Pest, which has been a city in its own right and is now a district of Budapest occupying the east bank of the Danube, is made up of a collection of smaller districts all of which are strikingly different but all of which are incredibly interesting and beautiful in their own way. It is also a much busier place than Buda and, generally speaking, dates back only to the late nineteenth century when it was developed by merchants and artisans.
Lovely as it was, I wasn’t all that struck on the Belváros (Inner City) because it was a bit too commercialised and, by Hungarian standards, expensive and I was terrified that someone would try to make me eat a full English breakfast.
What I preferred were the slightly more outlying districts of Ferencváros (Frank Town), Józsefváros (Joseph Town), Erzsébetváros (Elisabeth Town) and Terézváros (Terry Town). There stood miles and miles of city streets, each of which contained something uniquely interesting such as cafés, markets, all kinds of shops, museums, statues, public gardens, fountains, street artists at work, churches, synagogues, kids’ playgrounds, galleries, theatres, tree-lined squares and a thousand other things that I never expected to see. Some bits were old and beautifully preserved, some bits were modern and others, irrespective of the era in which they originated, were tastefully tatty.
I loved all of this and I loved Andrássy út, a broad and leafy boulevard that led to Heroes’ Square with its classical colonnades and statue of Archangel Gabriel at the top of a thirty six metre high column, and I loved the Városliget (City Park) beyond with the fairy tale towers of Vajdahunyad Castle that rear above an island amid an artificial lake on which people whizzed around in rented boats constructed in the shape of Volkswagen Beetles.
Hősök tere (Heroes' Square) in Pest.
As I walked past the entrance to the Agricultural Museum that was housed in the castle, a man in the street offered to sell me a set of steak knives. When I declined his invitation he suggested that I might like one of the four plastic belts that he had for sale. He seemed disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm. I was disappointed at my own lack of the ability to say, ‘You want to have a think about changing your supplier mate’ in Hungarian.
I completed my long day’s walking tour with a stroll down to the river via the magnificent Szent István Bazilika (St Stephen’s Basilica) as the dying rays of the sun began to paint its white masonry ochre. On the Duna’s edge I sat and wrote in my journal. The people of Budapest seemed to come out in the evening to do whatever made them happy along the banks of their vast waterway. Tonight I thought I’d join them.