Budapest, Hungary


Anastasia Chukovskaya

Normafa is a reserved place on Svábhegy hill in Buda frequented by citizens for picnics and strolls. Winters have not been snowy in recent years, and no skiers jump in snowdrifts, no elevators buzz on the slopes, like it was a century ago. Still, a spectacular view of the internal part of Buda, Danube and Pest behind the Parliament is just the same. The hill inherited its poetic name from the composer Bellini. In 1840, the National Theatre troupe arrived here, and one of female opera singers performed an aria from Norma opera. Normafa means in Magyar Norma's tree. According to a legend, a beech grew here in the 15th century when Mátyás ruled. In 1927, the tree fell but people never forgot about it. A plaque hangs here today along with a new tree growing.
It is nice to have a stroll here, at the edge of a woody hill, learn paths and views, try lángos in a stall near the plaque (a Hungarian flat cake with cheese or cottage cheese, fried in oil, similar to donut but not sweet) and drink a coffee in a cafe built at the beginning of the 20th century. If the wind carries kids' laughter, it is not a hallucination. There is a kids playground with a bungee 400 m from the beech, upwards the hill.
Another attractive sight of Normafa is a pioneer railway running deep in the hill. This is a Soviet relict still serving the kids between 10 and 14 years. The only grown up here is the driver. Children 'work' as cashiers, watch the rails, check tickets and carry out other operations.

The easiest way to reach Normafa is to take bus 21 or 21A from Széll Kálmán tér metro station. Also, you may use railway near Széll Kálmán tér - route 60 from Városmajor.


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