Budapest Travel Guide
Budapest Travel Guide
• Currency:Hungarian Foreint
• Exchange: 308HUF =1 EURO
• Population:1.73 mil
Welcome to Budapest! One of the beautiful cities in Europe!
The City sprawls far and wide across the mighty Danube and offers some of the most amazing photo opportunities
Hungarian beer and all the hearty food you can eat…. All for the right price!
Culture of Budapest
The city of Budapest is alive with energy and passion. The cities has thrown off the shackles of communist suppression and what emerged is a city that is ever growing and free to show the world what it’s all about. The people of Budapest are a wonderful and warm natured citizens and always open to new ideas and follow the philosophy of enjoying every minute of life.
The city itself is sprawled across the Danube river and is actually the coming together of 3 cities. Obuda, Pest and Buda, with Obuda and Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other side. So the solution to the new name of the city was simple. As they viewed the city from the citadel with Buda on the left and Pest on the right, they decided to put the names together and it became the name Buda-Pest =Budapest.
Getting Around Budapest
Getting around Budapest isn’t as hard as you think. With Europe’s second metro system ever invented you’ll find it easy! You might be interested to know that the metro in Budapest started being built in 1894 and is second only to the London Underground system.
Hosting 4 lines: M1, M2, M3 and M4 it will take you across the city very easily, with its central meeting hub of the city and the lines being in Deak Square. With single tickets starting at 450 HUF, Its roughly 1.50 euro for a ride. One of the cheapest in Europe! Tickets are easy to buy from the machines in the stations or the ticket offices, buy remember you can also buy 24hr tickets, 72hr tickets and booklets of 10 single trips if you wanted.
History of Budapest
Hungary has a very rich history indeed. From the seven Magyar tribes in the 9th century founding the country where Budapest stands today, its fights and battles with the Turkish, followed by its long Austrian rule and influence or it’s position in both world wars and communist governments that followed. There is something very special about Hungary’s and Budapest’s history. Everywhere you look from its architecture, structures and museums, you are reminded of what the city has seen in her colourful past.
The part that’s fascinating about the Hungarian currency and why it rates a mention in the culture page is due to its very interesting past. The currency that Hungary used before the war, known as the Pengo. In 1946, during the communist regime, Hungary underwent a massive recession. So bad in fact that the cost of items was literally doubling every 15 hrs, due to the collapse of the economy. One solution at the time was to create the 1 Milliard or the 100 Million Billion Pengo. Yes.. You heard right! That is 1 with 00,000,000,000,000,000,000 after it! So many numbers that they wouldn’t fit on the bill. Finally the money was scrapped and a new currency created. The Hungarian Forint.
Although part of the EU Hungary remains on its original currency from before the entered. The Hungarian currency is quite special with its pinks and blue colours to the interesting faces that adorn the notes them-selves. It’s called the Hungarian Forint or HUF, which is how you will often see it displayed on price tags. It can be quite daunting if you are not used to foreign currency due to its high values on the notes. At the time of this printing the exchange rate to the Euro was 1= 308 HUF.
So you can see that if you were to buy an 8 euro cocktail it may be priced on the menu at 2,465 HUF. It often takes a little practice to get your mind around new currency, but don’t worry! Once you pick up the knack for one, you know it for all others.
The best way is to make it simple and divide the total amount by the current rate of exchange for your currency. In this example you could take 2,456 and divide it by 308 using your phone. Or a handy tip is to simply take the exchange rate (308 )and round it up or down to make it easy and multiply until you reach the number you’re after, it won’t be exact, but it will give you your rough amount.( For example, 300, 600, 900, 1200……. Until you reach your magic amount)
Or make it even easier and remove the last two digits from the exchange rate and the cost amount and do your division then. For example:
2,465 at rate of 308 (remove the last 2 digits from each)
= 24 Divided by 3
Food & Drink
Food and Drink is very important to the Hungarians. It not only nurtures the body, but keeps you alive in the bitter cold winters that are known to sweep through the Eastern states of the EU.
You can find food and drink from all walks of life in Budapest, from Mongolian BBQ, Italian Pasta,Mc Donalds, KFC, to even Hard Rock Café American Dining, but Budapest and Hungary is famous for its food that heavily laden in calories and fat. Perfect to keep you full, but also needed during those cold winters to build up calories to help fight the cold.
Pork, Bread, Hungarian style pasta, Potatoes, heavy sauces, goulashes and Beer are very popular on the menus in town. I doubt you will find a traditional meal that doesn’t come with a lot of meat and tons of bread and potatoes. The meals served in these restaurants is also not what you would call calorie controlled portions. They are often HUGE, so make sure you bring your hunger and are up for an amazingly great tasting challenge every time you go out for a meal in Budapest.
Beer is the other big favourite in Budapest, lots of local brews available from the restaurants to even in the super market fridges. In many cases beer is cheaper than bottled water and if you ask a Hungarian male who loves his beer, he may in fact tell you he drinks it instead of water 😉
Just remember to shout out ‘Egeshegedre’ before you have a swig. It means cheers in Hungarian
Budapest is known at ‘the city of spas’ and has so since the mid 30’s. This is because the city sits on one of the world’s largest hot springs of mineral water. People come from all over the world to bathe in the minerals which are believed by many to have healing powers on the body.
The baths can be found either inside or outside and range from warm pools, hot pools, steam rooms and ice plunge baths to give a full spectrum of experience, depending on where you go.
There are more than 15 thermal baths in Budapest if you are counting only the public ones, with the most famous being the Gellert Hill baths, which are in fact located on the Buda side of the city on the Gellert Hill and the Szechenyi Baths, located near Hero’s Square near the city’s parklands.
The average cost for a couple hours in one of the baths is around 24,000 HUF, but this varies from venue to venue and what kind of tastes you have. You can join the masses in the more public of baths or decide to surround yourself in opulence and art nouveau architecture.
Definitively a must do in Budapest.
So what is PDA? And why would it be a big deal in Budapest? Well it’s a short term for public displays of affection and you will find it is usually the younger generation guilty of showing their love in the most public of venues. The older generations tend to frown on showing too many emotions especially anger and its significance really can be dated back to the communist rules and public guidelines put in place after Hungary fell to the Soviets after World War 2.
Communist rule was quite harsh on any displays of affection on public. Holding hands if you were not married was not allowed and definitely no touching or kissing in the public eye. Also if you had a girlfriend/boyfriend you were not allowed to be at their place of residence after certain hours and once again no staying over for the night. Punishments were potentially quite severe and with Budapest being known for its secret police who enforced the rules and handed out the punishments, many people lived in fear and followed the rules.
Today in Budapest you will see the youth with tattoos, piercings and men with long hair, once again all forms of self-expression which were forbidden during communist rule, but these kids never had that experience and their rebellion is what some might say even over compensating their freedom of self-expression.
In any case, if you don’t mind people kissing, women topless in the parks in summer and very affectionate couples on the buses and public transport, then you won’t have a problem in the world visiting this unique stylish city.
We all love a good bar and a nice cocktail! Many of us probably have our favourite haunt that we have been patronizing for years and yes you can find these bars in Budapest too, but through the years it became famous for its ‘Dive Bars’
So what is a Dive Bar you ask? Well imagine music and expression is forbidden, but you’re a rebel and need to stay true to yourself. Going to bar in the open streets is not an option, so you and your friends find an abandoned building. All of a sudden you scrounge some furniture up and more and more people being to come along. Each time more and more items are added and finally you have a DJ with music and a rocking night scene in a place that no one would think to look for you. This is what a Dive Bar was in Budapest and became popular during communist rule and many bars today are still modeled on this idea.
They were easily set up venues which what people could find or afford to bring and also easily abandoned and set up somewhere else when the police caught wind of what was happening.
A favourite bar to visit is Szimpla Kert bar found in Jewish Quarter– Its very much in the spirit of a dive bar and a wonderful night out with friends and a great place to make new friends.
The Magyar Tribes
There have been some regions in the world which have long acted as gigantic gateways for tribes and cultures for centuries. Great migrations of tribal hordes took place through them and so passed the cultures through these gates. An example of this, resounding through the history is carpathian basin. From pre-historic times people like Dacians, Scythians, Huns, Avars set foot in this gateway leaving their marks on land and people. Then came a people from Urals which gave this region an identity still echoing. Magyars came and settled in this region whose ultimate unity gave rise to medieval Hungary (895).
The Turkish Empire want in
Some battles did not just decide the fate of the armies but fate of the nations too. Mohacs (29 August 1526) was one such battle which sealed the fate of medieval Hungary. With it, eastern and central Hungary came under Turkish administrative and cultural influence. Turkish rule over Hungary can be marked by repetitive wars which caused devastation to the population centers of Hungary.The Turkish left other marks of their rule too, which added more to the cultural blend of Hungary. Among these are magnificent Baths of Buda, Mosque of Pasha Qasim in Pécs, minarets in Eger and Érd and Gül Baba tomb in Budapest.
Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) ended the War of the Holy League transferring almost all of ottoman Hungary to the Habsburgs. Hungarian aristocracy however continued efforts to resume Hungary’s special status within Habsburg’s domains, thereby strengthening a sense of nationalism among Hungarian people. Repetitive efforts continued to be made by Habsburgs to transform their empire from loose monarchy to a centralized unitary state, but they resulted into two major rebellions by the Hungarian’s Rákóczi’s War of Independence (1703–11) and Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Ultimately a compromise of dual crowns (1867) was achieved between Austria and Hungary, where later Hungary gained much of it’s autonomy.
Hungary's role in WWI
At the start of WW1 Austria-Hungary’s armies were mainly comprised of Germans and Hungarians. Hungarians fought at many fronts alongside the Austrians against the Russians (Battle of Limanowa and Przemysl) and the Italians (Battles of the Isonzo) during the war. Hungarian losses were great and very little was gained. While at home, Hungary demanded to Vienna that parts of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and later Romania were offered as their shares of war. The opposition leader in Buda, Mihály Károlyi, on the other hand, was secretly negotiating with Allies for independent Hungary. Near the end of the war Károlyi was allowed to make an independent Hungarian government in Buda.
Forced to fight in WW2
Hungarians were inclined to fight along side the Axis powers to regain it’s regions removed by Allies after WW1 and to pacify losses due to Great Depression. At the brink of WW2 it joined the Axis under pressure of Germany and fought in Yugoslavia and Russia alongside the Germans. However knowing their loses would once again be great, it began an armistice negotiations with Allies forces. Knowing this, Hitler’s German Forces captured Hungary in 1944. Upon Soviet threatening, Regent Miklós Horthy signed an armistice with USSR. But Regent was deposed by German backed Fascist Ferenc Szálasi. Defeat of combined German and Hungarian forces (1945) shifted Hungary to Russian hands, ultimately becoming People’s Republic of Hungary in 1949 and joining USSR.
Under Communist Rule
In 1945 elections, conducted after fascist’s end, Independent Smallholders Party won 57% votes whereas Hungarian Communist Party succeeded in getting only 7%, but the Soviet commander Marshal Kliment Voroshilov refused a public government and instead formed a coalition government with communists on some key posts. Meanwhile a communist’s controlled interior ministry continued manipulating or removing other parties leaders one by one. By 1947, communists had become largest party gaining majority in famous “blue-ballot” elections. Communists gave ultimatum to others to merge with them or go in exile, thereby eventually ending Republic of Hungary and starting People’s Republic of Hungary.
The House of Terror
House of terror can be regarded as a Real Time Museum as it doesn’t just been arranged to hold memorials related to fascist and communist regimes, but it in itself has been a center of their crimes. When the communists moved to Budapest, they replaced Nazi secret headquarters by their own secret police named Államvédelmi Hatóság or ÁVH (Hungarian version of KGB) in the same building where museum is. Hundreds and thousands were tortured in the building. Its basement acted as a prison for communist’s declared enemies of the states. Executions were a routine task carried out in the building.
The New Capital
Hungary has taken turbulent shifts since the fall of communism (1989). Hungary is placed among the fastest countries to overthrow communist policies. It witnessed its first free elections in 1990 resembling western style democracy system. The 1990 elections though saw a coming back of many communists’ members, but the country continued to shift towards the west by gaining membership of NATO (1999) and EU (1st May 2004). The financial situation of the country beleaguered in 2000’s due to some controversial policies which was further hampered by the 2008 recession. Nevertheless, there are still much brighter prospects if policies are set in the right direction, and with a healthy flow of tourism to the country, things are looking much brighter in the post communist era.
Top 10 sights
The Fresh Food Markets
Laybrinth of Buda Castle
Shoes on the Danube & Parliament House
House of Terror
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