On reflection I don’t really have the words to describe just how stunningly gorgeous the city of Budapest is, we ran out of superlatives very early on and the sheer number of photos I took (even when you discount several retakes) of random buildings and parks, statues and memorials, should provide some indication of how much beauty is crammed into the centre of the city.
However it is a strange juxtaposition of ancient ornamental buildings alongside communist era concrete monstrosities and modern steel and glass constructions. Some of the older and more important buildings have been cleaned up, but throughout the city you can still see remnants of the 1956 revolution (and beyond), with bullet-marked buildings dotted around the sidestreets.
For someone of both my generation and my nationality, seeing bullet craters peppered across a building is an odd and unsettling sight. It makes the history so much more vivid, and I am genuinely glad that our Hungarian host was so forthcoming with the details of his the turbulent life of his country. On that note, perhaps we should be teaching Scottish history here in our schools, as I certainly couldn’t have gone into the level of detail he did.
He also made sure we got to try some real Hungarian treats, and so we found ourselves spending an evening grilling large lumps of bacon fat over an open flame, catching the dripping on thick wedges of fresh bread, and eating the crispy bits. And then we got to taste some Tokaji, a sweet Hungarian dessert wine that is about as close to alcoholic nectar as you can imagine, and all that was before the wine tour, the trip to the Széchenyi baths which was quite wonderful as the three different pools are all at different temperatures, and a dinner cruise on the Danube.
I had planned to write a lot more about this trip but the more I think about the more I realise that I don’t want it to be something that I try and capture, there are somethings you just can’t digitise.
It was a trip of delight, laughter, and genuine awe and wonder. We had entertaining company, gracious hosts, delicious food and drink, and even a 10 minute deluge couldn’t dampen our spirits. It is a wonderful city, full of friendly people, with an excellent transport system. A city which embraces the future whilst honouring the past, with an emerging cosmopolitan feel. If you do get a chance, go!