Budapest – A Jewel of A City On The Danube River


The capital of Hungary, on the Danube River, is known as The Pearl of The Danube.

Even during the “Soviet” era, Budapest was a subdued, but charming city.

The population seemed to be gloomy, but never unfriendly, or refused to help if they could and when asked.

Budapest has two sides, hilly Buda, and flat Pest, straddling the mighty Danube River.

Grandiose government buildings on well-maintained grounds are on the Pest side.

Buda on the hill, offers the best views of the Pest and the Danube.

It offers a unique atmosphere, influenced by Paris and Viennese imperial architecture rooted in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The city’s first settlements date back to Celtic tribes. Romans followed them, and ruled Pannonia until 880 AD.

In 1541 both Buda and Pest fell to Ottoman Turks, and was re-conquered by the Hapsburg Empire’s armies in 1686.

Hungary, especially Budapest, had a turbulent history with many armies occupying the land, but eventually all were forced to leave.

Budapest, like every other big city, has tourist sites, but also gritty neighbourhoods that can be compared to the slums of New York, Istanbul, Paris, London, and any other major city.

Tourism officials do not like to talk about these unsightly places, and try to suppress any printed material from publishing, yet these neighbourhoods offer insights into a community that may be very “alive” and “colourful” with individuals as varied as artists, musicians, and crooks.

Hungary, like many other central and eastern European countries, is home to thousands of Roma, who generally excel in playing the violin in restaurants, bars, and occasionally, also on streets; they are the poor and underprivileged. They live in ghettos of Budapest’s central eight district, and generally are not mentioned in any promotional tourism literature.

Jozsefvaros (Joseph town) was home to Roma predominantly, but now is also home to Turks, Chinese, Arabs, Africans, and other nationalities constituting a blend of cultures, traditions, and ways of thinking.

Prejudices exist; even in advanced and enlightened societies, and now Roma offer tourists and locals tours of their neighbourhood in an attempt to eliminate preconceived beliefs about their way of life.

The one-and-a-half hour tour starts with a gypsy violinist, leading to a pawnshop, an art gallery, the neighbourhood square (Maytas Square), and former Dreher Brewery with magnificent mosaics.

The Roma tour Jozsefvaros includes Salgo and Orjani Street Synagogue, the Rakoczi Cemetery, the Orcykert Park and the Botanical gardens adjacent to the Natural History Museum.

The tour is well worth the time and effort to better understand Roma, and their way of life.