Driving into Budapest from the airport where I had previously felt excited, nervous, ecstatic, all of those overwhelming feelings you get when you arrive into an unknown destination, was a far cry from the way I was feeling as we began to enter Budapest. I felt as though I was driving through a scene of the film ‘The Chernobyl Diaries’, much to my disappointment the place was filled with tower blocked flats, graffiti and looked as though it could do with a good hose down with some industrial bleach, so I guess you can imagine the look of concern on my face.
Luckily the very friendly and talkative Hungarian taxi driver took my mind off what I was looking at and was more than happy to help provide information on the best places to visit, food to try and other cultural aspects of Budapest. As we drew closer to the Pest side of Budapest a brush of relief came across me, there was beautiful buildings after beautiful buildings, I felt somewhat shocked, relieved and up mostly overwhelmed, it was magnificent, and I couldn’t wait to see the Buda side, where my hotel was situated.
The Art’Otel Budapest, where I was staying, was just as wonderful, with a cross of the road I was stood on the side of the River Danube, with the parliament building gracefully flaunting its beauty at me and the Chain bridge to my right, calling out at me to cross into the Pest side, I felt as though I could almost touch them. Amongst all these feelings, one stood out the most and that was the feeling of hunger, it was lunch time by now and if I was going to go and explore I needed to fuel up first. Walking around Buda looking for somewhere to get authentic Hungarian food almost felt as though I was walking in a city un-touched by tourism and the contrast of Buda to Pest was significantly clear, almost as if you were walking from your village into the city. Feeling slightly exhausted and even hungrier I eventually found a small café. I knew exactly what I wanted to try and was very excited as I am a complete food-lover.
The little café I was sat in was full of Hungarian people and all I could hear was the sound of their very quick and complicated language but that was exactly what I wanted to hear as I tucked into my Goulash, Goulash is a traditional Hungarian meal, and a very delightful meal, the taste of paprika combined with the beef and vegetables, absolutely yummy comfort food.
Now I have entertained you with my passion for food, you will not be surprised to learn that one of my favourite places I visited in Budapest was the famous central food market (Nagy Vasarcsarnok). The building is located in the Pest side and the building is nothing but exquisite on the outside, yet on the inside it is a raw iron building with cast iron street lamps. As I entered the building the first thing that hit me was the smell, the smells of paprika, garlic and chilli from the vegetable stands mixed with the smell of fresh salami’s and smoked meat from the meat stand was just divine, and a smell I wish I could smell, every time I go food shopping in England. I was also able to try some local delicacies in the market, including Traditional Hungarian food like a langos which tasted almost like a savoury doughnut and some Hungarian sausages. Whilst eating I could hear a variety of different languages combining into a soft murmur which sat like a cloud at the top of the market hall.
Another place that specifically stood out to me whilst I was in Budapest was The House of Terror, yet this gave me the complete opposite feelings to what the food hall did.
The House of Terror is a museum, containing exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary, yet it is the exact building where victims of these regimes, including those detained, where interrogated, tortured or killed which sadistically gives it a sense of authenticity.
The moment I walked into the building I felt a brush of coldness, I had never felt like I was in such a dark place before. Although it opened my eyes to Hungarian history and was somewhat interesting, I felt disgusted and wanted to cry all the way through. Even writing about it now brings a sense of heartbreak and sadness to me. I almost felt an urge of guilt, that there was nothing I could have done to help the victims, which I clearly couldn’t have.
Now, when you enter the house of terror you view it floor by floor, and the basement is the last port of call before you leave; there is a reason for this. Basements are naturally cold places in buildings but this basement was even colder, this was where the victims were detained, interrogated, tortured and killed.
I will never forget the smell of dampness and the way I felt as I stood in the room with the gallows. I don’t even think there is a word that can describe how I felt in that basement; it was a mixture of feeling sick, grief-stricken, sad, shocked, apologetic, disturbed and plain angry. I couldn’t stay and left promptly.
Although the House of Terror affected me in a negative way it gave me a form of motivation to want to learn more about the history of Budapest and helped me to understand other attractions like Heroes Square and The Citadella, it was an important and unforgettable part of my adventure in Budapest.
So after 3 days of being a Tourist and 3 days of mixed emotions, I sat on my last night, looking onto the parliament building and river Danube watching Hungarian life go by and that is when I felt the biggest feeling I had felt throughout my whole visit, a feeling of belonging, and wanting to be sat looking at a view like this, every night for the rest of my life…
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