By James Weber
As I sit on the bus travelling through the city, I chuckle to myself at the irony as George Ezra’s song “Budapest” begins to play. Looking out of the window, I see old, 1920’s art deco architecture alongside the more modern day designs of the 21st century passing by. Instead of the two designs clashing, they actually work well together, complimenting each other; old and new side-by-side under the grey skies of December in Hungary’s capital, Budapest.
The bus continues to drive on, and I watch the mighty Danube River flowing freely between the banks of Buda on one side and Pest on the other, imitating the fast paced life of the locals on both sides. Cars and buses travel over the Chain bridge to reach the opposite side; time doesn’t stop in Budapest, and it certainly doesn’t slow down as people head on their way to work. The heart of the Hungarian country, the Hungarian Parliament, sits on the banks of the Danube River watching the flow of the river pass by. Lights dot the windows of the building, giving it life and a sense of being.
Not far from the Hungarian Parliament is St. Stephen’s Basilica, an immense church named after the first King of Hungary, King Stephen. In the silence, the sounds of the outside city are cut off; the only sounds you hear are your footsteps as you walk amongst the rows upon rows of pews – occasionally seeing someone kneeling in prayer, or thought. The low lighting provides an atmosphere, which is both eerie, yet welcoming – giving you time with your thoughts.
Even outside in Budapest, people weave between the streets, exploring what secrets the city can reveal. The Fisherman’s Bastion protecting the mighty Buda Castle for centuries near the Danube River now attracts interest from all over the world, with Mathias Church standing in the background. The Bastion holding stories of the past, of events it has seen within its stonework, waits for the right time to reveal them. Throngs of people gather to see the beauty of Budapest below, while others simply gaze over the sights and reminisce of their past, of their history and what is their kingdom.
I come to realise, just before my bus reaches its stop, that Budapest is a city that has a life of its own, even in the cold winter days of December. There is a sense of rhythm to the city – every morning, when Budapest awakes, you can feel the rhythm begin, and it continues into the night. Its atmosphere is warm and welcoming and there is much to discover about its history. Spending only four days in Budapest barely scratched the surface and I hope to return soon to explore more of this beautiful and timeless city.