 of 2)

In a nutshell, Budapest was the city Querido and I loved most! (To recap, we also toured Vienna, Prague and Berlin.) Surprised? To be honest, I was!  Prior to the trip, I heard so much about cultural Vienna, romantic Prague and historical Berlin. On the contrary, my knowledge of Budapest was as far as “one of my friends is dating a Hungarian”, ie. virtually zilch. Budapest is very “real” – Nothing overly opulent, nothing overly state-of-the-art, nothing overly structured. Precisely, these qualities make the city real and liveable :)budapest

By the way, Budapest is the combination of “Buda” and “Pest” when these cities became united (together with Obuda) in 1873. The Danube River separates Buda and Pest, which indirectly gives rise to a city with dual characters. During our trip, I kept joking with Querido that I was Buda while he was Pest. Ha. (Afterall, Buda is approximately half the size of Pest.) Keleti station

We travelled via rail from Vienna to Budapest, which also marked the start of our inter-cities rail experience. After checking in, our first stop was the House of Terror. Photography was not permitted in the halls and the mood was extremely solemn. Basically, it is a museum cum memorial to the victims of the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes during the 20th century. I felt down after the visit, but it was an essential stop to understand the history of the city. house of terror

Thereafter, we headed to the City Park, where my mood improved considerably :) Loved the fact that the Park was not just about greenery. Rather, it was interspersed with monuments, museums, restaurants, thermal bath, etc. and these buildings provided nice backdrops. Our stroll in the Park ended at Heroes’ Square, a World Heritage Site. The central feature of Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Memorial, as construction ended in 1900.City Park 1City Park 2heroes square

Subsequently, we headed to the Castle District at Buda via the metro. By the way, the Budapest Metro is the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European Continent. Taking the metro was like travelling back in time! While on vacations, Querido and I tend to refrain from cabbing as we love people-watching in the trains. The public transport is probably the best place to see locals, especially since we (as tourists) tend to bump into fellow tourists at attractions. Very often, Querido and I like to randomly exit at a suburban station (out of the usual tourist area) just to get a glimpse of locals’ life.budapest underground

Anyway, the Castle District is yet another World Heritage Site. Apart from the Buda Castle, churches and other monuments, what really impressed me was the breathtaking panorama of the Danube with Pest on the opposite side of the river. So charming! Querido and I spent a long while standing there and admiring the view. The violinist at the adjacent restaurant was playing romantic tunes, which certainly added an element of dreaminess. Bliss :) castle districtPest 1Castle District 2

After yet another day of intensive walking, we treated ourselves to live jazz at Lado Cafe for dinner. The food was only average, but the jazz by “Swing Band Koncert” was great for unwinding. Lado Cafe

After such a long post, I realise I have just blogged about our first day in Budapest! Well, what to say but that Budapest was really lovely :) Anyway, I shall strive to be more succinct for Part 2. By the way, half of 2014 is already over – Are you on track to achieving your resolutions?