Yet another terrorist scare as an explosion rocked the city of Budapest last night about a mile from my hotel. With the streets blocked off near the Ruins Bars by the police and droves of people being evacuated from the area, it was difficult to get back to my hotel from the Sparty. Reports initially indicated it was a gas leak and not a terror attack but later the Hungarian police indicated it was a bomb and the target was Hungarian police officers. You could feel the shockwaves as far 200m or more from the location of the blast and a handful of people were injured. Isis has not taken credit for this attack but it comes at an odd time given the referendum in ten days in Hungary regarding immigration and Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s position regarding same. These incidents continue to spark controversy over Germany’s admission of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into their borders but I think to date most, if not all, attacks in Europe during my travels this year have been committed by people already residing in the country and there is no correlation to the assistance Germany is providing to the Syrians. I certainly will continue my travels despite these scares but, as always, will do so with the same caution I would advise anyone to take when traveling, as it appears it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what you are doing, there is always a risk. You can walk out your front door in America and be at the same level of risk as you are in Europe or Asia or anywhere else so travel on I say and never let something like this stop you from living your life.
I move right on past the bomb issue in accordance with the above sentiment and right on into this exceptional and unique city. As touristy as it may sound, I took the Buda funicular up to the top of Buda Hill for 1800 HUF then walked the castle grounds, shot a bow and arrow, let a Hungarian Golden Eagle perch on my arm (so heavy I could barely hold my arm up), had traditional Transylvanian funnel cake and went to the main square where I laid eyes on the most beautiful Gothic church I had ever seen – Matthias Church. Stunned by the church and in disbelief that there could be any sight more astonishing, I made my way across the square to the seven towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion where the panoramic views of Pest and the Danube stole my breath away. After being moved the way only a city like Budapest can move you, I met Dany and Rita (my new friends from Slovakia and Sardinia) for a walk through the wet, dark, musky and mold Labyrinth of caves that were formed a half a million years ago nestled in Buda Hill and with one oil lantern we creeped through being careful not to fall and learned about how King Matthias imprisoned Vlad the Impaler a/k/a Dracula here (the real Dracula from which Bram Stoker based his infamous vampire) for ten years for allegedly plotting against the King of Hungary. Dracula’s wife, Justina, heir to the Royal Hungarian family committed suicide as a result of her husband’s imprisonment in the bowels of these caves in Buda Hill. Truthfully, while interesting to wander through these caves and to read the story about Dracula and the ghost stories surrounding the Black Count, it in my opinion the Labyrinth hasn’t earned the status it has as the 8th most popular tourist attraction in Europe which is a shame as they could do something really incredible in that space. There is something in Budapest however that warrants such a high nod and that would be the evening Danube River Cruise on the Legend in Budapest which is what my friends and I did later that evening. Following same, I can say the debate is finally over for me about which city in Europe or, perhaps in the world, is most beautiful – Budapest at night has got first prize by a mile. Prague still has this honor by day but it was a very close call there as well. Until you have seen Budapest, and more particularly, Parliament, the Szabadság hídon or Liberty Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge and the Chain Bridge from an evening Danube River Cruise, you haven’t begun to grasp the true definition of beauty – at least when it comes to architectural and engineering feats that define the word beauty.
That’s all for now. From Buda and from Pest with love.