PEARL OF THE DANUBE
Outlook Traveller|June - July 2024
WITH AFFORDABLE ATTRACTIONS, IMPOSING ARCHITECTURE, EXCELLENT STREET FOOD AND VIBRANT NIGHTLIFE, BUDAPEST MAKES FOR A VALUE-FOR-MONEY EUROPEAN DESTINATION
RANJAN PAL
PEARL OF THE DANUBE

BUDAPEST IS HUNGARY'S CAPITAL AND crown jewel. Its architecture is an amazing mélange of Romanesque chapels, Gothic cathedrals, and Baroque palaces.

Buffeted by the vast winds of change which brought it under the sway of the Austro-Hungarian empire, followed by the Nazi occupation of WWII and captured as part of the Soviet Communist empire until its liberation in 1991, this beautiful city has only just begun to reclaim its rightful place as the "Pearl of the Danube."

Once, there were two cities, Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube linked only by a single Chain Link Bridge, and it was not till 1873 that they were united. Both their geographical and cultural characteristics set them apart. Buda is the more sedate, residential side with a clutch of palaces and churches built on a series of hills, while Pest is flat as a pancake, where all the tourist action is, with happening bars, restaurants and cafés.

Since my wife and I are staying on the Pest side, we decide to take the free walking tour (guruwalk.com), which starts at 11 am from the plaza in front of St. Stephen's Basilica and comes highly recommended. There, we find our guide, Pisti, a dead ringer for Conan O'Brien with the same sharp features and fasttalking style, waiting under his trademark green umbrella.

Our group gathers under the towering shadow of the Basilica, which is dedicated to the holy king St. Stephen, the founder of Hungary. It has the most ornate interiors, with beautiful altars and chapels made of jasper and marble and walls covered by glorious frescoes.

Pisti quickly shepherds us to the Liberty Square, which has several controversial monuments, including the German Occupation memorial and the Soviet War memorial, two successive regimes that oppressed the Hungarian people until their liberation in 1991. Pisti is a great storyteller with an ironic sense of humour, which enlivens Hungary's recent history.

This story is from the June - July 2024 edition of Outlook Traveller.

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This story is from the June - July 2024 edition of Outlook Traveller.

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