Tuesday, November 8, 2016

181. Budapest divided ...


Packed my bags and said goodbye to Vienna - my next destination is Budapest - just two and a half hours away by train.

Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary, and one of the largest cities in the European Union. It is actually two cities divided by the Danube River - but became a single city occupying both banks of the river with the unification of Buda and Óbuda on the west bank, with Pest on the east bank in 1873.

My apartment for three weeks - on the Pest side of the Danube - is just ten minutes by Metro into the city centre ...

 My home-away-from-home is on the fourth floor - 
and yes, there is an elevator...
 
Nice views over a child-minding centre towards the city ...

The Danube has its source in the Black Forest Region of Germany and flows southeast through 10 countries before spilling into the Black Sea ... 
I first encountered the Danube in Vienna - and will discover it one more time in coming months as I continue my travels through Eastern Europe . 

The white Elizabeth Bridge in the foreground 
and the famous Chain Bridge next along ...

Eight bridges span the Danube in Budapest linking Buda and Pest, each with a fascinating tale to tell. The oldest is the famous Chain Bridge, which was opened for public traffic in 1849.
 
Chain Bridge ...

... was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849. In World War II, the bridge was blown up on 18 January 1945 by the retreating Germans during the Siege of Budapest, with only the towers remaining, and was rebuilt, and it reopened in 1949. The stone lions that have decorated the Chain Bridge since 1852 survived the devastation of the war.

The Lions at either end and on both sides
 - carved by Janos Maschalko

detail ...

  detail ...

The history of Budapest began as a Celtic settlement before 1AD, then followed centuries of successive habitation by Celts, Romans, Huns, Slavs, Gepids and Avars. The foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád in the Honfoglalás. His great-grandson Stephen I ascended to the throne in 1000 AD, converting the country to a Christian kingdom.

By the 12th century, Hungary became a middle power within the Western world, reaching a golden age by the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526 and about 150 years of partial Ottoman occupation (1541–1699), Hungary came under Habsburg rule, and later formed a significant part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire (1867–1918).

Hungary's current borders were first established by the Treaty of Trianon (1920) after World War I, when the country lost 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. 
 
... looking West ...

Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II,  and suffered significant damage and casualties from allied bombing, and then after the war Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a four-decade-long communist dictatorship (1947–1989). 

The country gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the opening of its previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989, which accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. And on 23 October 1989, Hungary again became a democratic parliamentary republic.

Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Republic of Councils in 1919, the Battle of Budapest in 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.

   
The Elizabeth Bridge crossing the Danube from beneath the Citadel Fortress 
- withSt Stephens Bascilica popping up in the background ...

 

Parliament Building on the Pest side of the Danube ...


Parliament Building completed 1904 ...
   
Luxury River Cruisers tied up for the winter months ...

 
Day trip cruisers also tied up for a tourist-free winter
 
Margaret Island Bridge ...

Citadel Fortress to the upper left
and Buda Castle to the upper right ...

The Budapest Metropolitan Area is now home to 3.3 million people ( plus many thousands of tourists from far and wide … ) and covers an area of 525 square kilometers.
 
I'll stay on the banks of the Danube in my next blog with a most moving memorial ...