Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 3.2: Budapest

Continuing this series of catch up posts you'll find us in Budapest fresh from a near drowning thanks to a good old fashion British Summer rain. The trip from Brockwell Lido to Gatwick Airport was not exactly pleasant, it rained. And rained. And rained.

And then our first experience of budget European airline Easyjet happened. Everything was going smoothly, we taxied to the runway, ignored the air hostesses inflight safety announcement and waited for takeoff. Then we were informed that we were returning to the gate for an unknown reason. Two hours later we are ready to takeoff after the first officer was replaced due to his wife being heavily pregnant and the plane refueled. Yes, we have asked the obvious question several times. just why did he go to work that day if she was so pregnant that he couldn't fly away for 5 hours or so? Anyway it enabled me to read a book and our socks to dry out.

From the moment we arrived in Budapest we were quite taken with the place. If I'm honest I was quite taken with the place before we even left Perth, but the reality didn't disappoint and the two days went far too quickly.

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, a country that was once a major part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and sided with Hitler in the early part of the 20th Century. Post WWII it was left in the hands of Uncle Joe Stalin and his merry band of Communists (very well handled by the capitalist Allies don't you think?) Situated on the banks of the River Danube it has been voted Most Livable City in Central & Eastern Europe, 7th Most Idyllic European City and 9th Most Beautiful City in the world.

If there are 8 more beautiful cities than Budapest I'd be surprised. We wandered around in constant awe to the point where the thesaurus was empty of superlatives and throats were sore from making non-verbal exclamations of pleasure.

Vistas, statuary and architecture all amaze the artistic eye, museums were fascinating and extremely well curated, the weather was beautiful and the people pleasant. As a speaker of only one language we got on very well thanks to large majority of educated Hungarians willing to ignore our ignorance of their language and we were very impressed by the youthful vibrance of the place. Sure there was a homeless problem, I witnessed one man using an empty tuna tin as a cushion whilst he slept on a vent from the world's second oldest metro system at 11am but then all cities have a homeless problem and none of the Hungarians seemed to have sunk low enough to beg tourists for change.

Leah loves to take photos, we have just looked through 500 pictures taken from 3 cameras over 2 days in Budapest. In most situations with digital photography you might take many more photos than necessary because it's all so easy but even if we'd had film we might have spent a fortune on taking pictures of the beauty of Budapest. This is some pictures of us in Budapest:

We ended up running out of time, with so many things we wanted to see and do on our pre-trip itinerary fighting with things we discovered upon arrival for our attention we could easily have spent a week of 14 hour days sightseeing. Instead we took it easy, relaxed in to it and spent some quality time in some very interesting places.

The Hospital in the Rock was initially a hospital built in a natural cave system and only saw use during WWII and for a short period during the 1956 Hungarian anti-Communist Revolution. During the Cold War it was turned in to a classified military nuclear bunker and despite the death of Communism in 1989 remained classified in to the 21st Century. Incredibly a husband and wife team  remained on staff, changing the bed sheets et al fortnightly for nearly 50 years despite the hospital/bunker never being used. The guided tour was in English and both fascinating and a little disturbing, and the rooms are all displayed to best effect with a morbidly humorous collection of wax figures playing doctors, soldiers, nurses, and patients - a fun game to play was 'spot the horrifying injury'. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures but there are a few official snaps to show off and if you're ever in the area it is a tour well worth taking, not least because it is the only non-government funded museum in the city.

Memento Park is a purpose built tourist destination/education centre designed to promote free thinking about the legacy of Communism in Hungary without the need for irony or attempting to turn it all in to a joke. The use of statues as symbolism and propoganda was prevalent during the Communist era and the design of the park uses the same tactics reflected back on them to show the fallacy of Stalin-era Communism. Our tour guide was a very entertaining woman with a fine grasp of the English language and a playful sense of humour. That we were the only two people laughing along was quite surprising. I guess for some Americans it's still not OK to laugh at Communism.

Quite by accident we discovered that the Museum of Applied Arts had a special Art Deco inspired exhibition and so we wandered around the city taking pictures of beautiful things until we found the right building. Again photography wasn't really allowed in the gallery but the building itself was worth the time, the interior of the entrance hall particularly amazing.

One of the final places we visited was the Bedo-Haz, a quite wonderful piece of Art Nouveau whimsy turned in to a cafe/museum. This was one place where photography was allowed so we went a little crazy, touching was not frowned upon either but I think we largely managed to resist and there were a fair few items that were on sale too, which was easy to avoid thanks to heavy shipping costs to Australia.

One last major site ended up being squeezed in at the end of the trip before dashing to the airport. It deserved more time but with the large quantity of noisy schoolkids everywhere we turned The House of Terror probably wouldn't have been something we could have coped with for much longer than we did anyway. The site used by both the Nazis and Communists to interrogate and torture pretty much anyone they felt like and turned in to a museum/commemorative site this is one place that has the power to haunt you if you let it. A selection of exhibitions curated and presented with great skill you do not even need the information sheets provided at the start of each room to feel the desired effect or understand what the intended statement was.


  1. Budapest looks amazing! That was one place we didn't get to visit during our whirlwind trip through Europe, though I would love to go back and check it out.

    1. Hey Eric, apologies for the delay, for some reason I didn't get notifications in October!

      Budapest was indeed wonderful. Hard to find anything from the rest of the trip that came close to impressing us as much. Definitely recommend going.

  2. Budapest does look beautiful, but the Hospital in the Rock looks creepy inside. No wonder you found the tour a little disturbing.

    1. Josh, the photos don't do it justice! There are all of these incredible wax works that look like their in excrutiating pain and a Nazi officer whose eyes seem to follow you around the room. Well worth the trip.