The bustling metropolis greeted me with a golden glow as the sun set on the horizon. I loved my hostel situated within a residential building right in the center of the jewish district, Erzsébetváros. Next door is a kebap stand where I can get a delicious shawarma even late at night. Next to that is a great coffee shop for my caffeine fix, and across is a plaza full of restaurants and bars and even hosts art vendors on weekends. In short, I was in the center of it all. First order of business: I toasted the beginning of my trip with a glass of Pálinka, a traditional brandy made from locally grown fruits. (In spite of the fruit flavor it tasted very, very strong. Kinda like downing a shot of rubbing alcohol.)

kebap

when in doubt where I am, look for me in a coffee shop

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Next morning I walked through the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to cross to the Buda side. The Chain Bridge is structurally made of cast iron and spans the Danube River to connect the Buda and Pest sides. It was a windy day and although sunny, the wind was chilly. I hurried across. At the western end of the bridge is the bottom of the Buda Castle District. One can either ride a funicular up or take an easy 10 minute walk up around the wall.

danube river
view of Danube, chain bridge, and Pest side 
chain bridge front
the chain bridge

lift royal palace

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The Buda side is more residential and less lively. But I enjoyed my visit to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Matthias Church was named after King Matthias.  It had seen quite a bit of history including King Matthias’ two weddings, coronations of the last two Habsburg kings, and survived World War II. I was drawn by the colorful roof tiles, very striking contrast to the white façade of the church. The terrace of the Fisherman’s Bastion guards around it. Its name was derived from the fishermen responsible for defending this part of the city walls. It also affords great views of the city.

st mathias church
Matthias Church
Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
posta
cute post office in the Castle District
Castle District
Castle District

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The Castle District has a quaint old confectionary (cukrászda) called Ruszwurm. Opened since 1827, it makes really good cakes and marzipans. Grab a table outside and you could be sipping on excellent coffee and eating sweet cakes with a view of Matthias church, just like I did.

coffee

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Back on the Pest side I did more sightseeing: walked the length of Andrássy út (avenue). Recognized as a World Heritage Site, it was lined with big mansions, apartments and townhouses with beautiful façades, fine restaurants, and shopping boutiques. The boulevard ends in Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), one of the major squares in Budapest.

Opera House
Opera House

metro sign

House of Terror, the headquarters of the ÁVH secret police during WWII.
House of Terror, the headquarters of the ÁVH secret police during WWII. 
street view
Andrássy út 
the Timewheel, world's largest hourglass.  The
the Timewheel, world’s largest hourglass. The “sand” (glass granules) flows from the top to the bottom chamber for one year, finishing on New Year’s Eve, then the hourglass is reset once again.
Heroes' Square
Heroes’ Square

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Right behind the Heroes’ Square is one of the ubiquitous Budapest baths: Széchenyi Baths. It is one of the largest public baths in Europe with over a dozen thermal baths. The ticket options was a bit confusing at first as they have specific prices for every situation, but after getting an admission ticket with a cabin to change in I was ready to go. The hot water felt good on this chilly day, and it was fun watching old locals in bathing suits playing chess in the pool.

bath

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At night is even more fun visiting the numerous ruin pubs in the city. Ruin Pubs started when abandoned buildings and scraps of lands were turned into pubs equipped with throw-away tables, chairs, furnitures, garage-sale items and decorations unique to its owners. In this sense each ruin pub is different from the others. One of my favorites was the original ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, a multi-level abandoned building with a different theme in each room.

szimple kert sign szimple kert

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The most striking building in Budapest, in my opinion, was the Parliament, which sits right along the Danube river.

parliament by danube

parliament back

parliament front

me at the parliament

parliament by danube river

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I read in my guidebook that part of the original ghetto wall can be found behind a residential apartment building at Király utca 15. So I waited outside until a resident opened the gate, snuck in, and proceeded to the back wall where I found it:  written on the plaque was a map of the location of this wall, and a quote from Exodus 13:8 “You shall tell your son…”

ghetto wall

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Here’s more of Budapest:

the Jewish Synagogue
the Great Synagogue

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st stephen
St. Stephen’s Basilica which contains the mummified hand of St. Stephen
cathedral street
St. Stephen’s Basilica in the background

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Shoes on the Danube Memorial, to remember the Hungarian Jews shot and thrown into the Danube.
Shoes on the Danube Memorial, to remember the Hungarian Jews shot and thrown into the Danube.

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street

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street pic
little itty bitty hamburger stand

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lights

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food

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ferris wheel night

chain bridge night
the Chain Bridge at night

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Köszönöm (“ku-zu-num”) is Hungarian for thank you.  Budapest seemed confusing at first because it was the first city I’ve traveled to where I completely do not understand the language.  Nevertheless, I tried to learn a few simple words to get by.  Köszönöm is a small word that goes a long way, and it was nice to be able to exchange a word in their language. 

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