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A river runs through it

The Hungarian capital has been the target of invasions down the centuries. But the vibrant complexities of BUDAPEST are attracting a more discernible visitor. Worrls.‘ Allan Radcliffe

it her stupendous l‘inal noyel. ll'i'si' (Wilt/rm. the late

Angela (‘arter posed the question: ‘Why is London like

Budapest." The answer was: ‘Because it is two cities diyided by a riyer.’ The Hungarian capital is emphatically a marriage ol‘ com enience between two once indepemlent. autonomous regions: rugged. residential Buda. incorporating historic ()buda. on the l8—mile western bank ol‘ the Danube: and the bustling. industrial centre ol~ l’est in the cast.

In a w ranglc typical (ii that between siblings. the one endeayouring to assert supremacy oy er the other. the city was originally called l’est-Buda on its merger in l.\’73. Yet unlike London. Paris or e\ en (ilasgow. there is no oyerall sense ol‘ one side ol‘ the riy er being superior or more enticing than the UlltL‘l'.

Not that there aren’t contradictions inherent within the city. :\s helits a middle-liuropean metropolis that. in its 2()()()- year history. has been occupied by Romans. (ioths. lluns. lurks. (iermans and Soyiets enjoying tree and lair democracy tor a mere l2 years there‘s an inl'cctious. resurgent l‘eel to Budapest. tempered by regular reminders ol‘ its turbulent history. Most striking among these is the liberation Monument marking the (ierman retreat at the end of the Second World War. It depicts a woman holding alol't a giant Ieal' and stands perched dramatically aboye Buda's (‘itadel. oyerlooking the ri\ er.

Meanwhile. at the loot ol the steep (iellert hill. the modern iron and stone bridges that link Buda to l’est are also mementoes to spilt Hungarian blood. the (iermans haying blown tip eyery one of the old bridges as w ell as Buda (‘astle on their llight from the city.

Yet. trayerse these bridges to the shopping and seryice L‘L‘nll'c Ul. l)C\l and. across the llUlCl\. Citlcs. restaurants and assorted tourist attractions. you get the impression (it a city and a people gaining confidence. Most are barely able to

110 THE LIST~1

conceal a pride in their country. its culture and the possibility (it a rosy luture at the heart ol the liuropean l'nion. 'Why did you come to Hungary." and 'Is this your lirst Visit." are typical introductory questions l'rom the lriendly. laid back residents.

Realising that llungarian is yet to achieye the status ol‘

essential lingua l'ranca. (host (it the locals speak either (ierman or linglish. but always appear delighted to hear the odd Hungarian phrase from tourists. such as 'llody y'an'.” (how 's it going'.’i or 'ls'os/onom' (thank you). ()n being asked Mr sightseeing reciimmcndations. most residents will adyisc taking a boat trip on the Danube. which costs around _i()()() llorints (about U0). 'l'his e\cursion is especially worthwhile at night when the sumptuous l’arliament building on the l’est side and the medie\al. lh’th and l‘)th century ('astle District on Buda‘s western bank are impressiyely lloodlit.

l-‘or a lew l'lorints more. you can take a comprehensiye city tour with a guide that includes \isits to llcroes' Square. the Parliament building and the beautil'ul Matthias ('hurch. [i such sightseeing-by-numbers sounds exhausting (and with temperatures in summer topping 35 degrees. too much actiyity is inadyisablel why not simply take a leisurely e\plorati\e stroll around the city. stopping oll' l‘or a glass or ligri Bikay er. a lull-blooded red wine from the celebrated liger ‘Beautil‘ul l.ady 's \'alley.' ()r il~ pampering is more ol' a priotrity. take a therapeutic dip in one (it the many local bathhouses.

liyerything's cheap and welcoming and. in a city of contradictions that's bristling yet tranquil. traditional yet l'orwaid-looking. there's pretty much something l‘or eyeryone. .\'e\ er has a hoary old cliche been so apt.


Contradictions abound in this middle European metropolis