I had a few spare days in between finishing shifts at the christmas job I had, and when Candace would arrive from Canada. My friend Cal and I had met up two years previously to do a road-trip around the Balkan states with his wolf Argo as companion. So I reached out to him and did some scouting around for cheap airfares, (not difficult in the post-Christmas quiet period) and we decided on Budapest.
Cal is a keen photographer, (as his Instagram account shows) and Argo is his primary muse. Based full-time in Croatia, it is a relatively easy drive to Budapest. The city would provide a fun few days, not to mention he was looking forward to getting out somewhere and taking some pictures of something that wasn’t his wolf. I had just gotten my new camera and was ready to take it to Morocco the following week – Budapest provided me a great opportunity to get used to it’s settings and have a good play with it first.
Often called the ‘Pearl of the Danube’ – Budapest is a top destination in Europe. It is actually formed of two distinct cities straddling the Danube River and connected by numerous bridges, the most iconic of which is the chain bridge. (above photo). The first and older of the two cities is called Buda, which is built on the hills and limestone terraces to the west of the river, this is where we stayed and to me is the more interesting part of the city as a whole. The second of the two cities is Pest – newer, modern, busy and thriving. Built on the flat plains to the east of the city, Pest is the beating heart of Hungary’s capital.
Fortunately, the apartment we rented was within five minutes walk from the Fishermen’s Bastion – a Disney castle lookalike fortress built in the late 19th-century as a lookout over the city. If you want a super well-priced, amazingly located apartment, here is the link to the booking.com page for it.
Free to access, the balconies and terraces of the Bastion offered us amazing views over the city and it was a photographers dream – even newbies like me could get some stunning photographs. For example; the one below taken at night and the one at the top of this post both feature the same building – the government building. Both of these photos were taken from the fairy-tale like fortress.
A short walk along quiet, pretty streets takes you to Buda Castle which is well worth a visit. Although we were not allowed inside with Argo, there is apparently a cool museum and galleries inside. The whole area is elevated above the surrounding city and the views are amazing – we made sure to explore some of the back streets and hidden areas which always provided neat discoveries and yet more views across the lesser-seen suburbs stretching into the western hills.
Argo the wolfdog likes to start early, and inevitably by 5am I would have an energetic ball of fur jumping on the futon where I slept. This actually worked well as this was the best time to get out and see the city. It was bitterly cold, but wrapped in merino long johns with lots of layers on top, I was able to enjoy walking around the city free of crowds and with views of gorgeous orange and pink sunrises.
As a little side trip one day, we did a road trip out of Budapest to see the surrounding countryside. We headed due north before looping back around, into Slovakia for a short while before crossing back over the Danube into the Hungarian city of Esztergom. The photograph above is the imposing Basilica of Esztergom which stands sentinel, greeting visitors with a sense of grandeur as they cross the bridge back into Hungary.
Although taking Argo inside the museums and art galleries was not allowed, the bars, restaurants and coffee shops were very welcoming of him. After a few hours walking around each morning, we retreated into the warm cafes to enjoy great coffee and talk about life, and cameras. The Hungarians were extremely friendly, and the young folk especially spoke amazing English which was handy because Hungarian is a very tough language to learn. (For example; Hello is ‘Sziasztok‘ and Goodbye is ‘Viszontlátásra‘ – good luck learning those!)*
*Fortunately both the above phrases have acceptable, shorter versions. Hello is simply ‘Szia’ (see-yah) and goodbye can be viszlát (vee-slaht).
I always try to make a point in new countries to at least learn the basic phrases, it makes people so much friendlier and welcoming when they see you absolutely butcher their native tongue! I guess it makes you seem more vulnerable – like a lost child perhaps!
Another great way to beat the cold was to eat our food of choice for the whole three days – Goulash! Meat stew served piping hot in a hollowed out (and huge!) bread roll. Available everywhere in the city for super cheap – the best ones we found were in the food trucks frequented by locals. The touristy restaurant versions didn’t even begin to compare and were perhaps four times the price.
If your appetite for stunning views overlooking the city was not fully satiated at the Fisherman’s Bastion, you would do well to head to the Citadella. (Citadel) A formidable fortress built 230 metres high on Gellért Hill by a commander in the Austrian Empire, Julius Jacob von Haynau, in 1851. We enjoyed an impressive walk alongside the impenetrable walls of the fortress which culminated in a large platform area built into the hillside, adorned with strikingly tall and impressive statues which look out over the city.
I am loving the new camera. It’s humble, but it does the trick! The only issue is that I am scared of outgrowing it quickly and having to buy an upgrade! For now though, I am happy!