Hungary 1 – Postcard from Budapest

SONY DSCTravel writing is relatively easy when you go to a country you’ve never visited before; new impressions, unknown culture, stuff you’ve only heard about before. It’s much harder to write about your home country, where everything is familiar, almost like a part of you. I have spent more than 30 years of my life in Hungary and I simply don’t know where to begin. So I decided that after a short introduction I rather try and give you a little insight into things that are close to my heart.

SONY DSCUndoubtedly, Hungary has a rich history dating back to Celtic and Roman times, had a lot of foreign influence (150 years of Ottoman occupation during the 16th-17th century, 50 years as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 40 years of Soviet occupation after World War II, etc.), all changing and shaping its face into what we see today. Budapest (Hungary’s capital) is often cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, frequently compared to Vienna, and called Paris of Central Europe. Hungary is smaller and maybe less influential than its neighbours but I’m proud to say it’s still among the 25 most visited places in the world.

Hungary is often associated with a few iconic sights in Budapest. Indeed, the city has several UNESCO world heritage sites including the Buda Castle Quarter (one of my favourites with its first walls constructed in the 13th century), Andrássy Avenue ending on Heroes’ Square, both along the second-oldest metro line in the world, the Millennium Underground Railway. Not to mention the banks of the Danube, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the Opera House; and I could go on. Budapest also has close to a 100 geothermal springs and several thermal baths (some are Turkish bathhouses build during the Ottoman occupation), the world’s largest thermal water cave system, and the world’s third largest (and probably most picturesque) Parliament building. Listing few of the sights however doesn’t do the city justice; it’s also an impossible feat without dedicating an entire book to the task. And there is so much more to Budapest than the sights. Not to mention the rest of the country.

I love my city, because beyond the fabulous architecture and colourful history it means family, familiarity and good memories. I enjoy seeing how it changes with the seasons, relish the long walks in City Park, be it on the first warm day of spring or in the first snow. I miss the rich flavour of the food, the local produce that somehow tastes different in other parts of the world. I miss the cityscape, the luscious seasonal markets and the artisan fairs. And above all I miss my family. My first impression when I returned after 5 years? It’s much more liveable now than it was back then. I see the changes, the effort put in to maintain important and iconic Hungaricums in order to attract more tourists and foreign students year after year. Would I move back? Maybe, in time. There is so much I haven’t seen of the world yet.

Stay tuned for the second glance next time.
I’ll also visit the countryside, and enjoy lots and lots of glorious food.
In the meantime, enjoy my photo gallery of the trip here.

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