My love affair with Budapest started about ten years ago when I accompanied my husband on a trip to visit his extended family in Hungary. My first contact with the city was truly love at first sight. Something about that place made me feel like I belonged there since forever and believe me, it wasn’t my husband’s relatives. Since then we went back very many times and that feeling still persists.
It is difficult to explain what made me fall in love with this city, what dazzled me about this place. I often wonder: is it the buildings, the streets, the squares and the sights? Is it the restaurants, the shopping malls, or the art museums? Of course, I think it is all that, but it is more than what the eye can see. It is probably the tumult of the streets, the atmosphere, the friendliness of the people, the energy of the place. The charm and hospitality that Budapest exults makes it a very unique city that never ceases to amaze me. A big metropolis and yet a friendly place, it captivates me, it makes me linger, it makes me feel alive.
We usually keep a very busy schedule when we travel trying to cover as much territory as we can, and Budapest was no exception. My poor mother-in-law was barely keeping up with us. It was a beautiful late fall weather in Budapest, with warm days and cool nights. By mid September, the humid summer days with burning asphalt are over. We spent the first few days visiting the old part of the city, atop the Buda Hill. Most of the attractions in this area are part of the World Heritage Site (Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church) and are really a must-see.
In the next several days we visited the sites on the Pest side, the downtown Budapest. Although the old buildings have a patina of grit on them as their paint color, they are amazingly beautiful. Back in the 90’s, the Hungarian government started a restoration process of the historic buildings. In the years that followed many of these old buildings have been brought to their pre-war beauty, but unfortunately the process slowed down considerably lately. Apparently the funds allocated for the restoration had been spent on other projects by the politicians in power, as I was told by the locals.
Dining with Family
Soon after we arrived in Budapest our relatives organized a get-together party in one of the cousin’s back yard. Old and young, aunts, nephews and cousins, all gathered to toast the famous cseresznye pálinka (cherry pálinka) while reminiscing about the “good-old-days” in the evening breeze. Meanwhile, cousin Lacko was preparing the much awaited goulash right before our eyes.
The last day of your vacation seems always the best, maybe just because being at the end you want to make it the most memorable. On our last evening in Budapest we took a boat tour on the Danube because no trip to Budapest would be complete without one. There’s no better way to enjoy the grandeur of this city than cruising on the Danube in the evening, gently rocked by the waves, with a glass of Martini in your hand. The views on both sides are breathtaking, with the illuminated sites contouring in the dark. Several companies in Budapest offer sightseeing cruises with options running from one-hour audio guided tours to somptuos dinner parties, with live music and dance.
The boats depart from the city center and may be open-deck or glass covered, depending on the type of cruise you choose. I can’t recommend any particular tour, we took several ones over the years and were very pleased with most of them. Just be sure to grab a sweater (the boat movement makes the air feel colder than on the shore) and head to the docks.
In the end so strong was my attachment to Budapest, that I convinced my husband we should make an investment in this place. The following year I returned and bought an apartment there. It took a lot of courage and determination to overcome the language barrier and perform such a complicated task, but luckily I found a lot of good souls among my Hungarian friends and relatives who helped me accomplish my goal. We enjoyed this apartment a lot over the years and regard it as our home overseas.