Budapest is a beautiful city shrowded with a violent and chequered past. Sitting astride the River Danube and the capital city of Hungary, Budapest is actually a city grown from a small settlement on one bank of the Danube, to a Roman stronghold and then developed on from the towns of Obuda, Buda and Pesti.....
Submitted by : Bruce L.ChantARTICLE :
Budapest is a beautiful city shrouded with a violent and chequered past.
Sitting astride the River Danube and the capital city of Hungary, Budapest is actually a city grown from a small settlement on one bank of the Danube, to a Roman stronghold and then developed on from the towns of Obuda, Buda and Pesti.
Originally a Celtic settlement, the first and original town of 'Ak Ink' was later settled by the Roman Empire who used it as a strategic centre for it's military campaigns and capital of what was then it's province of 'Pannonia Inferior'. The River Danube was often the geographic border of many warring factions and later, the Roman Empire lost their hold of the city during the rise of the Huns and the Goths. The Romans were never to return.
After the Hun empire fell, the area was to change hands many times until the appearance of the Hungarians in the 10th century who renamed the town Obuda and used it as the centre of administration. Some 300 years later, and with a bourgeois mixture of Germanic and Hungarian peoples, Pesti began to develop on the opposite bank of the Danube. Later during major fortification of the entire province, a third town of Buda appeared and eventually became the capital, over-shadowing the development of both Obuda and Pesti.
It was at around this time (15th Century) that the Hungarian Empire had reached it's climatic peak with control over a vast area of the Eastern and Central regions of Europe. Buda was, at this point, the centre of administration of the entire empire, as well as being the region's major political and cultural capital. The rest of Europe, however, was moving rapidly in the opposite direction and developing into separate states and principalities having been worn down by many hundreds of years of conflict, of which the Roman Empire had played a major part.
At around the end of the 16th century, the Turks, who used it mainly for military administration, controlled Buda and Pest. For 150 years, they remained under Turkish Control and the slowly the towns lost their significance in the region. This was especially the case during the relatively peaceful duration of the 18th century when many other European Capitals saw their populations increase dramatically. It wasn't until the very end of the 18th Century and the period of the 19th century leading up to the First World War, that the city of Budapest (as all three towns had now become known), began to grow again. Its population grew dramatically and its prosperity became an attraction for migrants from far-afield.
Along with Vienna, Budapest was now at the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and became a major economic trading centre and a cultural influence to areas outside of the Empire.
The years that followed ensured Budapest's success. With new bridges crossing the Danube and the development of Europe's second underground railway in 1896 (London being the first), the growth of the city was assured. Problems came following the First World War when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up. This resulted in the relatively small country of Hungary having a Capital city that was far too big to administer. Much of the rest of Hungary and it's towns had developed at a much slower pace and were primarily based around agriculture. Budapest, however had developed into a major industrial centre and now that infrastructure was no longer their to support it, cracks were starting to form.
The Second World War was thought to have been the city's nemesis, having just about recovered from the problems it had inherited after the first. Much of the city was destroyed and it's population also suffered greatly. However, the city and it's people persevered once again and even though the socialist state that had administered it in the years following the war had not invested in it at all, the city still grew. Not as rapidly as before, but enough to allow it, and the people of Hungary, to break free of the socialist chains in 1989 that were holding it back.
Again, Budapest is poised to be one of Europe's most influential cities, providing that the political and economical climate will allow it. Yet again, Budapest is now a flourishing city, with a unique blend of Western commerce and eastern values. While most other countries in the region are in conflict with themselves (The Balkans etc), Hungary has maintained a sense of self-worth, due probably to the history of it's last hundred years. The people are resilient and are probably the friendliest you will find in Europe.
Much of Budapest’s architecture reflects its history and influences. The parliament building, although designed by Imre Steindl, is said to have taken its influences from The Palace of Westminster in London. The Császár baths were originally thought to be at the location of a hospital during the knights’ crusades in the Middle ages. It was the Turks that built the baths there, utilising Europe’s hottest natural springs. They are still in full use today.
If you get the chance, I would recommend a visit to Budapest. The accommodation is non-expensive, especially pension apartments which are located all over the city. Food and drink is of a first rate quality and is very good value, especially in the non-tourist establishments. If you do go into restaurants in the tourist areas, expect to pay double, if not more than you would elsewhere in Budapest. I do recommend a day at the Turkish baths. It's a good excuse to unwind, and you will find two pools; one hot and one cold and then there's the sauna. You are supposed to go into the hot pool first, then the sauna, and then to the cold pool afterwards. I challenge anyone (other than local people) to bear the sauna for longer than ten minutes. I managed about 5 minutes; made my excuses and left to cool down!
All in all, Budapest is probably my favourite European City. Nothing, in my opinion matches it. It is more romantic than Paris, more elegant than Venice and more cosmopolitan than London or Berlin.
Go if you can. You will love it.