Full-circle Altai: Budapest. A Charm that Lingered.

 Closer. My footsteps are not setting the pace, they are increasing it. I want to see it all, to perceive it all, to take it all in! Sooner. I am back in Budapest!

Although I have a great preference for old Ottoman stone bridges, the Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) is still one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. To me. Walking on it, looking at it from Buda Castle (Budai Vár), trying to get that luminous shot with the Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház) silhouette in the background – it is still spectacular. Massive is followed by lacy, as I keep playing a romantic hide-and-seek game with the buildings on the opposite bank while walking through the Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya). Despite the reign of dusk being rightfully underway, the Labyrinth of Buda Castle (Budavári Labirintus) drives me deeper into darkness and makes me sip mystery, bit by bit.

Országház & Lánchíd - symbols of Budapest, Hungary

These are the important elements that define Budapest and its grandeur. This noun naturally fits the description. After all, it shared the ‘capital’ prerogatives with Vienna during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a secondary capital, it is true, but a very edible luxury has always been its trademark. It made elites /this term changed over the past 4 years - my note, 28.12.2023, but I won't replace it in the text/ gather around, create, and call it home. Ady Endre, Éva Gábor, Petőfi Sándor, to name but a few. As empire states of mind got lost and the world became business-oriented, the city landed again on its feet by sharing the same time zone with most of Western Europe while being deeply anchored in and connected to the East. A privilege, a key position, an Ace up Budapest’s sleeve!

The Danube – one of the world’s most fascinating rivers – also contributed to the success mentioned above and to the extra potential that water tourism brings: cruises from Germany to Romania that inevitably pass Budapest. I will resize the territory considered by referring to the one framed by the city limits. And here is a secret: I am not fond of crowded spaces. If I were to make an exception, it would only involve great live music or great food on board. Otherwise, I would surely opt for a Dunarama cruise – fast, not to get you bored, yet slow and safe enough to let you scan all those symbols you have missed or are just about to discover. Mahogany reminding you of Côte d'Azur or Venice will add that special feeling of being special.

The mighty Danube in Budapest, Hungary

So will a trip to the famous baths of the city – we all need to be spoiled every once in a while. There is variety. Even if a game of chess at Széchenyi Medicinal Bath (Széchenyi-gyógyfürdő), a dip under the high columns of Gellért Baths (Gellért Gyógyfürdő), and a glimpse at the ceiling of one of the oldest baths in Budapest, namely Rudas Bath (Rudas fürdő), sound all tempting, it will still be hard to choose. It is also a choice of style: Neo-Baroque, Art Nouveau, or Ottoman.

Interesting ingredients in the mix that still brands the Hungarian capital, yet provide a curious case of unity through diversity! I am still fascinated by trendy shop windows, in typical strong colours, and then I remember the design and redesign exhibitions that so many of the people in Budapest love!

It is a continuous search and redefining of art through jazz concerts held by local artists in chic cafés and opera shows enchanting the audience not only by the high notes on stage but also by those found in the interior details of the Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház). Dutch, German, and French masters, as well as the second-largest collection of Spanish painters after Prado in Madrid, are all hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum). During the renovation of the museum (until 2018), some of the most impressive works were moved to the Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galeria) and were available to the public.

The passion for art of Hungarians matches their passion for culinary art, especially for desserts. I know most of them all too well, as I remember my two grandmothers spoiling me during my childhood years. Those tastes lingered. Visiting each welcoming cukrászda [cake shop] in Budapest, the gustatory memories are brought back to life, to a currently-renewed opportunity to famousness. The layers of thick custard in the Christmas-morning krémes, the chocolate buttercream in the Dobos torta [Dobos cake] served during special celebrations of spring, the juiciness of August plums in the szilvás gombóc [plum dumplings], the September freshness of cottage cheese in the túrógombóc [sweet cheese dumplings], and the plenary flavour of somlói galuska. The best I tried in Budapest was at the renowned Szamos Marcipán. Not only is the service impeccable, but innovation is in store, as truffle and Christmas candy (szaloncukor) making classes are organised here.

At home, in a universe that encourages us to dream big, charm continues its Budapesti mission.



I’ve been to Budapest so many times! I love this city, even though I’ve realised that it is not as bright as I thought /more on this on another occasion/.

The last time was in September/October 2018 (en route to Altai). 

Vajas kifli, Budapest, Hungary

It was an opportunity to eat some fluffy vajas kifli, walk a lot /on both banks of the Danube/, have some Dobos torta at Szamos Marcipán, and enjoy some family time /my cousin Attila spoiled us with some somlói galuska he made himself/.

Somlói galuska made by my cousin in Budapest, Hungary

Was there something new to discover? The House of Houdini, with the related magic show, in a part of Budapest we hadn’t explored as much as the others.

View from Budai Vár, Budapest, Hungary

So, here it is, I’ll end it with magic because it’s something that happens every second. We have invisible wands that never cease working.


/The piece – without the ‘Extra’ part – was first published in February 2017 on www.skylife.com – Turkish Airlines’ in-flight magazine –, which ceased to exist; not included in social media posts and the weekly newsletter/

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