5 June 2003 - Outside Buda Castle, Budapest
The Buda Hills

Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest. It's was actually originally called Pest-Buda but I think they changed it because Buda is the older half, because Buda looks over Pest and because Buda looks way cooler anyway, with it's castle.

In fact, I'm sure in some dictionary somewhere, next to the word 'buda' you're going to see the following description: "lots and lots and lots of hills, don't even try to walk it if you don't plan to climb a lot, but is pretty nice to look at".

It doesn't look too bad to start off with. Just walk down this road and you're at Matthias Church. Well, this road slopes at an almighty angle, and those smart Hungarian entrepreneurs had placed their grocery shops just at the point where you think "Oh my, this is hard work". I rewarded them by buying a litre and a half of water straight away.

The view of Pest from up there is, in short, outstanding.

(If it wasn't, I was going to march straight up to the nearest Tourist Information centre and demand to know why. It should be made mandatory by law that high places must print disclaimers if the view from the top is disappointing. I can name two places that should have large WARNING stickers on them: The Berliner Dom in Berlin and St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest.)

I did hunt around up there for Castle Cavedn as well, and I really have no idea where it is. This was a shame, because I really wanted to be able to title this piece "Climbed up a hill to climb down a cave". I went to the exact spot on the map, and there was something behind locked doors that looked a little like an entrance to a cave, but who knows?

The jewel in the Buda crown must be Buda castle itself. Like all good castles, it occupies the highest point in the city, and yes, it gets my You-Get-Good-Views-From-Here label of endorsement. It's large (but not as large as the palace complexes of Peterhof or Sanssoucci) and it now houses numerous museums, like the Museum of Cotemporary Art, The Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum (none of which, unfortunately, I was terribly interested in).

There is actually a furnicular railway up to the castle, but I think that that's for wimps and you wouldn't catch a real man like me going up on one. Not unless it was for free, of course.

In my naivety (and this trip is certainly exposing lots of that), I had thought that all those fantastic buildings that I saw across the Danube from Pest were on one hill. There was this huge, Soviet-styled statue (I found out later it was the Liberation Monument) that caught the eye and warranted a closer look. I tried to find the best route
across to it, but to my consternation, I kept going downhill. Well, unsurprisingly, that was because it was on top of another hill.

Well, I had climbed to the top of Neak Pearn, and I had wheezed up to Seoul Tower, and I had battled Seoraksan and (barely) won, so I rolled up my sleeves and climbed Gell¢¾rt-hegy.

I am proud to say that I managed it without wheezing once, and I even beat a couple to the top (although I'm pretty sure they didn't even notice I was there). Yet again, great views from the top. And I even had the will-power to not give in and pay double-price for a litre of water and waited until I got down to rehydrate.

By the time I had got down, it was only five o'clock, but nine hours of climbing up and down hills had pretty much done it for me. But tomorrow, I think I'll tackle the much flatter Heroes' Square.


posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - permalink
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