Ugrás a tartalomhoz Lépj a menübe
 


2009.05.18

Tour guide in English

Heroes’ Sq – Parliament – Castle district (not stopping) – Elisabeth Bridge – back to Heroes’ Square

            Good Morning/Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is ……. and I will be your tour guide today. First of all, I would like to welcome you to Budapest. We are going to start our tour here in Heroes Square, but to be able to see the monuments better we are going to have to cross the street and go to the middle of the square, so please follow me.

            So here we are standing on the biggest square of Budapest.     In 1896 there was a Millenary Exhibition organised and held here for 6 months to celebrate the conquest of this territory by our ancestors which took place in 896. All the visitors of this exhibition had to go through this square, so in this way they became acquainted with the outstanding personalities of Hungarian history. Most of the sights on and around the square were built for the anniversary of the settlement of the Hungarians.

In the middle, you can see a 36-metre tall column with the statue of Archangel [a:k] Gabriel atop, the symbol of the Roman Catholic religion in Hungary. Our first king, St. Stephen, whose statue you will see several times in the city, was clever enough to realise, that these nomadic people had to take this new religion to be able to survive here in Central Europe. There are 2 important symbols in Archangel Gabriel’s hands: in his right the holy crown and in his left the apostolic cross which is not a Greek cross. The apostolic cross reminds us to the rule that in Hungary the King was nominating the dignitaries [‘i ә ә i] (elöljáró) of the church instead of the Pope. All kings of Árpád’s dynasty inherited this right from our first king, the state-founder: St. Stephen.

            Around the column the equestrian statues are the leaders of the 7 tribes who conquered this territory. Here I would like to tell you a little bit about our history. The Hungarians came from Asia near the Ural mountains, and arrived in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. The figure in the middle is Árpád, his descendants formed the only Hungarian royal dynasty, which died out in the 14th century.

There is a flat stone in front of the column [‘ο ә] and the equestrian [ә’e i ә] statues. This is the Heroes’ Monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who died for our country. This is a symbolic place for tribute, there aren’t tombs [tu:ms] underneath The inscription says: ”For our heroes”. The little metal mark shows the place where the first thermal [‘э: ә] water fountain was drilled, which is still giving water to the Spa nearby.

            On the sides of the square 2 eclectic-classical buildings can be seen. Over there’s the Museum of Fine Arts which was decided to be erected in 1896 and was completed in 10 later (in 1906). The main facade of the building looks like a Greek temple, the tympanum on the top shows the battle between the Lapids and the Centaurs [‘sentο:] and it is a real copy of a Zeus temple in Olympia, Greece. The collection of this museum was based on different private collections and it was enlarged by donations and purchasing. This is the best museum in the country for foreign art. We have the second largest collection of old Spanish masters after the Prado in Madrid, and excellent Dutch, Flemish, German, Italian, English and French paintings as well. There are permanent and temporary exhibitions (now the Splendour of Medici, until May 2008)

Over here this is the Art Gallery completed in the year of 1896. The architects of both buildings were Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herczog. This museum has temporary exhibitions only. The tympanum [‘i ә ә] on the top shows the foundation of the first Abbey in south Hungary. The mosaic [әu’ei i] in the middle presents our first king, St. Stephen as patron of arts.

If we look behind the column we see 2 semicircular colonnades [o ә ‘ei] with figures on the top and 7 statues on both sides. These people were the most important figures of our history between the 10th and the 19th centuries. The statues are in chronological order from the left to the right. On the top of the colonnades from left to right you can see the allegorical figures of Work and Welfare, War, Peace and Knowledge and Glory.

            Now I would like to tell you a bit more about the statues of the colonnade, but to be able to see them better, we should go closer, so please follow me again.

S1   St Stephen         

The first statue you can see here is St. Stephen. He is known as the founder of the Hungarian State. He was crowned in 1001 and he got his crown from the Pope. (It is said that the Pope (Sylvester) was about to send this crown to the Polish king, but in his dream Archangel Gabriel ordered him to send it to Stephen, so he sent it to the Hungarians instead.) This is the oldest royal crown in Europe which still exists. We got it back from the U.S. in 1978 and now it is exhibited in the Parliament. After the settlement, the Hungarian troops had adventures to Western Europe mainly to rob the country, but such adventures had a complete defeat (in 955 in Augsburg) by the German King (Otto I).No other choice, Stephen forced our ancestors, the nomadic Hungarians to become Christians and in this way to be accepted in Europe. This is the reason why he was canonized in 1083 by Ladislaus the next figure. He could do that because of the apostolic right he had. Stephen married a German Princess and they had 5 children, but none of them could follow him on the throne. His son, Emeric was supposed to be the next king, but unfortunately he died as well on his 21st birthday, supposedly in a hunting accident. So in this way Stephen died without an heir.

S2 St. Ladislaus

            St. Ladislaus whose statue you see here next was Stephen’s nephew. He strengthened the catholic religion against those who wanted to remain pagans. During his reign the Cumanians  attacked the country, but he defeated them but let the prisoners settle here. In 1091 he occupied Croatia and annexed it to Hungary. (He entered into an alliance with Henry 4th in Germany, and) he was preparing for a crusade, but his death prevented him from taking part. He was an important king of our history as he stabilized Christianity and tightened public security with strict laws.

On the relief below the statue we see the battle against the Cumanians and the moment when the King rescues a Christian girl from a pagan man.

S3 Koloman the Booklover

            The next king you see is Coloman the Booklover. He was a very educated person, he could read and write, because he was supposed to be a priest. As you know those times only priest could read and write. As you can see he’s resting on a pile of books. He occupied Dalmatia and regulated our relationship with Croatia. He was a very enlightened king. Hungarian women bless him since he forbade women being burnt as witches, while in other countries it was still a practice for centuries. This law was introduced in Hungary as early as the 12th century.

On the relief you can see a woman in the right corner waiting to be burnt as a witch, while the new law of the king is being read.

S4 Andrew II

            Andrew II is the next king here. He was a weak king because he let his German wife, Gertrudis influence his political decisions. Hungarian noblemen were not happy about this, so they killed Gertrudis while the king was away on a crusade. Trying to win their loyalty he gave lots of property and lands to noblemen. His most important deed was that in 1222 he issued the Golden Charter or Golden Bull based on the English Magna Charta, which was issued 7 years earlier. This document was actually the second written constitution in Europe and had a great importance; it gave the right to noblemen to take up arms against the King if his orders were against the interests of the nation. The Golden Charter determined the principle of equality between nobles and occupied a central place in the thoughts of the Hungarian aristocracy for centuries. Unfortunately, Andrew II was too weak to enforce the decrees of the Golden Charter.

(His daughter Elizabeth was canonised later and played an important role in German history as the wife of Louis of Thüringia. They lived in the Castle of Wartburg and she always helped the poor. The legend says that when she was followed while giving bread to the poor from her apron and asked what she was carrying she said there were rose petals and when she opened her apron [ei ә] there were really rose petals there. God made a miracle to protect her. We will see her statue later in St. Stephen’s Basilica.

On the relief King Andrew II. leads a crusade to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem.

S5 Béla IV

            Béla IV was Andrew II’s son. There are some father and son statues on this square, these 2, the next 2 and a pair on the other side of the colonnade. Béla IV was a second state-founder, because during his reign the Mongolian invasion completely destroyed the country and he was the one who rebuilt it. More than half of the population died, so he had a lot to do. He ordered that houses and castles to be built of stone instead of wood for better defence. He completed the dream of his father; he moved the royal court from the previous capital in the north of Hungary (Eszetrgom) to Buda in the middle of the 13th century. During the invasion both his daughters died, so he made a vow. He promised God if he ever had another daughter he would offer her to his service. One year later princess Margaret was born. The King kept his promise and built a convent for her on an island, where she spent her life from the age of 9 to the age of 29 when she died. This island today is called Margaret Island, which we will see later on.

The relief shows the destroyed country after the Mongolian invasion.

31 years after King Béla’s death the only Hungarian royal dynasty died out. Because of the relations with the Italian branch of the Anjou dynasty the next 2 figures we see here came from this foreign family. They are father and son: Charles Robert and Louis the Great.

S6 Charles Robert

            Charles Robert was the first foreign king of Hungary. He had to be crowned 3 times until he was accepted as the legal king of the country. He was the one who ordered the minting of gold coins on the Florentine pattern. This is why the name of our currency the forint comes from the Italian word „florentine”. During his reign he organised a very important conference with the kings of the Czech and the Polish Kingdoms in 1335. This was the famous „Visegrád Meeting”. They made 2 important decisions on this meeting, one of them was that his son would inherit the Polish throne if the king there died without an heir. The other one was that the merchant road would avoid Vienna where the merchants had to pay high taxes. The road was a bit longer, but much cheaper. During Charles Robert’s reign Hungary became rich and powerful. He embodied [i‘o i] the ideal of the knight king.

The relief below is the only one which has no connection with the statue above. It shows a battle scene (at Morvamező in 1278) which took place 30 years before he became king. The original relief was destroyed during the Second World War and as they didn’t have a copy of the original piece, it was replaced by another one which was found in the cellar of the museum.

S7 Louis the Great

            Louis the Great followed his father on the throne and from 1370 he was the Polish king as well. He continued his father’s efforts to create a large and powerful country. He occupied huge territories. We never had as much land as we had during his reign, Hungary had 3 seas then: the Adriatic-, the Baltic- and the Black Sea. He did a lot for religion and supported culture. He founded the first university (in 1367).

The relief shows a legend according to which when he went to attack Naples where his brother was murdered by his own wife, instead of soldiers he was met by women with flowers, so he decided not to fight. It is believed that the soldiers brought back a serious epidemic and that was the reason for the king’s death as well.

On the next part of the colonnade there is only one king, 2 governors and 4 other politicians and leaders.

S8 John Hunyadi

            The first person here is John Hunyadi. He was the Governor of Hungary for 10 years. During our history we had 3 governors who became well known and 2 of them are to be seen here: the first and the last figure of this colonnade.

In the 15th century the Ottoman empire wanted to conquer whole Europe and unfortunately the way was right through Hungary.

The relief shows the battle at Belgrade, today the capital of Serbia. This was the most important event in Hunyadi’s life. It was a battle against the Turks. But this was not only a battle between Turks and Hungarians; it was a battle between religions: Muslim and Christian. By winning this battle in 1456 he managed to stop the Turks invading Europe for the next 70 years. The battle was over at noon and to remind the Christian world to this, the Pope ordered the bells to be rung every day at noon. The bells are still rung every day ever since commemorating this victory. 2 weeks after his victory he died of plague and soon after his death his younger son was elected King of Hungary.

S9 Matthias

            The aristocrats of the time were afraid to lose their power if there was a strong king, so they captured Hunyadi’s sons. His older son was beheaded. The law was that if they tried 3 times and the person didn’t die he could live, but they didn’t let him live, the 4th trial was successful and he died. The younger son, Matthias was too young, so they let him live, but he was elected king by Hunyadi’s supporters. He was less than 16. (He was elected on the ice of the Danube.) He was one of the most popular kings of this country, enlightened and fair. According to legends he often put on disguise and lived with the poor, because he wanted to know what was going on in the country. His nickname was Matthias the Just. His reign was the golden period of medieval Hungary. He had very centralised power supported by his strong, professional army called the „Black Army” as the soldiers were in black clothes. He was in constant fight in and outside the country, and he attacked and conquered Vienna.

His second wife, Beatrice was from Naples and because of her relations with the Medici family, the Hungarian royal court became the centre of Renaissance art in Europe. The king invited famous artists and he had the biggest library after the Vatican called the Corvina Library. He ordered to rebuild and enlarge the royal palaces in Buda and in Visegrád, and the Matthias Church. This church is an important sight of our tour as it is located in the Castle District. He could afford spending because he set high taxes.

The relief shows him amongst Italian architects with the model of the previously mentioned church. He held his weddings there and attached a tower to the original building.

Well, with King Matthias the first successful period of Hungary ended. He was the last ruler who had won a war, ever since we have won battles but not a single war.

             Shortly after Matthias’ death Hungary was divided in 3 parts because of the Turkish occupation. Two thirds of the country was occupied. The middle part – including Buda – was occupied by the Turks, the northern and western parts belonged to Austria – to the Habsburgs – and the 3rd part, Transylvania – today belonging to Romania – remained the only Hungarian part of the country. So this is why the next 3 statues are leaders in Transylvania.

 (After King Matthias the next 5 statues were originally famous Habsburg kings, but after the 2nd World War, when Hungary was not part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy any more they changed the statues. 3 of the next 5 statues represent Transylvania, the figures were reigning princes there.)

S10 Stephen Bocskai

             Stephen Bocskai in the so called 15 Years War with the help of the Habsburgs tried to defeat the Turks and drive them out of the country, but soon he became the leader of a war of independence fought against the Habsburgs in the 17th century (between 1604-1606). This ended with an agreement called the „Viennese Peace” which guaranteed equal rights to everyone to practice their religion. For this Bocskay's statue is part of the Reformation Monument in Geneva.(After the war was over he gave land to his soldiers and let them settle in the Eastern part of the country, on the Great Hungarian Plain.)

The relief shows him among his soldiers.

S11 Gábor Bethlen

            The next Transylvanian politician here is Gábor Bethlen who participated in the 30 Years War on the side of the Protestants. His clever foreign and efficient internal policy secured the independence of Transylvania for a long time. His period is considered the „Golden Age” of Transylvania. Transylvania is a mountainous area, now to the east of Hungary rich in salt, silver and other minerals.

The relief shows him concluding an alliance with the Czechs in 1620.

             Ever since Hungary got into the spheres of the Habsburgs from time to time there were revolutions, uprisings and wars of independence fought by the Hungarians against the Habsburgs.

S12 Emeric Thököly

One of these wars was led by Emeric Thököly, the next person presented here. Though this revolution failed, as most of the revolutions it formed a wide, strong base for the following war of independence led by the next figure here, Prince Francis Rákóczy II.. (Thököly’s wife participated in the war and her activities made her very famous. Her son is the following figure, from her first marriage, so Thököly is the step-father of Prince Rákóczy II.)

S13 Princz Rákóczy II

            Both his grandfathers, his mother and his step-father, Thököly, participated in different conspiracies, revolutions, and wars against the Habsburgs for Hungary’s freedom and independence. This background supported him in becoming the leader of the most important freedom fight in the 18th century in Hungary. He was abroad for a while and he came back into the country in June of 1703 with an army made of soldiers who, like Thököly’s men proudly bore the name of Kurutz.  Soon they liberated a great part of Hungary. They could do this because the Habsburgs were busy in Spain because of the war of succession. In an agreement signed in 1705 Hungary changed its government into a feudal confederacy similar to that in Poland. Rákóczy was elected ruling prince and commander in chief. He had full authority over foreign policy, defence and finance. The Habsburgs had to give more concessions [ә’e ә] (engedmények). For the first time in Hungary the concept of equal taxation was formulated. Although the Parliament proclaimed the dethronement of the Habsburgs, the fight was not over, unfortunately the promised and expected help from abroad was delayed. While Rákóczy went to Russia to visit Tsar Peter the Great to ask him for help, one of the captain-generals entered into agreement with the imperial loyalists and signed a peace-treaty in 1711. After the war was over, Rákóczy was forced to go into exile to Turkey where he died. (His remains were brought back to Hungary in 1906.)  As a result of this revolution all the castles were blown up by the Habsburgs in order to prevent having problems with the Hungarians, so the next 100 years were pretty quiet.

On the relief you can see one of his generals (Tamás Esze) welcoming him on his return from Poland.

S14 Louis Kossuth

            The last person here is Louis Kossuth. He was the leader of the Revolution and War of Independence against the Habsburgs in the 19th century. He had several great successes, just as Rákóczy in the previous century. Many of those soldiers who served in the Habsburg army deserted and joined the revolution. After many great victories they were finally defeated in 1849, but meanwhile Kossuth organised the new Hungarian Governement, founded the National Parliament, established the Independent Hungarian Ministries.

He went to the U.S. to raise money for the war. During his 6-month stay he made 600 speeches. (A funny anecdote to this is when he was speaking the Americans were wondering how close the two languages could be as they almost understood it. You see he learned the language in prison.) He was the second foreign spokesman after La Fayette in the world who was allowed to hold a speech in the U.S. senate. He has several statues in the U.S. and a small town in Illinois is actually named after him. Kossuth ended up in exile as well and died in Turin, Italy.

The relief shows one of his enthusiastic recruiting speeches.

             There were many other great kings and politicians, but unfortunately it was not possible to present everybody here. Since the colonnade was completed in 1896 the 20th century is not represented here. In 1867 Hungary and Austria formed the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the era of dualism, which was the second most prosperous time for our country. The majority of the buildings in Budapest were built in this time. We could have our ministries and Parliament but in three areas we were tied to the Austrians. These were defence, foreign affairs and financial matters. I’ll tell you the importance of it. The second prosperous era ended with the 1st World War. The sparkle for the war was when the Habsburg heir was assassinated in Sarajevo and Hungary was forced to take part in the war. After the war 2 thirds of out territory were taken away and strangely enough we had to give land to the Austrians as well. This is the only country that is surrounded by its own country. Where ever you cross the borders you’ll find Hungarian people but not Hungarian citizens.

Hungary was on the losers’ side in the Second World War, when with the help of Hitler some parts were annexed to Hungary again. But we paid a high price for that; in 1941 we had to join battle. We didn’t have a choice again; the governor’s son was kidnapped. In 1945 the Soviet Army liberated and at the same time occupied the country for 40 years. After the wars several years of socialism came and since 1989 the country has been free and open again with democratic elections. We are the member of the NATO and the European Union.

Around the City Park

            We are going to continue our tour with the bus now, so follow me once again, please.

            First we are going to go around the City Park and then continue our way down on Andrássy Avenue. As I mentioned before, the City Park was arranged for the Millenary Exhibition. Long before it was a swampy area, then a Royal Hunting Park. On our right first we see a restaurant on the lake, which is actually a man made lake, as is the island an artificial island. It is a small, decent, deluxe restaurant, called Robinson.

The one on your left is probably the most famous Hungarian restaurant ever built, the Gundel Restaurant. You’ll find its name in all guide books. As „Gundel” it’s been open since 1894 and it became world famous for its excellent meals, like Gundel Pancakes with walnut cream and chocolate sauce.

The next sight is the City Zoo. It opened in 1866 on the initiative of the Academy of Sciences. Taken over by the City council in 1907 it has been modernised several times. Some of the architecture of the Zoo represents significant examples of Hungarian Art Nouveau, such as the main gate and the elephant house. All zoo regulars are found here, such as elephants, giraffes, hippos, bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, etc. The Palm House is the product of Eiffel workshop and it houses snakes and crocodiles. The Budapest Zoo is the second oldest in Europe and it was badly damaged by World War II. Only 12 animals survived, but now there are more than 5000 animals and 15000 different species of plants here.

Next to the Zoo is the Municipal Circus. It is one of the very few fixed, not travelling circuses. It is open all year, tickets are available on the spot, but booking is recommended.

On the opposite side of the Circus you see a theatre-looking building which is in fact a swimming pool and thermal bath. This is the one which gets its water from the fountain I showed you earlier. It is called the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.. It has open air and covered pools, open in the winter as well. It is considered the hottest spa in Europe, the temperature of the spring being 74 degrees C, almost boiling water. It must be cooled down in order to use it in the spa and in the zoo.

On your left again you can see the Fun Fair, which used to be called the English Park. It is open all year round with limited operation in the winter.

Soon we turn right, but in the corner near the junction stands the large Transport Museum. The exhibitions cover the history of shipping, road and rail transport. There are many models on display, both large and small, as well as vintage vehicles. Some of these are actually right-hand drive, because before the World War II. Hungarians drove on the left.

And now we turned back, heading towards Heroes Square again and if you look out on your right you can see the spa again. There is a thermal water fountain in front, you can see it steaming. You can taste and buy mineral water there.

The building you can see ahead on the left behind the trees was built for the Millenary Exhibition, too. It is called the Vajdahunyad Castle, as it is some way the copy of Hunyadis’ castle in Vajdahunyad which is in Transylvania, part of Romania now. You may remember his statue in the second part of the colonnade on the square. This building was designed by Ignác Alpár, you will see his statue when we get closer, dressed like an old guild-master and proudly looking at his masterpiece.  It was designed as a temporary structure for the Millenary Exhibition, but due to its popularity Alpár was later commissioned to rebuild it in a permanent form. The idea was to present in one building the different architectural styles of Hungary. Different parts of the castles are copies of different Hungarian palaces, castles, churches, monasteries. Today it houses the Museum of Agriculture. On this territory stands the first statue of George Washington to be erected in Europe. In the period of 1871-1903 over 3 million Hungarians emigrated to the U.S. The statue was paid by donations collected by various Hungarian-American societies, mostly in Cleveland.

Near the Castle there is an ice skating rink, one of the biggest open air artificial skating rinks in Europe. The beautiful building behind is the entrance, you can rent skates there as well.

And now we are back on Heroes Square heading towards Andrássy Avenue. Underneath us is the Continents first subway, which is actually the 2nd after England, but they don’t consider themselves part of the Continent. The underground goes underneath Andrássy Avenue, all the way to the city centre. It was built for the millennial celebrations as well, so people could visit the Exhibition easily.

The large road in front of the square (Dózsa György út) was the marching ground, place for parades for 100 years.

Andrássy Avenue

And now we are turning onto Andrássy Avenue which is part of the World Heritage, just as the Castle District and the Danube Panorama.  Count Andrássy whose name the Avenue took was Prime Minister, later Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Avenue stretches for 2.5 kilometres, the building of it started in 1872 and it was completed in 12 years. This road was carefully designed for the Exhibition. It is made of 3 sections.

The first section here, the nearest one to the Heroes Square has low-built villas, gardens and a service road. The designer wanted to express that we are far from the city center and close to the non-urban part of the city. Today is home of many Embassies. On your left you can see the Turkish Embassy, on your right the Russian. (Some people may be queuing for visa at the entrance.) But the Serbian, Korean, Turkish and many others are here, too. On the right you’ll see a private art gallery and restaurant, the Kogart.

The round square which marks the beginning of the second section is named after Zoltán Kodály who was one of the biggest composers, musicians and music pedagogues in the country along with Béla Bartók. Kodály lived and worked in the house on the left side of the square. He created the unique music teaching method with solfege [‘solfegЗ] Today there is a museum in his apartment.

The second part of the road still has the service roads, but the gardens disappear and the houses are taller. The service roads were originally covered with wood to be more silent, since they were used for horseback riding. For cars the main road was used. On this part of the Avenue on the left side you can see first the headquarters of the Hungarian Railway Company which is one of the biggest companies in the country. On the corner there is a building decorated by sgraffito. Originally they wanted to decorate all the buildings this way, but they ran out of time and money, so there are only 2 houses with this kind of decoration. Next to it is the Art College, than the old Academy of Music. There is an excellent exhibition here including the piano of Franz Liszt and some of his old furniture. He himself lived in this building for a while. On the right side there is a relatively new museum called the House of Terror which is a memorial for all those who were tortured and died during the fascist and communist eras.

The third section of the road starts with a square again which got its name from its shape Octagon. And here we are crossing the Grand Boulevard which is one of the longest roads, it starts on Buda side and it goes back there. Originally it was planned to be a channel, but because of lack of money it was filled up and it became a road. On this part of Andrássy Avenue the service road disappears, the houses are tall and there are a lot of expensive shops and boutiques here.

(On the right you can still see the bullet holes of fights on the façade of this building.) On the left behind the small square is the new Music Academy and on the square a lot of new cafes have been opened in the last few years. (Unplanned it became an entertainment district, quite a hip place. The two statues are Jókai and Ady.) On the left side there is a building under renovation, it was called the Grand Parisian Department Store when it was opened. It had the first escalator, a restaurant on the roof in the summer and ice skating ring in the winter. Soon we are going to cross the street which some people call the Hungarian Broadway, as there are a lot of theatres. You can find the Moulin Rouge and the Operetta Theatre. Operetta is a Hungarian invention from the dualism.

We are approaching the 2 most important buildings of the Avenue, the State Opera House and the Ballet [‘bælei] Institute. The Opera House is worth visiting even by the non-opera lovers. The interior of the building can be seen every day at 3 and 4 with a local guide. You can find tickets for performances between 1 and 100 euros. The architect of the building was Miklós Ybl, who built the Opera in his favourite style, in Italian neo-Renaissance. The construction took 9 years in the 2nd part of the 19th century. The money was given by the Austrians on one condition, our opera house couldn’t be bigger than the one in Vienna. Well but it was not said that it couldn’t be more beautiful. During the course of the construction there was a serious fire in Vienna’s Ringtheather, where unfortunately 400 people died. This event made the builders reconsider the safety plan of the building and they built in the most modern appliances of the time, such as iron curtains between the stage and the viewers, hydraulic stage machinery and metal framework. This was the most modern theatre of the time in the world and has the 2nd best acoustics [ә’ku:stiks] after the Scala in Milano. (The hydraulic equipment lasted nearly 100 years. An anecdote again: during the opening performance the emperor France-Joseph fell asleep since he didn’t like operas much, nor Hungarians.) On the top of the facade there are 18 statues of famous composers, as Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven and others. On the sides of the main entrance we can see the statues of Franz Liszt and Franz Erkel. The former was a famous Hungarian composer, the latter wrote the music for the Hungarian anthem and he also was the first director of the institute.

The building on the opposite side is the State Ballet Institute. It was built in French neo-Renaissance style and at the moment is under renovation.

The corner building on the left is the old Postal Museum which has life size models and displays of coaches and equipment from the old times.

This is the end of the Avenue. Ahead of you, on your left you see the Elizabeth Square. This is the only place in the city where the 3 subways meet. Behind the square there are several big hotels, such as the Le Meridien where President Bush stayed with his 500-person escort and Hotel Kempinsky where many other celebrities (for instance Schumacher, Madonna, Cher, Robin Williams) stayed.

Bajcsy and the Basilica

We are going to turn right here at the traffic lights to be able to see a little bit of the Basilica. You can see it already on your right side. This church is the result of the promise the survivors of the 1838 Great Flood made. There was a hill here before and during the flood the people who made it to the top of this hill survived. That was when they promised that when it was over they would build the biggest church in the city. It was built in eclectic style and the reason for this was, that it was being built for over 50 years by 3 architects. Joseph Hild started in neo-classical style, but he died in 1867. Miklós Ybl took over and continued the construction in neo-renaissance style. One year later the dome collapsed during a storm. The incomplete building had to be demolished and they started the construction work from scratch. In 1891 Ybl died as well and the church was finished by a third architect, Joseph Kauser who worked in neo-baroque style. The Basilica’s patron [‘peitrәn] is St. Stephen, so it is called St. Stephen’s Basilica.

As we pass the Basilica we are getting closer to the Western Railway Station. You will see it in a minute on your right side. This building was designed by the Eiffel Company as well. Right next to it we find one of the biggest shopping centers of the city, the West End City Center. The shopping center has boutiques, restaurants, casino, an ice skating rink (in winter) atop.

And in front of the shopping center we turn back towards the Basilica, and the Elizabeth Square. On the right side you can see the Ambulance Center of the city.

And now you will see the back of the church again. A few more interesting facts: 70 % of the Hungarian population is Roman Catholic, 28% is Protestant , 1% is Jewish and another 1% practices other different religions. Whenever you enter a roman catholic church as you know you can usually see a statue or a painting of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary, but here, above the high altar there is a statue of St. Stephen., who became a saint in 1038, because he converted the nomadic Hungarians to Christianity. They had to ask for special permission from the Pope to put his statue there. This church is named St. Stephen’s Basilica, but its name has no connection to the Stefans Dome in Vienna. This Basilica houses what it is believed to be St. Stephens right hand. The relic can be inspected in the Chapel of the Holy Right Hand behind the main altar [o: ә].

Basilica again when we stop

This church is the biggest in Budapest and the third largest in Hungary (Esztergom and Szeged(?)). (It covers 4000 m2. and can take 8500 people) This church is the result of the promise the survivors of the 1838 Great Flood made. There was a hill here before and during the flood the people who made it to the top of this hill survived. That was when they promised that when it was over they would build the biggest church in the city. It was built in eclectic style and the reason for this was that it was being built for over 50 years by 3 architects. Joseph Hild started (in 1851) in neo-classical style, but he died in 1867. Miklós Ybl took over and continued the construction in neo-renaissance style. One year later the dome collapsed during a storm due to architectural problems. The incomplete building had to be demolished and they started the construction work from scratch. In 1891 Ybl died as well and the church was finished by a third architect, Joseph Kauser who worked in neo-baroque style inside. The building suffered heavy damages during the World War II, also the bell was taken and melted as the German army was short of metal.

The Basilica’s patron [‘peitrәn] is St. Stephen, so it is called St. Stephen’s Basilica. On the tympanum Mary, Jesus and Hungarian saints can be seen. (Mary is regarded as the Patroness of Hungary as St. Stephen offered his land to Virgin Mary rather than Pope or the Holy Roman Emperor.) The words say on the façade “I am the way, the truth and the life”. On the door there are the small statues of the 12 apostles

 

[ә’o ә]. 

 

Whenever you enter a roman catholic church as you know you can usually see a statue or a painting of Jesus Christ or Virgin Mary, but here, above the high altar there is a statue of St. Stephen., who became a saint in 1038, because he converted the nomadic Hungarians to Christianity. You can see his bust in white marble from Carrara. There were 50 different marbles used here mostly from Hungary. They had to ask for special permission from the Pope to put his statue there. This Basilica houses what it is believed to be St. Stephens mummified right hand. The relic can be inspected in the Chapel of the Holy Right Hand behind the main altar [o: ә]. On 20th August (St. Stephen’s Day) the Holy Right is carried around the Basilica in a procession.

(Other statues inside comprises St. Ladislaus, St. Elisabeth (daughter if Andrew II., miracle with rose petals!), St. Gellért. (the teacher of Prince Imre). Painting on the right side altar: Gyula Benczúr: Stephen offering the crown to Virgin Mary, on the left the Golgota.)

We are getting closer to Elizabeth Square again, here we are going to turn right and head towards the Danube river. We are in the downtown now (in the 5th district of the city) with many shops, department stores, hotels and the walking-area.

 So on the left side we pass again the square, behind it the hotels and as we continue here on the left side behind this small square is the Gerbeaud Palace. It is the most famous confectioner’s in the country. Emil Gerbeaud was a Belgian confectioner who invented a cake named after him. It is really nice and very popular here with chocolate on the top and walnut and marmalade filling. In front of the Gerbeaud starts the walking-shopping street which is called Váci street. Still on the left side there is an empty looking building with arcades. It is one of the few buildings which remained in the original way, well it needs renovation, but under the arcades there are some nice little souvenir shops. One of them is the Herendi porcelain shop. This porcelain is very famous, it was Queen Victorias favourite and it is an excellent souvenir or gift.

As we pass this building we get closer to the Danube, there are several big hotels here, right on the corner the Sofitel Hotel which hosts the Las Vegas Casino. Sylvester Stallone is part owner of this casino.

And now you can see a bit of the famous Panorama of the Danube, but we will see much more of it later. We are going past the Chain Bridge and on the other side which is Buda, as you know we are on Pest side now, you can see the Royal Castle on the top of the hill.

On your right we are passing the Four Seasons hotel which was opened here last (?) year and it has had a lot of famous guests since then. The building is called the Gresham Palace, it was owned by the famous businessman Mr Gresham. He was the one who established the British Stock Exchange. This building was home of an English and Hungarian insurance company.

Ahead on the left we are approaching the building of the Hungarian Academy of Science. On the side of the building you will see a relief which shows Stephen Széchenyi, who initiated the construction of the Chain Bridge and many other famous buildings (like the Academy) offering his one year revenue for the costs. Now we are in the political and business district of the city. In the old times there were the palaces of rich and noble here. Now these palaces give home to banks and offices. During the communism Hungary had 2 banks and now more than 50 are present in the country. As you know our currency is still the forint, there were different plans about when to change to the Euro, but now it looks like this will happen in 2015. As you might know we have been members of the European Union for 4 years now (since 2004), and have been part of the Schengen Agreement as well (since2007 Dec). We are driving parallel with the River Danube this street leads to Kossuth Square with the Hungarian Parliament on it. (At the yellow house you can say: Ahead of us you can see the Hungarian Parliament.)

The Parliament

Now as we’re turning, on the left you can see the building of the Parliament on Kossuth Square. It was built in the 19th century and at that time it was the biggest in the world. (Now it’s the 4th , London, Buenos Aires, Bucharest and Budapest.) There was an international competition (1882), which Imre Steinl won with this amazing building in electrical-neo-gothic style. An interesting fact is that the first 3 winners of the competition were so well designed that the committee decided to build them all, so this is a unique square with 3 parliament buildings but of course the one in the middle is used as a parliament. The other 2 are the Ministry of Agriculture and the Museum of Ethnography. I will point them out to you when we can see them. (This is the side entrance, the main facade looks at the Danube, you will have a beautiful view of that from Buda side later on.) The Parliament was the most expensive building of the time. (It cost 38 million golden forints to build.) A small town with about 40000 inhabitants could have been built for the costs of its construction.

And now on your right hand side you can see a small square with a statue there, which is the statue of Imre Nagy, the martyr Prime Minister during the Revolution in 1956. There are several memories of this revolution here on the square. Another one of these are the artificial bullets (under the arcades of this building here) on the right which is the Ministry of Agriculture, the 2nd winning building. This was the building from which the Hungarian Security Police shot at the peacefully demonstrating crowd in ’56, marking one of the bloodiest events of the uprising. We will stop here and walk closer to the Parliament. We are parking in front of the 3rd winner building the Museum of Ethnography (also on the right side).

While the bus is waiting/turning, a few interesting numbers about the building. The construction started in 1885 and was planned to be opened for the 1896 celebrations, but was finished much later in 1904. The building (like the other 2 buildings) is completely symmetrical, the central dome divides it into two. The dome is 96 meters high, which is a symbolical number, as the settlement of the Hungarians in the Carpathian basin took place in 896. The dome of the St Stephen basilica is as tall as this one which symbolizes the unity of Church and State. The number 96 turns out to be an important figure. There are 96 steps leading from the main entrance to the hall of the dome. The building is 268 metres long, 118 metres wide. There are 691 rooms, and 365 towers, one for each day in a calendar year. It also has 10 inner courtyards, 27 gates and 29 staircases. 40 kg-s of 22 carat gold was used for the inside decorations. If you look at the building above the windows under the roof you can see 180 coats of arms. The Parliament was built on 10000 pillars made of red pine which is waterproof wood. The reason for this was that this area near the Danube was a bit swampy and wet.

The Parliament is open for guided visits with a local guide, but you need to book ahead. (No charge for EU citizens.) As I said earlier the royal crown is on display inside. The holy crown is the oldest one in Europe, it was given to St. Stephen for his coronation in 1001. (During the world war it was smuggled out of the country, ended up in Fort Knox (the US Treasury). We got it back from the U.S. in 1978.) The cupola (is exactly in the middle), dividing the building into 2 equal parts, which in the time of building housed the lower house and the upper house. Now only one house is used by the 386 members of parliament (MPs). Today the Socialist Party is ruling the country and there are elections every 4 years. There are the representatives of 5 parties in the Parliament, 2 of them form the coalition and 3 of them are in opposition. (update if necessary!) The president of the country is elected in every 5 years by the parliament. In Hungary the Prime Minister has the real power the president has symbolical power only, similar to the French or English system. (The president is called László Sólyom.) (The Library of the Parliament, a designated UN Library, collects foreign and Hungarian books on political science, law and history and it is open to the public.)

 The Parliament is surrounded by several statues, from here we can see 2 of them: the equestrian statue of Prince Rákóczy II, who was the leader of an unsuccessful revolution at the beginning of the 18th century. Opposite him Louis Kossuth, who lead the unsuccessful revolution in the 19th century. Both wars were against the Habsburgs and both personalities are represented on the Heroes Square, (they were the last two figures on the colonnade). As I was saying there are several memories of the 1956 uprising against the communism (and the Soviets). There were the artificial bullets on the wall, the statue of Imre Nagy (the martyr Prime Minister), and you can see a Hungarian flag with a hole in it on the left and the never ending flame on the right. This flag was used for 2 weeks during the revolution, since the communist/Stalinist style coat of arms was cut/torn out. On the third day of the revolution a peaceful demonstration took place on this square. Some Soviet tanks were watching for violent actions, when suddenly the Hungarian KGB (Secret Police) opened fire at the crowd (30000) from the roof of the Ministry of Agriculture (opposite the Parliament). Some soviets died as well and the tanks shot back believing that the fire came from the fascists. This escalated into shootings with almost 250 casualties. (Details of the revolution, tricky fights, frying pans which looked liked mines and the tanks were going into side streets and blown up with Molotov-cocktails. The Russians thought they were in Egypt, Suez crisis at the same time.)

The yellow house on the corner does not have any residents in it, as it is the heating and cooling centre of the parliament. As we leave the Parliament we are going around this park and soon you will be able to see the River Danube. The As you know the Danube starts in the Black Forest in Germany and flows into the Black Sea in Romania. Meanwhile it flows through 8 countries and 4 capital cities: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. Here in Budapest there are 9 bridges over the river and the panorama is beautiful.

If you look out on your right side you can see a white building, which is the so called White House. It used to be the Headquarters of the Communist Party and today it houses offices of deputies and politicians.

Crossing the Danube

Ahead to the left is the Margaret Bridge. We are going to cross the river now, as you know we are on Pest side and now we are going to Buda side. (As you may have noticed the Buda side is the hilly part of the capital with fewer inhabitants but more expensive residences. The Pest side is the business, political and cultural centre. We have 9 bridges to get to the other side but during the rush hours they don’t seem to be sufficient.) On the left as we go under the bridge you can see the Margaret Island which is one of the biggest recreational areas in the heart of the city.  It was named after Princess Margaret, if you remember I mentioned in Heroes Square that she was Béla IV daughter and she spent her life here in a monastery built for her. (Now only the ruins of it can be seen.) And now we are turning onto the Bridge which is the only foreign bridge we have, it was built by the Eiffel Company (consequently it bears some resemblances to Pont Neuf in Paris.) The bridge is not quite straight for 2 reasons. It follows the curve of the Grand Boulevard and the natural course of the river, which is broken because of the island. (During the World War II it was blown up with traffic going on it.) On the right side you can see again Margaret Island which is 2.5 km long and it is a huge park. (Cars are not allowed in, but there is a local bus going in there. There are sport facilities and a spa hotel on it.) We are on the middle of the bridge now and look to your left: this is the famous Panorama of Budapest which is part of the World Heritage. You can see the Chain Bridge, the Parliament and the Castle District. This view is fantastic in the evening as well, so if you have the chance for an evening walk, take a look at it.

And now I would like to welcome you on Buda side. Budapest is the city of thermal springs. It is the only capital city in the world which got the name of Spa City. Most of these thermal springs are on Buda side, we will see a lot of Turkish Baths and Spas on the way, one of the few positive things that the Turkish left behind. On your left, the big yellow building is the Institute of Balneology and right next to it is a Bath named Lukács Bath. This is where the next Bath gets its water from as well. (In the old times they had a pipe made of the same red pine wood I mentioned at the Parliament. They used to run the thermal water through this pipe to the next bath and there you can see a piece of it exhibited.) (The road on the left leads to Acquincum, to the former capital of the Pannonia Province. The Roman Empire extended its borders in the 1st century AD and the River Danube served as a natural border; the other side was the land of the barbarians.)

And again the Margaret Island. On this side of the island is the swimming pool where they had the Swimming European Championship 2 years ago. We are going towards the Castle District now, but for a while we are driving along the side of the „Blue Danube” again. The famous composer Johann Strauss probably loved the Hungarian red wine so much which helped him to see the colour of the river blue. The water was not so polluted at that time of course. You can see the so called White House and the Parliament now.

There is a double road along the banks of the Danube. Almost every year when there are foods the water comes out to the lower one so that has to be closed. That doesn’t help the situation of the traffic which is too big already. Luckily it lasts only a couple of days. But the public transport system is excellent. We have 3 underground lines, you can easily get from one side of the city to the other with the metro without getting into a traffic jam. And metro number 4 is being built at the moment (at enormous costs).

            This square here is named after a Polish army general, Bem and you can see here on the right his statue. He served in the 1848 revolution, (but after the defeat he went into exile, becoming a Muslim and a Turkish citizen, later on putting down rebellions against the Turkish Empire). On the left there is the Ministry of Foreign Affaires. (However, most ministries are to be found on the other side.) The road starting here is called the Main Road, it was the Via Romana in the Roman times, it is one of the oldest roads of the city. This road is 1.5 metres higher now than the original, you can see it at some places. It was lifted because of the continuous floods. On the right side next to the Greek-Catholic chapel (St Florian), there is an old Turkish Bath. from the 16th century (1566). Amazingly it still works and in use. This is the place where you can see that the road was much lower. The church was literally lifted and moved some metres when the road was levelled.

            On the right again is the building of the Military Court of Justice, where Imre Nagy, Prime Minister during the ’56 revolution was tried, sentenced and executed in secret. (His body was wrapped in paper, tied with barbed wire and was put face down in a very simple coffin. He was buried in an unmarked grave.) The building was used as the headquarters by the Gestapo and the secret police respectively. (Some years ago a Bonnie and Clyde style bank robber escaped over a wall from behind this building using a rope made of bed sheets and shoe laces. As I heard a Hollywood movie is going to be made of the story.) (At the entrance of one of the buildings you can see the names of the 12 Hungarian Nobel Prize winners. I’d like to mention 3 of them: Albert Szentgyörgyi, for the discovery of Vitamin C (1937), Dénes Gábor for the invention of hologram (1971), and Imre Kertész (2001) get the literary prize (Faithlessness).) (The modern block is called the point house, as some of the blocks were blown up in WWII.)

You will see a lot of churches in this street, which shows the past importance of this area. (The first on your left will be the Church of the Saint Elisabeth Nuns, today an Old Peoples’ Home.) After some nice Baroque facades on the right there is one that belonged to the famous White Cross Inn, where according to legends Casanova stayed to cure his backache with the help of the thermal water. But soon he seduced the 17-year-old daughter of the innkeeper so he had to flee. He had to run because the father was chasing him with an axe. (The house used to be the summer residence of Maria Theresa, with stables on the ground floor and her room on the first floor.)

 Next to it is a Market Hall, number 6 as you can see written on the facade of the building. There are 10 big Market Halls in the city. I’ll show you the biggest and the nicest to you later. (Hungarian people like fresh food a lot and shop on the market usually.) (The church on the square St. Anna Church, According to a 20th century writer (Antal Szerb) it is the most beautiful in the city.)

            Ahead on the left there is the biggest Calvinist Church (designed by Samu Petz) in the city which was built for the Millennium as well. The roof is covered with glazed tiles made by the Zsolnay Factory, the most famous porcelain factory in the south of the country. (Majolica (dzs) is made of pyrogranite [pairou grenait] (pyro=fire, granite=strong stone) which is a durable material, can be coloured easily, and is an excellent decoration. Opposite the church under number 4 there is the house, where Béla Bartók, the great Hungarian composer lived.)

            This little square (Corvin tér) (John Corvin was the illegitimate son of King Matthias) is beautifully renovated. (Those little houses on the left belong to the Art’otel and used as accommodation. (with the entrance from the other side of the block.) On our right, actually above us is the Castle District. If you look up you can have a glimpse of Matthias Church. (The building on the corner of this square is the Budai Vigadó, home of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble [on’sombə] and folklore performances are often performed here.) Next there on the left is the French Institute where there are a lot of concerts, exhibitions organised. (It has language courses, a library and a bookshop as well.) Across the street there is a restaurant called Jardin de Paris, Garden of Paris. Look to the right, inside this modern building you can see the walls of a medieval house. Protection of monuments is really serious in Hungary and many modern buildings can only be built if they incorporate the old ruins.

            In a few minutes we will reach Adam Clark Square, which is a very exciting square. There is so much to see there! Let me tell you a little bit about it before we get there. Adam Clark was the builder of the Chain Bridge which you will see on the left when we reach the square. (He was a Scottish gentleman and his partner was also called Clark, but they were not related to each other.) The Chain Bridge was the city’s first permanent bridge built between 1839-1849. Before that there was pontoon bridge, but in winter it couldn’t be used. Stephen Széchenyi’s father died and as he couldn’t get to the other side for the funeral, he was determined that the city needed a permanent bridge.  Although it is the oldest, the narrowest and the shortest bridge of Budapest today, at that time with its 380 m length it was one of the largest suspension bridges in Europe. You will see a tunnel on the right, opposite the bridge, that leads to the other side of the hill, underneath the Castle also built by Adam Clark. (He actually fell in love with Hungary and stayed here.) And now we are on the square; the bridge is on the left and the Buda Castle is on the right. On the side of the hill is the Buda Castle Funicular, opened in 1870 as the second funicular in the world after the one in Lion. (First working with a steam engine) (At the bottom of it is the 0 km stone (hidden in the bushes). This is where all Hungary’s road distances are measured from.)

The castle district

            Now we’ll turn right here and start to climb up to the Castle Hill in a comfortable way - with the bus (Hunyadi Road). As I said earlier we are in the Castle District now or it is also named by numbers, district number 1. The Castle Hill is about 50-60 metres high and it consists of mostly limestone. Budapest has more caves than any other capitals. It has a 5 km long cave system under the ground which was used as shelter for the people and also for military purposes during wars. The Castle District is divided into 2 parts, the royal part with the royal castle and the civil part. That was the side where Béla the IV first settled when he moved the royal court from the previous capital Esztergom to Buda in the 13th century. Later the royal part moved further and there were civil houses built in this area. And now we can see already the stairs of the Fishermen’s Bastion and behind it the tower of the Matthias Church. The Fishermen’s Bastion was designed by Frigyes Schulek more than 100 years ago. It is called the Fishermen’s Bastion because in the Middle Ages the walls were protected by different guilds and this part was protected by the fishermen. (No wonder, that part of the wall was the closest to the river). Today there is a promenade there with a lookout terrace. You can have an excellent view of the city. It has 7 towers symbolising the 7 tribes of the Hungarian settlers and the towers are the shape of the tents of those tribes. Behind the Bastion there is the Matthias Church named after King Matthias. He was not the one who started building this church, it was Béla the IV as I said earlier, but Matthias was the one who enlarged it. The original style of the church was Romanesque, but after the reconstructed by Frigyes Schulek in neo-gothic style. Inside you have an impression of a Gothic Church with oriental elements.

There were 2 weddings and 3 coronations here, both weddings of King Matthias and the coronation of Charles Robert, Franz Joseph and the last one Charles the IV. We can still see some flags from the splendid coronation of Emperor Franz Joseph. The roof of the church is covered with glazed tiles made by the same Zsolnay factory I was telling you about before. During the Turkish invasion the church was transformed into a mosque, all walls were painted white, because in Muslim religion portraits of people are not allowed on the walls. The statue of Virgin Mary was covered with a wall which fell down later during an earthquake. When the Turks left they took the chandelier of the Matthias Church which you can see today in Hagia Sofia Mosque in Istambul. The church has kept its original functions, there are wedding and concerts held in it. (As we go further up you have an excellent view on the left again of Pest side. We won’t be able to visit the Castle District by bus, because the buses are too heavy for the road with the caves underneath. Next to the church you can find Hotel Hilton, which was the first 5-star hotel in Budapest.)

(Acually Dísz square divides the castle district into two parts. The yellow building there used to be a Carmelite monastery, now a theatre and a restaurant. While the Turks were here they had their headquarters there. During the siege it was blown up by a cannon ball, and because of all the gunpowder stored there. To make you feel how big the explosion was, there was debris falling on the roofs on the Pest side.)

            As we approach the top of the hill, on the left side you will have a glimpse of Sándor Palace which is the residence of the President of the country. We are passing an old building now, full of bullet holes. That was the old Ministry of Defence and during the war it used to be the Headquarters of the German fascists. It is a protected monument. And now we are heading down on the other side of the Castle Hill. On you left side you can see the Royal Palace which was built in the 15th century, enlarged by King Matthias, destroyed by the Turks and rebuilt by Queen Maria Theresa. Today it houses the National Gallery and a huge library. The Library has 8 million books on 13 floors. Down the hill along the street you can see some old gas lamps, which are protected today and operating as a museum. In the old times there was a person whose job was to light them every evening and put them out every morning, but today it is cheaper to let them be lit all day than to pay somebody to do that job. If you look around you can see a lot of beautiful villas on the hills around, Buda is the more expensive side, so people with more money live here. In front of us is Gellért Hill (Gerald Hill) with the Citadel on the top and the most beautiful view of the city.

REVISED up to this point after the walking tour with Bálint and Marian (2008 04 05) Info in brackets are not important either for the tourists (dates) or for the exam (anecdotes and other blablas).

 

This part of the town was inhabited by a Serb population, but the houses were pulled down, between the two wars. (And after the Second World War they were planning to build a Spa area here, but because of lack of money this plan didn’t get realised.) So it remained a green area which is very nice in the middle of a busy city. On the left, on the corner of the castle wall u can see a very old tower, the Buzogány Tower, that is the only one left from the old fortress.

 

The next district is called Christina Town, named after Princess Christina, daughter of Queen Maria Theresa. This part of town used to belong to the castle, but she convinced her mother to give it to the people to build houses on it.

On the right there is another Bath, called Rác Bath, it is being rebuilt now, there will be a 5 star Spa Hotel. This Bath was used by King Matthias as well, there used to be a covered corridor leading here from the castle.

We turn now to the right, but on your left you can see the statue of St. Gellért. This hill was named after him Gellért Hill. He was a bishop from Venice, who wanted to go to Jerusalem, the Holy Land, but King St. Stephen convinced him to stay here in Hungary and help him. He was also the king’s sons, Emeric’s tutor. After the king’s death the pagan Hungarians caught him and thru him down this hill in a barrel full of nails, into the Danube. So he was our first Christian martyr. On the left there is a water reservoir behind those brown walls, this is where Buda side gets its’ water from. We will turn left here now and go up on the top of the hill. There are 2 legends about this hill, the first one was the one about St. Gellért I told you earlier and the 2nd is that it used to be the gathering place of witches. The fact we know is that the hill was actually the meeting place of the pagan Hungarians, that’s why St. Gellért was thrown down from here. Later there were vineyards on these hills which were destroyed by a Philoxera epidemic. They started building houses here in the 19th century. The Citadel on the top was built as a military fortress between 1850-54 by the Austrians, used as an observation point and barracks for their soldiers. It was built right after when the 1848 Revolution failed. Today it is a peaceful place, there is a night club operating in the building. The other monument on the top is the Liberation Monument. This is a Statue of Liberty, a female figure holding an olive branch in her hands. On both sides you can see symbolical figures. The young man’s victory over the dragon and the man with the fire represent the defeat of fascism.

You can also find the best view from up here. And a lot of souvenirs. But this is the most expensive place in the city to buy souvenirs, it is better to do it in the walking street, in Váci street.(money exchange, Hungaricums:red pepper, pálinka, tokaji wine, marzipan, folklore items, cookery books, etc).

Off the hill we are going to head back to Pest side crossing Elisabeth Bridge. While the other bridges were reconstructed in their original form after the destruction of the war, only this one was newly designed. From the bridge if you look to the left you can see the beautiful panorama with the Castle again. On the right on Pest side is the International Pier where especially in the summer you can see a lot of those Cruise Ships coming from Germany.

 On the left side of the bridge you can see the Inner City Parish Church. This church traces its roots back much further than others in the city. It was built on the ruins of the Contra-Aquincum which was the name of a roman fortress built in 294 under Emperor Diocletianus to help defend the imperial border called Limes which ran along the Danube. The body of St. Gellért was rested here after he was killed.

On both sides of the road you can see 2 symmetrical buildings, that is the Klotild Palace. It was built for 2 sisters belonging to the Habsburg family.  The crossroad here is Váci street. This is the walking and shopping street I mentioned earlier. There is a Paris style shopping arcade on the left as well, beautiful on the inside, designed on the model of the Parisian shopping centers.

The square here is called the Ferenciek Square, because of the Franciscan Church you see on the right side. The statue in front of the church was the first public statue in Budapest. On the side of the church there is a relief showing Baron Miklós Wesselényi, the Hero of the Flood saving people from the Danube’s flooded water. This flood, Pest’s most serious natural disaster started on the night of 13-14 March, 1838. It lasted several days, over 400 people died and 2000 houses were destroyed. This was the time when the survivors at the St. Stephen’s Basilica made their promise.

This road is named after Louis Kossuth, leader of the War of Independence in 1848-49.

We are approaching Hotel Astoria on the square with the same name. This was the place where the old gate of the city was. The road from here is called Rákóczy Road after Prince Rákóczy, because when they brought his remains home, the funeral procession passed thru this road. This is where on the left side you find the Jewish quarter. It was the Ghetto during the war and the largest Synagogue in the city and actually in Europe is here.

On your right you can see a beautifully restored old building, that is the Drama and Film Academy and it is a cinema called Uránia as well. It was built in Moorish-style. The little yellow chapel also on the right side is the St. Roch Chapel. On the wall of it you can see a mark showing how high the water came during the Great Flood. Behind it is the oldest hospital in Pest, an epidemic hospital which in that time had to be built outside of the city walls. Doctor Semmelweis worked here. He was the famous Hungarian gynaecologist who discovered that the child-bed fever can be prevented by the doctors washing their hands.

The next square is named after a famous Hungarian actress, since the old National Theatre used to be here. It is called Blaha Lujza Square. We are crossing the Grand Boulevard again. Look to your left, you will see the New York Palace there which is a 5 star hotel now, the Boscolo Hotel. When it was built the Cafe was the meeting place of artists: writers, poets, painters, sculptors, composers, singers, actors and later film directors. Underneath the square you can find the station of the „red” metro line, number 2 metro line which runs right under this road towards the Eastern Railway Station. This metro line is the deepest, it connects Buda and Pest side and it passes under the Danube.  Our public transport is very well organised. If you are only here for a few days, you can buy a one-day, a 3-day or a weekly pass which is valid for all vehicles within the city boundaries. You can buy these passes or single tickets at all metro stations. You can also buy a Budapest Card which besides the public transport also gives you discounts in some restaurants, hotels and museums.

As you look ahead you can see a big yellow building we are approaching. That is the Eastern Railway Station. On the facade of the building you can see the statues of James Watt and George Stevenson the inventors of the steam engine and the locomotive. This is the largest railway station in the country. It is called „Eastern” because it is located on the Eastern side of the city and not because the trains go East from here. The square in front is named after Gábor Baross, who was the Minister of Transport on the end of the 19th century. He started the development of Hungary’s railway and united the 6 private rail companies into one state owned company. If you are familiar with the Orient Express train from the Agatha Christie books, that train stopped here on the way from Paris to Istambul. It was the luxury train for the rich. And today this train is running again, of course very expensive as it used to be.

We are passing the station on the left side of it. This is not the prettiest area of the city, but this is already one of the outer districts (and there are a lot of gypsies living here.) Slowly they are renovating the houses here as well, but this will take some time.

We are going to turn left here on Dózsa György Road, heading back to Heroes Square. This road used to be the place for marches and celebrations. There are some nice villas on this road, and we are approaching again the City Park. In the Middle Ages there was a big swamp here with a game reserve in the center part which always belonged to the Hungarian Kings. It was the Queen, Maria Theresa who ordered trees to be planted here and the canalizing of the swamp. The most important date in the development of the park is certainly 1896 when Hungary celebrated the 1000 years anniversary of the conquest of this territory. Over 200 halls and pavilions were erected to display the agricultural, industrial and commercial life of the country. Hungary’s first museum village was built to represent peasant life. The great attraction was the balloon that rose 500 m providing its passengers with a panoramic view of the city. The balloon was unfortunately ripped by a storm during the celebratory year. The park has also been a traditional focal point for the labour movement, such as for the May Day celebrations, which date back well beyond 1945. The very first one took place in 1890 when up to 40000 marched in the City Park. The tradition continues today with festivities on every 1st of May.

And now we are back to Heroes Square where we started our tour. I would like to thank you all for taking this tour with us, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope to see you again.

 

 

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