Ah, the shimmering waters of the blue Danube, like a song we played in grade school music class. The famous Chain Bridge connects a rather flat Pest, with its more hilly, sister, Buda. And like many hilly cities in the world, a funicular (tram for Americans) traverses up Castle Hill to Old Town on the Buda side.
Budapest is the capital and largest city of Hungary, with about 1.8 million people. It became a single city back in 1873. Many friends say it is the most beautiful city in Europe. We can blame the Celts for settling here, but you can read the rest on your favorite history website. Just about everyone settled here and conquered at one time or another. And it was once hidden by the infamous Iron Curtain!
So, what comes to mind when people say Budapest? Among many options, the world class classical music scene, the thermal baths, and architecture, resulting in “the Paris of the East”, though St. Petersburg, and Prague also lay claim! Budapest became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
Chain Bridge: “Completed in 1849, the oldest, arguably most beautiful and certainly the most photographed of Budapest’s bridges, floodlit at night. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube. At the time of its construction it was the second-largest suspension bridge throughout the world. Four stone lions taken their place at the edge of the bridge in 1852. They fortunately survived from the air raids of the World War II.”
The Hungarian National Parliament Building is the largest in Europe (third largest in the world), bigger than Moscow’s Kremlin, London’s Parliament, or the Vatican. Of course, it is only one meter wider, and one meter longer than the British version!
Budapest is HOT! Yes, more than 70 million liters of thermal waters rise to the surface daily. This has given rise to dozens of medicinal baths and to a bathing culture that began in Roman times.
Budapest has the oldest subway line on mainland Europe. It opened in 1896, the same year my Grandfather came to the U.S. from Japan! It is still in use today as the M1 Subway connecting the city center with City Park.
Budapest is home to the second largest synagogue in the world. The Dohany Street Synagogue can handle 3,000 worshippers, and covers over 21,000 square feet. It was built between 1854 and 1859.
I repeat: The word ‘Budapest’ came from the combined city of Buda and Pest. The two cities were united into a single city in the year 1873. The name ‘Buda’ comes from the name of its founder Buda, brother of the Hunnic ruler Attila. The name ‘Pest’ comes from the word “Pession”, a fortress during the Roman time.
Erno Rubik, the inventor of the Cube, was born in Budapest. Aren’t you glad you asked? The old physic professor, Dr. Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, was born here as well. Likewise Harry Houdini, and Bela Lugosi.
Hungary has 13 Nobel prize winners, so far. They have won the sixth most medals in the history of the modern Olympics.