I keep getting distracted writing this post. Not by other tasks still to do or by the endless black hole of the Internet (which is my usual style) but preocupied by the offshoots and tangents I find myself researching as I look back on my trip to Budapest.
I visited just after New Year, the first weekend in January so this post has been a long time coming.
Our first port of call was the Basilica of St Stephen, Hungary’s most important Catholic Church. It contains the mummified right hand of its’ namesake, which quite frankly is nothing great to look at. Preserving relics for the sake of worship seems strange to me, but I do find the historical side of things interesting.
We climbed a maze of spiralling staircases and were rewarded with views across the city from the top of the 96m church dome.
OK, it doesn’t look like much (and photographically it isn’t) but I had a real moment here. I was pondering the atmosphere of Budapest, taking in the cold, grey landscape, the buildings disguised by fog in the distance. (People describe cities as giving off vibes, but I hate that word, and this is sounding pretentious enough already.) My knowledge of history here is sketchy but vague notions of life behind the Iron Curtain bring up certain associations. Time might have passed but to an outsider in a country with an unfathomable language, history lingers.
But back to this moment of mine! All these thoughts in my head were disturbed by this rather dated tram which came trundling into view. A shade of retro mustard yellow, I could practically hear this song playing and savoured my moment in my own Wes Anderson film (if only!) Knowing of the soon to be released The Grand Budapest Hotel, this was bound to happen at some point.
Crossing the chain bridge brings you to the Royal Palace, the top attraction in Budapest. It sprawls across part of Castle Hill and now comprises of the National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and the National Library. Don’t forget all the fountains, statues and monuments too. If we’d had more time, we’d have investigated this inside and out. As happens in Winter, we were forced inside by the impending dusk.
Back at home, when asked about my holiday, I struggled to explain just what the city was like and I wondered why I couldn’t quite put my finger on these thoughts of Budapest. Of course, all the best ideas have already been done and someone’s always been there before you. In this case, good old Wes has summed up the Eastern European spirit I was trying to get a hold on by creating the Republic of Zubrowka, the setting for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yes, it’s a film (which incidentally I haven’t seen yet) but take a look at the Academie Zubrowka for a few hints of that feeling I had watching the tram ricket past in Budapest.
I think I’ll carry on exploring this tangent which keeps distracting me for a little while longer…