Budapest: European Charm, History, and Beauty by Bonnie and Bill Neely

The Hills of Buda

When we arrived in Budapest Ferihegy Airport a very helpful teen signaled a taxi for us and gave a certificate saying our price is fixed at 3,500 ft (about $14 US or EU), and a young girl handed us a most helpful Budapest Pocket Guide in English, which proved to be excellent. It all happened so fast we didn’t know what had hit us, and we were suddenly in the taxi and on our way. We were lucky that the price was very fair because we had not researched it ahead of time. To save any problem get an official airport taxi, or from anywhere in Budapest you can call a taxi from a public phone without any coins. They will send a taxi to whatever place you say immediately. This is a reliable association of the three secure and best companies. The way to ascertain where you are so they can locate you is to look on the cornerstone of the buildings at any corner to learn the street names of the intersections. It’s OK to tell your driver, “slow and careful.”
The distinguished city of Budapest was once three towns, Old Buda, Buda, and Peste, on two sides of the Danube River. The hills of the Budas were claimed by the original Magyars, the seven horsemen tribes who dominated central Europe in the ninth century. These hills have natural cave systems and underground mineral springs, which delighted the Romans who later settled here. In 1,000 AD when Stephen was crowned King and head of the church, this was not the capital city as it is today. In the first millennium Esztergom, about 60 km north, was the center of government.
In the twelfth century the present fortress was built overlooking the Danube waterway, which in those days served as a major “road” for commerce through Europe. It was in that period that the St. Stephen Cathedral was built, but not over the bones of the kings. In fact, Hungary’s royal cemetery was desecrated during the wars, and the country has only one royal grave, that of Buda III, which is seen in the cathedral today. Take the funicular scenic ride to the top of the hill. In the Buda hill part of the city, the Royal Cathedral has high mass every Sunday to which many visitors come for the service and the wondrous music in the majestic surroundings. You’ll definitely want to see this, one of the finest cathedrals in Europe with exquisite holy interior. It is the site of royal coronations and ceremonies.
Be sure to note the statue of the Holy Virgin in an alcove to the left as you enter. To preserve her from being desecrated by the Turks who took over the Cathedral in the fifteenth century, the Hungarians made a solid wall to hide her. The Turks turned the cathedral into a mosque, with virtually no decoration inside. The Hungarians had prayed fervently to be freed from the Turk invaders, and during one of the battles a small earthquake occurred which knocked down the wall that hid the Virgin. The Turks fled in terror of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin.
The Cathedral area has suffered much through many wars. During the most recent restorations in the late 1800’s the marvelous stained glass and the amazing porcelain roofs of the Cathedral and other buildings were added. These roof porcelains were made in the famous Zsolnay factories.
Just behind the Cathedral you’ll find the sign “wine cellar” in English. If you wish to purchase wine, this is the place to do so. You can sample in their fine cellar, which has over 600 varieties of wines from 22 vintners. This is a great rest stop at the end of your long day.
While you’re in the hills of Buda you’ll want to see the Palace, which was bombed during World War II and is today used as offices. The building also houses a great library and the Hungarian National Art Museum. Ask a guide in your language to explain the marvelous paintings, which depict the turbulent and painful history of this brave nation. From the Palace turrets you’ll find some of the best places to photograph or view of the flatter
area of Peste. The turrets were constructed by the fishermen who, in times past, were required to patrol this area of the city.
An evening meal in Buda is a MUST at the Marvany-Menyasszony Restaurant in Krisztina Town with a history back to the turn of the 17th century. There you’ll feast on delicious, typical Hungarian food while being entertained by Gypsies performing traditional dances in Hungarian folklore costumes. The musicians are excellent. After you return home, you’ll re-live the spirit of joy, and the color and fun of the evening many times in your memory.