Budapest, comprising the twin cities of Buda and Pest, neatly cut by the River Danube, is simply spectacular.
The Hungarian Parliament, located on the banks of the Danube, the largest building in Hungary was designed by Imre Steindl and built in 1902. Forty million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kg of gold went into the construction, which today holds 242 sculptures on the walls, the coats of arms of kings and dukes on the windows, some awesome ornamental stairs, frescoes on the ceiling, a plethora of stained glass and glass mosaics.
The fabled Szechenyi suspension bridge straddling the Danube between Buda and Pest, dates back to 1849 and is a cast-iron wonder. During WWII, it was blown to smithereens by the retreating Germans; the magnificent stone lions at the start and end of the bridge survived the assault, though. The rebuilt structure opened in 1949 and has remained a tourist magnet since. Several films, television serials, music videos have been shot on this bridge including the climax scene of SLB`s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
An absolute must-do is a boat trip down the river, preferably after sunset, where you sit on the top deck with a brisk breeze blowing, and gaze spellbound at Budapest`s stunning buildings and bridges all lit up: the Chain Bridge, the Elizabeth Bridge, the Liberty Bridge, the Hungarian Academy, Gresham Palace, Buda Castle hill, Mattias Church, Hungarian Parliament, Gellert hill, the Palace of Arts, the whimsical Whale.
This slightly menacing statue of a hooded figure is opposite Vajdahunyad Castle and is that of Anonymous or Master P, the unknown chronicler at the court of King Béla III, who wrote a history of the early Magyars. Aspiring authors go touch the pen with the shiny tip in his hand for inspiration.
The Neo-Baroque style Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, the largest medicinal bath in Europe, is spread over 67,000 sq ft., contains 15 indoor and three outdoor pools of temperatures ranging from 18 degrees to 38 degrees C, along with saunas and steam baths. Its water is supplied by two thermal springs, and contains a hoist of beneficial minerals like sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, metaboric acid and fluoride. Ideally, you need to buy yourself a half-day ticket and just loll in all the indoor pools, ending the experience with a whirlpool experience in the outdoor pool under impossibly blue skies and watched over by ancient statues.
The Halászbástya or Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style situated on the Buda bank of the Danube. Its seven towers represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 895. You can stroll along its many-levelled viewing terraces and take in truly panoramic views of Danube, Margaret Island, Pest in front of you and the Gellért Hill, then sit down to a delectable Hungarian meal at one of the Bastion`s excellent restaurants.
All across the city, the sharp-eyed tourist will spot the most curious little metal sculptures. They are the work of Mihály Kolodko, a guerilla-sculptor, who peppers the city with his whimsical works. This one is Főkukac, a happy little worm from a popular Hungarian TV show, sitting and staring at the Danube.
All photos by Sheila Kumar and are subject to copyright.