Blue Danube

Danube is not blue; it is muddy brown because it makes a long journey passing through nearly ten European countries before falling into the Black Sea. It is only shorter than the Volga. Originating in Germany it was once upon a time the border of the Roman Empire.

Blue Danube is a famous waltz composed by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss in 1866. Commonly known as Blue Danube in English, the original title in German is An der schönen blauen Donau or By the Beautiful Blue Danube. I first read about Blue Danube in one of the books written by Shafeeq-ur-Rahman, the quintessential author of the timeless age of youth, laughter and romance.

Danube famously flows through Budapest (pronounced Boodah Pesht) the capital city of Hungary, dividing it into two parts. Buda is the hilly part and Pest (pronounced Pesht) is the one on the plains. Part of this fairy tale city’s mystique comes from the River Danube. You will most likely find a hotel room in Pest. If you can afford, you can select one like the Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m sure you’ve seen the very entertaining movie by the same name. If you haven’t I would highly recommend that you see it. From experience I can tell you that Budapest offers many affordable places to stay and food on a good budget. You should if you want to sample the cuisine of the city, try the goulash. I must confess I found it a bland watery version of our aloo gosht. If you don’t want to be adventurous, you have wide choice of doner kebabs with beef fillings. I cannot vouch that they serve halal meat but some vendors claim to do so. Hungarian is a difficult language but people are friendly and often try to give directions in English.

Budapest by all accounts is a wonderful city with an eclectic mix of history and culture. It has many historical monuments, natural thermal baths, exciting cultural activity and a very vibrant musical scene. It’s without doubt one of Europe’s most delightful and enjoyable cities. Due to its scenic setting and its architecture it is nicknamed Paris of the East. In 1987 Budapest was added to the UNESCO World heritage UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.

Budapest has one of the most elaborate traffic systems in Europe. Its underground boasts of being one of the oldest in Europe. We bought a three day travel pass and we could travel in the bus, train, metro, tram and boat. This was cheaper than the hop on hop off tickets being sold to the tourists. A boat trip took us to the island in the Danube, where we were entertained to a show of musical fountains dancing on the tunes of some good music. We also experienced music and dance in front of the art museum located in the royal palace and fort. The palace is beautifully maintained and during the Ottoman reign it also had a mosque. The natural baths in the city also owe their existence to the tradition of the Turkish hamams. One of the most exquisite views that one can get is from the funicular that moves up and down the hill to the palace by means of cables, pulleys and levers. Another place to view the city especially at night is from one of the bridges. The most famous bridge is of course the old suspension or chain bridge. The boat and barge traffic moving up and down the river provides a very nice view. At night it is an out of the world experience as you view buildings like the parliament house, the royal palace, the churches and temples and the old citadel brilliantly lit up and giving a dreamlike substance to the city.

The city is so full of places to visit and few days that we had planned were not enough. Some of the must see places are the old Basilica (also experience it by night), the Hero’s square and the House of Terror documenting the resistance of the people against the Soviet invasion in 1956 and the subsequent communist rule. You may also like to visit the Central European University in the heart of the city if you can squeeze out some time.

 

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