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Budapest – First Sights and Impressions

Images of Budapest

Budapest Compilation all images © Ian Dalgleish

The Danube brought us to Budapest. Our cruise ship makes its way between Pest on the left bank, fronted by the grand Hungarian Parliament building and hilly Buda on our right to a mooring at the foot of the Chain Bridge. The view is classic; the city’s oldest bridge, iron chains dipping gracefully between stone piers, against the backdrop of the Royal Palace complex on Castle Hill.

Our first foray into the city is on a tour bus – a slow drive down broad Andrássy Avenue with glimpses of designer shops, the State Opera House and further on the Terror House Museum to Heroes’ Square. There’s a press of hawkers offering knitwear, emboidered items and guidebooks as we leave the bus and head for the Millenium Monument to grapple with Hungarian history through the statues of its famous characters. 896 AD is the date to remember, it’s when the Hungarian tribes arrived in these parts.
Nearby steam rises from the ground in the city park. “Strange”, our guide remarks, indeed to the uninitiated of us the thermal baths of Budapest do seem mysterious affairs.

I’m finding Pest disconcerting, elegant old buildings, some beautifully restored, others shedding masonary sit next to inappropriate modern buildings and ugly Soviet utilitarian blocks. Karolyl street is in the dug up state on its way to redevelopement.

In contrast the atmosphere in Buda Castle is calm and settled. Attractive painted houses with baroque facades line the cobbled streets. Archways guarded by solid wooden gates lead to courtyards and peeks of older stonework from medieval times. This settlement that grew up around the old castle is tenacious, surviving seige, fire, earthquake and war damage.

Most eye-catching is the colourful ceramic tiled roof of Mathias Church, it’s already drawn our attention from the other side of the river. The tiles, we learn, were made by the Zsolnay Ceramic Factory whose development of pyrogranite in 19th century made it possible to produce weather resistant tiles. It was obviously the fashionable way to complete an important building in Budapest, the National Archives Building along the road and the Central Market are two we spotted.

Leaving aside the mosaic like roof, the gothic exterior of Mathias Church does nothing to prepare you for the richly painted scene inside. As our eyes become accustomed to the dim light it’s almost startling to find geometric motifs from the time of Turkish occupation when the church was a mosque side by side with frescoes depicting saints and kings

A few steps away, looking out over the Danube from the cloister like corridors and terraces of the Fishermen’s Bastion I feel as if I’m standing on the edge of a world, beyond a flat plain stretching eastwards into the distance

Back on Andrassy Avenue, on foot now, we look up and find reliefs and friezes galore. We stop at the opera intending to take a tour, but standing in the beautifully ornate foyer realize we could experience the real thing and book two tickets high up in the auditorium for the ballet. The decor is magnificent, the perfomance wonderful and the experience one I’d thoroughly recommend.

Hungarian State Opera
Buying a ticket at the Opera House was easy and they are very reasonably priced. Seat prices differ depending on the performance – you need to look for the code letter to determine the seat price.
I believe many hotels will book seats and you can find out more and book online at:

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