The Tranquil Buda Castle Hill

The view of Pest from the famous Fishermen Bastion in Buda is always magnificent.  Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The view of Pest from the famous Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda is always magnificent. Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The Fisherman's Bastion is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman's Bastion Cafe has arguably the best locations in town.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman’s Bastion Cafe has arguably the best locations in town. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Buda Castle Hill area has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and remains the gem of Budapest.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Buda Castle Hill area has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and remains the gem of Budapest. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The narrow, residential road on the west side of Buda Castle Hill is a study in beauty and tranquility.  Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The narrow, residential road on the west side of Buda Castle Hill is a study in beauty and tranquility. Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.

You just can’t miss it.  The Buda Castle Hill sits majestically over the city of Budapest as if protecting it like it did a few centuries ago.  Before arriving to Budapest I had read a few travel articles that downplayed this particular part of the city as being too “touristy.”  And yes, the tourists (to include your’s truly) were there, but frankly, I don’t think that some of these travel writers were doing much justice to this wonderful place.  The 360-degree views alone make this part of the city a “must visit” destination.  And if you get there around 7:00 AM like I did, you will have the hill practically all for yourself for a few hours.  And while public transportation can get you there in no time at all, it is a lot more fun to walk across the famous Chain Bridge and then up the hill through the various winding trails and sets of stairs leading to the castle.

But as great as the views were from the eastern, Pest-facing side of Castle Hill, my favorite part of this journey was walking along the promenade that borders the western part of the hill.  This quiet residential area with its tree-lined pedestrian road and incredible views of the Buda Hills at the distance reminded me of the quiet serenity one feels when visiting some of those old European cathedrals.  Walking that empty promenade during the early morning hours accompanied only by the soft light of a morning sun has to be the greatest highlight of my visit to this great city.  And while I may never see this city again, this wonderful morning stroll, lit only by the melancholy light of morning eastern sun, will remain with me forever.

Chilling In Budapest

Like in many cities in Europe, in Budapest you can linger at your table without interruption.  Leica M 240, Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH.
Like in many cities in Europe, in Budapest you can linger at your table without interruption. Leica M 240, Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH.

 

The Danube River shores on the Pest side of the river are lined with large restaurant and hotel boats.  Leica M 240, Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH.
The Danube River shores on the Pest side of the river are lined with large restaurant and hotel boats. Leica M 240, Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH.
The party scene at Erzsébet tér never ends, as hundreds of young people make good use of the parks numerous bars.  Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The party scene at Erzsébet tér never ends, as hundreds of young people make good use of the parks numerous bars. Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
Right behind the imposing Hero's Square you will find the beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle with its incredible moat.  Ricoh GR.
Right behind the imposing Hero’s Square you will find the beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle with its incredible moat. Ricoh GR.

The more I see of Budapest, the more I like this majestic city.  It keeps reminding me of Vienna with its royal castles and beautifully winding streets.   even if unlike Vienna, most of the city could use a fresh coat of paint.  They are getting there, but I’m also beginning to wonder whether  the somewhat worn-down look is what gives the city its unquestionable charm.  You could spend a lifetime staring at the building facades, even if more-often-than-not you’ll have to look up beyond the first floor, which was generally reserved for commercial ventures.

But what makes this city great on my book is that the lively energy manifested by its people seems to live side-by-side with an obvious desire to enjoy life along the way.  In Budapest, people are up and about at all hours of the day and night.  Granted that many of them are tourists, but at the restaurants and bars within the city, the eclectic Hungarian language reins supreme.  How different this is to the center of Washington, DC at night, where you can hear a pin drop at 9:00 PM.  In Budapest, all along the famous Andrássy Avenue leading to Hero’s Square (with its two art galleries on opposite sides of the Square) the city is a constant beehive of activity.  Along the picturesque Danube promenade on the Pest side, restaurant boats and a slew of land-based restaurants with violin music constantly adorning the nights appear to be major hangout for tourists and all sorts of (how should I say this?) evening activities.  A few blocks from the promenade, Budapest’s busiest commercial/pedestrian boulevard (Váci ut.) is even more crowded with tourists trying use up all their forints before heading back home.  No question that with its excellent mass transportation system and many pedestrian-only streets, this city almost begs you to get up and get moving.  In fact, after a few days in the city I have yet to see a single obese person anywhere.  Looking at what people eat around here, though, I can only attribute this to a miracle.  I can only hope that I am similarly blessed with “thinness” during my stay.