When I think of what a typical European city looks like, some things come to mind. Cobblestone streets, castles, sidewalk cafés, and architectural craftsmanship to name a few. Now, obviously not all European cities can come to life straight out of a fairytale. Especially in this day and time when designs are becoming more and more modernized.
Budapest as a whole doesn’t have this fairytale feel. However, there is one area of the city that will take you back a few centuries.
This district, which is a World Heritage sight, is called Várnegyed or Castle District (Castle Hill). This area does not disappoint, from it’s cozy, two-story pastel-painted houses, it’s vast overlook of the city, and dated history. From the castle, to the Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church it will also have tourists checking off things on their to see list.
click to enlarge pictures:
One fall day, I decided to take a stroll here. Now getting up to Castle Hill isn’t that much of a pain in the ass. Liberty Hill on the other hand, is a different story. Those “Hill” names were not created equally. Luckily, there are a few options to choose from to reach Castle Hill. The first option, that I took this day, is to walk! As you can imagine, there’s a few flights of stairs. Coming from the Danube I believe it’s more of an incline, but this day I came from the opposite direction, from Szell Kálmán tér. Maybe the ground is higher here, or maybe the incline is more elongated over a longer period of time, but I found the walk not to be so treacherous.
There are two other options to access the hill, one is to take a funicular (inclined railway) to the top. The other is to take a public bus (#16/16A). The only cars allowed on Castle Hill are for people who are residing or working there.
Now, I’m no history teacher or even history student for that matter. I’ve picked up what I know from museums, signs and Wikipedia, so I’m not a very reliable source for information. But my point is to give you a briefing on it, while you’re looking at these pictures, it’s important to know the story behind it. And besides, who would ever have a reason to look up Hungarian history (besides if you were actually Hungarian). I can almost guarantee the average person knows little to nothing about it. So here’s the jest of it, specifically about the Castle Hill area.
The first royal residence on this hill was back in the Middle ages, sometime between 1247 and 1265. The Middle ages (from the year 895) were the years in which Hungary actually became Hungary, and was ruled (mostly) by Hungarians. In the 1500’s to late 1600’s, the Ottoman Turks here for awhile. That was until the (Austrian) Habsburgs came in and conquered the area in the early 1700’s (specifically speaking about the Castle Hill area). In 1918 the Hungarian’s finally regained power to rule their country. Although even in power, they were not out of times of destruction. The Royal Palace here was the last major stronghold Nazi Germany/Axis Forces held in Budapest in 1944 during the Soviets siege of Budapest.
As you can imagine, none of these conquers were very peaceful. The buildings that once stood here, are long gone. When the Turks gained the territory, they made changes to fit their likings. When the Habsburgs gained it, it was majorly destroyed and they rebuilt in a Baroque style, which is what remains now. In the 1944 battle, the palace and surely other buildings were destroyed to the point of no return. Directly after that battle was over, restorers started rebuilding the palace. The buildings were rebuilt and restored to look like they did before the chaos. Over the years, they’ve done an amazing job at making it look like it’s never been through bad times, though if one looks hard enough they can find the remains.
There are a few museums located here, but the only one I’ve been to so far is Hospital in the Rock. It was incredibly interesting, especially if you are interested in World War two history. There are literally caves in this hill, which were first natural and then created to be larger and more sustainable. Over some tough years it was used as a hospital and could’ve been a bomb shelter if needed. It was quite eery to say the least.
I love this area in Budapest and I will definitely be exploring more here, and hopefully go to the other museums as well. I would also like to look at the palace more in-depth and tour around that.