For 24 hours, I joined a crew of like minded people on a trip to Budapest to see a concert sponsored by Telekom. We had only one day and one night to discover everything (or at least: as much as we could) about this historical and cultural bastion of Eastern Europe.
Budapest is considered to be the most beautiful city in Eastern Europe. The unique Art Nouveau buildings, the blue Danube, the thermal springs and the coffee house culture: the Hungarian capital earns to be compared to Paris. Budapest is the political, economic and cultural center of the country, and about one fifth of the ten million Hungarians live here.
In 1873, Buda, Old Buda and Pest united to form the new capital of Hungary. Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, wanted to turn Budapest into a city that would surpass Vienna in beauty and pomp. I’ve not been to Vienna, but my short stint in Budapest made me want to see more of this magnificent former kingdom.
Although Buda and Pest were united as early as 1873, the former division within the city’s borders can still be felt today. Even my short trip was colored by stark differences between both sides of the river.
Reside in Buda and live in Pest
On the hilly western bank of the Danube lies the venerable Buda. The renovated old town quarter, the narrow streets and the famous castle palace are reminiscent of the splendid time of the Habsburgs. Behind it are the bungalows and villas of Budapest’s more conservative upper class.
On the eastern side of the Danube – in the lowlands – lies Pest, the lively city of students, workers, artists and merchants. Here in the city centre with its Art Nouveau buildings and magnificent boulevards, life pulsates; here are theatres, entertainment districts, industry and crafts.
That is why the Budapest saying “Reside in Buda and live in Pest” still applies today. But as a Pestster you can live in hilly Buda for years and still remain a “lowlander”.