I woke up early today — earlier, I think, than even I had realized. I cleaned up and headed out into the desolate streets of the city thinking, “Oh – it’s just a Sunday morning.”
But, really, there was no place to go and nobody to see.
I could see the Buda castle, but I knew that it wouldn’t be open. When I had started my day so early, I expected I would stop in a cafe.
But the cafes weren’t open either. It was quite a while and quite a bit of walking until one finally opened, and I sat there lingering over cappuccino and breakfast. Then the rain came and I lingered a bit longer.
Eventually, well into the morning, the rain had largely abated and I paid my bill, pulled up my hood, and finally headed out across the Danube.
I took the funicular up, pausing at the top to take in the view of the city below me, wedged between the wide river and the ponderous sky.
At the top, I reached the Buda Castle, which has been standing here, in various iterations, for centuries.
There are two museums here: The National Gallery and the Castle Museum. I really just didn’t think I could handle a day staring at art, so the Castle Museum was my objective. Except, of course, that I couldn’t find my way in to the museum. Really – I couldn’t even find evidence that it existed.
After some time spent walking back and forth in search of a clue, I saw somebody come out of a nondescript doorway below me. That’s the door to the left in that picture. The guide books had mentioned it being located in older parts of the castle, so I headed there, and finally found a sign. This wasn’t actually the museum, but it got me pointed the right way.
When I found and entered the museum, the woman told me I could only use my camera if I paid a fee, but I could use my cell phone for free. This, I have to say, is ridiculous, because my phone takes fantastic photos. But I respectfully complied, heading off into the museum.
The entrance was on the lowest level, where they showcased some of the oldest sections of the castle, including these remains of the chapel, much of which has since been destroyed. It is a quiet, serene, and isolated space. Another of the sacred spaces I keep finding.
Moving along through the museum we see various remnants of the ages in the castle, eventually ascending up a level into the baroque.
Continuing upward, my interest was piqued by this second century wine amphora from Crete. The threads tying the blog together become stronger when I find things like this.
And these communist-era street signs. It is interesting how much of the communist era is disappearing here.
And finally these paleolithic findings from the local hills, which date to 10,000 – 50,000 BC were the last thing I saw in the museum. In case you hadn’t figured it out, there really wasn’t a strong temporal arrangement to the collection.
Escaping the museum, the sky hadn’t yet begun to clear, but there was no more rain, so I headed north. Now I noticed many more signs for the Castle Museum – I’d just been looking in the wrong place.
This took me to Old Town Buda, which is adorable, and a bit of a tourist trap.
Central within it is Matthias Church, which is inescapably beautiful.
Continuing on, I found lunch, and eventually jet lag. So I returned down the hill to the edge of the Danube, pausing long enough to glance back at the funicular (here’s the photo I neglected to show you earlier) and across the chain bridge.
The old bridge you keep seeing in my photos, by the way, is the first built across the Danube here in Budapest – the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, and very iconic in much the same way the Brooklyn Bridge is.
The worst part of the Chain Bridge is the lack of direct access. There is a large park across from the foot of the bridge on the Pest side, and to get to my hotel I have to walk around it. Every time.
I had made it well into the afternoon before the jet lag had taken hold, but when I arrived at the hotel my room still hadn’t been cleaned. This didn’t stop me from collapsing soon after arrival, waking only long enough for the surprised and apologetic housekeeper from handing me a pile of towels and toilet tissue, none of which I really needed.
After a rest, I returned for early eveing to the hills of Buda to continue exploring. Well after sunset, I made my return again to Pest, crossing again under lights of the chain bridge, with the castle behind, and St. Stephen’s ahead.