I know. It’s been ages and you don’t know where we are. You’ve seen facebook posts showing us in Virginia and blog posts showing us forever stuck in Hungary. We committed to share our European trip with you and we promise we are going to continue to do so!
Although we are back in the States safe and sound, travel back with us for a moment to a chilly weekend in Hungary.
We’ve talked a lot about the Pest side but now it’s Buda’s time to shine! As we crossed the river, the Castle Hill was a stark contrast to the flat city of Pest. The top is only 100 meters up so we chose to take the walking path rather than wait in a 20 minute line for the Funicular. (Seemed a little costly to us, instead of just strapping on our sneakers and tackling the hill.)
The “Castle” at the top is actually a Baroque Royal Palace. It was originally built in the 13th century, seized by the Ottomans and several others, and finally bombed during World War II. Now the building is a World Heritage site and home to the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. Very easy to spend hours in either, just try not to get lost…
After touring the History Museum, we continued further into the Castle District. We wove through a very tight-knit collection of medieval houses and buildings that were once enclosed by the city wall. Behind the houses you could often see the beautiful cathedral standing tall.
The Matthias Church was one of the most visually stunning churches we’d visited so far. This could possibly be attributed to the extensive restoration work that was done in the 1800s to bring back its vibrant colors and complexities. But my favorite part was the multi-colored tiled roof. Just beautiful!
Just outside the church sits a combination of structures known as Fisherman’s Bastion. This had a more eclectic, whimsical feel and had stunning views of Parliament and Pest. There isn’t much to do but admire the architecture, but it’s a really fun stop to make. The interesting buildings look more like sandcastles or Disney movies than real life!
Heading inside to avoid the afternoon rain, we found what is referred to as “The Labyrinth.” Created by geothermic activity “at the dawn of time,” The Labyrinth is a series of caves that span the entirety of Castle Hill! You can tour more than a kilometer of them and learn their creepy history by the light of oil lamps. They house old Hungarian Opera costumes and sets down here and play opera music throughout the tunnels.
But back to the creepy part… The caves were first used about 500 Million years ago by prehistoric hunters, later became refuge from invasions, then torture chambers, wine cellars, treasuries, military hospitals, fall-out shelters, and… a jail system for Dracula! THE Dracula. As you tour the caves, you are reminded way too often that Vlad the Impaler (the real dracula, not some vampire story) was jailed here for 2 years and tortured people in the very spots you are standing. There are terrifying fake heads on spikes in dark corners that you come upon as you stroll through the dense smoke. Cool place, but super scary.
Note: The photo above is from the very beginning, the LIGHTEST part of the labyrinth. It only gets darker as you go along and there is very thick smoke/fog making it near impossible to see in front of you.
Overall, the Buda side is full of old history and interesting architecture. We loved staying in the Pest area, but a day or two across the Danube is a must.