Friday, October 10, 2014

Under & Over

Budapest is actually made up of two cities divided by the Danube River. There was once a city called Buda on one side and another called Pest on the other. They are also very different, even today. Pest was built on the bend in the river and takes advantage of the flat land there to create a dense downtown core. Buda on the opposite side of the river is built on a steep hill and provided the castle defenses and a protected palace for the “Royals”.

The Tunnels under the City
The differences go deeper than this, way deeper actually, right under the city. The hills of Buda are riddled with caves and underground passages. These were used for many things including a wartime hospital, a bunker system and welcome to Europe, wine storage. One of Budapest’s attractions is the Labirinthus, a series of caves and passages under the hill. It is billed as a spooky self guided tour of the caverns, containing wax figures showing how people actually lived in the caves. There were references to Dracula and a torture chamber. We had time so decided to have a look.

Really . . . . . . ?
The wax figures in 18th century dress looked completely out of place in these caves so I doubt this actually was where they lived, and the references to Dracula were general stories about vampires, and they did not even say a vampire lived here. As for the torture chamber we must have missed that side passage . . .

The tour is presented as a self guided walking tour and a vague map is tacked to the wall throughout the complex, and arrows guide you. You are warmed not to get lost, but this is really part of the attraction. They provide just enough space between arrows to get you concerned, the “You are Here” markers on some of the maps seem to have faded a lot, and the light is just dim enough to make you wonder what was up ahead in the dark. Of course we didn’t get lost, I never found the wine cellar, and we located the exit without encountering any vampires.
Budapest's Eye

And then for something completely different . . . . . .

In the center of the central section of the city, someone stuck an “Eye”, a little sister to London’s “Eye”, a giant Ferris Wheel. We had seen it on the River Cruise bus tour, and then on a walk around the neighborhood, it suddenly reappeared. You might think you could see it from all over sticking up as it does above Budapest’s modest height buildings, but unless you get close it remains hidden. The narrow old streets do not give you much of a view skyward, and the Architecture tend to be built out over the narrow cobbled sidewalks to make the most of the building’s footprint, so the ‘Eye’ mostly remains unobtrusively out of view. Unlike London’s ‘Eye’ stuck on the bank of the Thames, Budapest’s was placed in a city park, and you have to actively look for it.

We did manage to find it, and took a ride, which for three revolutions gave us a spectacular view out over Budapest’s nighttime cityscape. So in one day we were under the city and over the city.   

1 comment:

  1. Somehow I missed this blog post! I would have loved both the tunnels and the ferris wheel, I think. There is a large ferris wheel in Seattle that we've seen so many times and haven't managed to find the time to ride in. I think I'm going to make a concerted effort to do so the next time we're down there.