Budapest: Follow the History

Budapest, Hungary

5 places

Anastasia Chukovskaya

Budapest was part of the Roman Empire, was ruled by the Turks for 150 years, saw gypsies and Jews, sheltered Serbs fleeing from the Ottoman invasion and in the 20th century was government by Soviet communists. They all left traces – discover them following this route.

Aquincumi Múzeuma

Archaeological remains of Aquincum were found in Budapest end of the 19th century. The ancient city used to be the heart of the Roman Pannonia province. By the end of the second century, tens of thousands of people lived here.

Well preserved remains of Aquincum feature two amphitheaters, streets, public bath walls and building foundations. Local museum displays household items of the citizens discovered by archaeologists. Romans had heated mosaic floors as early as the second century. You will find a detailed description of the system in the museum.

Gül Baba Türbe és Rózsakert Budapest

Buda used to be an important point for Turks - further territories could be conquered from here. They destroyed much more than built, turning churches to mosques. However, you'll discover wonderful bathhouses here with arch domes. Visit Király and Rudas to be sure that Turks enjoyed themselves in Buda.

It is also worth climbing Gül Baba utca to see a nice garden with a fascinating view of the city. Turks turned the place into a mausoleum of dervish Gül Baba's (Father of Roses in English), who arrived in Buda in 1541 to be in charge of local religious life but died almost right away. There are two versions of this. The famous dervish either died during a prayer of thanks to the Turks' victory or was killed at the siege of Buda. Any way, his funeral was flamboyant. A small garden round the mausoleum proves the point. There is no city fuss here. You may just relax in the shadow of flowering trees, drink from the murmuring fountain and see the city from the above.

After catching your breath, continue ascending the hill. This is a fashionable district Rózsadomb with villas and small apartment houses with gardens. There are no tourists here, while locals are considered to be very wealthy people.

Jewish Quarter

Jewish Quarter is the territory of a former ghetto. Not long ago, ruined houses stood here with nailed up windows. Today, the quarter is a hive of activity. Along with kosher stalls and mikvah for women, you will find here noisy ruin pubs, crowds of tourists thronging the synagogues, hasid children in kippahs and tallits running from school and whole families strolling on Saturdays. What was preserved is now protected by UNESCO. Only facades are left from many houses, waiting for what will happen to them. Some houses were chosen by promoters for new bars, while some will be given grants from the government for repairs.

When strolling the quarter, you may notice a house with stained glass windows and the stars of David, a house with a seven-branched candlestick in Síp utca, an orthodox school in a Jewish house near the synagogue in Kazincy utca and remains of a ghetto wall which can be spotted from Kiraly 15. Rumbach and other streets have golden plates on the ground with the names of killed Jews who used to live here. One of the most touching Shoah memorials is located on the Danube beyond the Parliament. Children's footwear are scattered on the shore, commemorating 80 000 Jews who were shot and thrown in the river.

The history of Hungarian Jews is very rich, but if you are interested in more and want to know details of the heroic act of a Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, then you should go on excursion to the synagogue in Nagy diofa utca or to Massolit book cafe in Nagy diofa utca. Massolit has a plenty of books dedicated to the Jewish quarter, as well as books in English, including a collection of books by recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature Imre Kertész, a Hungarian Jew who was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 14.

The Church of Saint George

Budapest is an amazing European city that was formed under the influence of many cultures. Apart from Austrian legacy, you will also find signs of Jewish, Turkish, Gypsy and Serbian impact.

During the last six centuries, the city's history has been closely associated with Serbs. In the 15th century, they fled from Turks just to face the conflict in Kosovo five hundred years after. There was time when they had a whole district in Buda which unfortunately has not been preserved. In Pesta, you may, however, walk a Serbian street Szerb utca and see several Orthodox churches. One of them is a baroque Church of Saint George built between 1695 and 1697. It is in a walking distance from a noisy trade street Vaci, but here you will find absolute silence and quietude.

Magyarországi Roma Parlament

Roma appeared in Hungary in the 14th century. It is known from history that they performed for the Hungarian Queen Beatrice of Luxembourg. In the 16th century, Turks described Roma in Hungary as musicians, barbers, gunmen and soldiers. They were considered immigrants from Egypt for a long time, that is why in history books they were called Pharaoh's people.

In the 20th century, Roma found themselves in severe poverty and during World War II went through hell just like Jews. The Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest has a separate section dedicated to Roma. Today, around 80 000 Roma live in Budapest, while the Roma population makes up 13 percent of Hungary. Debates about unemployment among them never stop in Hungary. Efforts are taken to fight against begging in the city's centre. The European Union issues a report on education every year. This is the only useful means so far.

Most of city's Roma live in the poorest area of the 8th district. The area is very colorful and dangerous at the same time. And still, it is worth visiting, at least the Roma Parliament. This is a non-profit institution which studies and promotes Romany culture. Hungarian Romany concerts are performed here along with exhibitions, lectures and film shows. The institution also seeks to formalize the politically correct ethnonym Roma meaning Hungarian Gypsies.


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