was of course part of the old soviet bloc but now Budapest
its capital is vying for the title of the leading city
of Eastern Europe and a visitor can feel “post-communist-now-European”
euphoria is breaking out and the boom has just begun.
The city is ideal for a weekend break as it is easy to
get there and it is richer in local colour than Prague
and because there are few budget flights if any then you
are guaranteed to be rubbing shoulder with the Hungarians,
ot perhaps sharing a thermal swimming bath with them.
Architectually Budapest is a place of weird and truly
wonderful juxtapositions. The ancient towns of Buda and
Pest were united in 1873 but the city still remains in
two parts – Buda on the craggy hills topped by the
medieval ramparts and old town and Pest with its grand
Imperial squares and avenues. The latter is packed with
pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs and the young Hungarians
enjoying themed pubs, riverside restaurant, street parties
and trying to improve their English.
to do in Budapest uinclude exploring the ancient town
on Castle Hill and Look at the Royal Palace. From here
you can take the aged funicular down to the Danube. The
northernmost Muslim holy site in Europe is Gul Baba’s
Tomb set in a lovely Islamic style garden overlooking
the Danube and with views over Pest. South of the city
is Statue Park with lots of old communist era statues
striking redundant revolutionary poses. The forbidding
old lady in the kiosk will sell you Soviet-style T-shirts
and toy Trabants. The Lizt Academy has recitals every
Saturday at 11am and the building is a museum as it was
the place where Lizt spent the last five years of his
life. There are also steam rooms and saunas and mixed
steam bathing pools.