by Carolyn O’Meara, Vision Travel Solutions –
46,259 steps is a good walk; it would get you most of the way from Victoria to Sidney and back again. That’s a pleasant walk but plain vanilla ice cream; take those steps in Budapest and you are on your way to a whole sundae.
Budapest is fondly known as the Queen of the Danube. Its two cities, Buda and Pest, straddle the meandering river. It offers an efficient and inexpensive public transport system, but this October, our transport of choice was our feet. There is no better way to explore a city than on foot: you can focus on the smallest details, stop and smell the flowers, the local sausage or the delicious chimney cake called kurtoskalacs. Instead of passing that quaint café, you can go in and enjoy it. Two days and 46,529 steps later we just scratched the surface of what this grand old city has to offer.
Pedometer in hand (and a pocket full of forint for the pay toilets), we set out to explore what Condé Nast Traveler calls “the world’s second best city.” We can say Conde Nast got it right: from the stately mansions lining Andrassy Boulevard to the imposing Basilica of St. Stephen to the cafés and restaurants that are simply everywhere, there is more to see in Budapest than two days or even two weeks could satisfy. Our two-day hike around Budapest left us foot weary but appreciative of its natural and manmade beauty.
We started our adventure at the shore of the Danube and worked our way through Pest. Changing course, we crossed the Szechenyl Chain Bridge to Buda, ready to explore. A choice of the Siklo, a funicular railway built in 1870, or a walk up the gentle slope brings you to the top. With its romantic streets and alleyways, Ottoman-era thermal baths, Royal Palace and Fisherman’s Bastion to the Matthias Church, impressive views from the top of Castle Hill and the Hungarian Parliament, Buda has much to offer. Let’s not forget to try a nice cold beer and Hungarian sampler plate at one of the many cafés.
Back to Pest we go, this time exploring the remarkably intact Jewish Quarter, the sobering Shoe Memorial to Holocaust victims and hunting down the last intact stretch of the Jewish Ghetto wall, Budapest’s past was not always peaceful. From the Jewish Quarter a good stretch of the legs gets us to Heroes’ Square and City Park, Pest’s green lung.
Present-day Budapest is not made of just its history but also its vibrant present. Pedestrian-friendly plazas abound and offer a shopper’s delight. Stroll the cobblestone back alleys and courtyards and you will find cafés and restaurants offering everything from traditional Hungarian goulash to decadent pastries. Dig deeper and you will find the Michael Jackson memorial tree located across from the Kempinski hotel, Jackson’s favourite and ours too.
Time to rest the feet: climb on to the enormous ferris wheel in Erzsebet Square, sit back and a watch a spectacular view of the lights of Budapest all at your feet.
If Budapest is on your bucket list do your research, buy good shoes and bring along your spirit of adventure. You won’t be disappointed.
For more information email Carolyn.email@example.com.