Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves.
This week my memories go back to Budapest.
Budapest is a city of vibrant contrasts, a fact that is fitting due its divided history.
Budapest used to consist of the two separate cities of Buda and Pest, until they were united in 1873 after the struggle for Hungarian independence to become the city it is now. The two separate sides of the city are still connected by the Chain Bridge.
Budapest has endured a lot in the past years with nazi and communist occupation that has been the cause of a painful history.
With that said, Budapest is still one of my favorite cities in Europe. It’s also the furthest east I’ve traveled in Europe, and I found the history captivating, heartbreaking, and profound all at once.
Budapest is different from any other city I visited in Europe mostly because of it’s history and the scars or the growth from those scars that have come since the iron curtain days.
A lot of Budapest’s tourism is centered around dark tourism, a type of tourism I’ve come across numerous times around Eastern Europe and Cambodia.
In particular, I remember visiting the House of Terror, which not only housed Hungary’s Arrow Cross Nazi party, but was also used by the AVO, or the communist secret police after the nazis were removed from power.
The basement cells where prisoners were tortured are still intact and were viewable to us as visitors. It was an important building to go see, but it didn’t make it any easier to go to.
In contrast to the darker aspects of Hungary’s history, there’s also a great Byzantine influence in the architecture, Turkish thermal baths of every kind from the 15th and 16th centuries, and an overwhelming feel of a student-centered city that is intellectual, cool, and fashionable.
In the younger generation you tend to see a free-sprited nature, where couples kiss on the streets and there’s a lightness in the air.
In the older generation, which has been through so much, there is still a lot of pain and grievances. It would come off as Budapest simply having a high incidence of grumpy old men, that is, if you were unaware of the history that has taken place in such a short time.
There are some positive ways the communist history has been used around the city, most notably in the unique and quirky ideas and artwork. My favorite thing I came across would have to be the ruin bars in the dark back alleyways around the city.
Someone had the idea to turn old communist houses that were falling into ruins, into these bars that are actually some of the coolest bars I’ve been to in my travels. Brilliant.
Above all, even with all of the extras things on offer, Budapest is a city that has so much natural beauty, it takes your breath away.
When I think back on Budapest I remember the communist history that is still seen all over the city, the Byzantine architecture, and the ridiculously good looking landscapes.
I think it’s about time I explore more of Eastern Europe.
Good Looking Landscapes