It’s day 6, and it’s almost the end of our Danube River Cruise. Our day started at 9:00 am in the old capital, Esztergom, Hungary. From there, we boarded a bus for a city tour of Budapest, and we would also catch up with the ship at Budapest.
The bus ride took about an hour, and we arrived during Budapest’s traffic hour, and slowly made our way to the various monuments. Budapest is divided by the river. One side is the luxurious Buda, and facing on the other side of the river is Pest (pronounced Pesch). The famous Parliament building is on the Pest side, while the old Palace and the St. Matthias church is on the Buda side.
At one part of the tour, our bus stopped to show us the Heroes square. Tomorrow is a National holiday for those killed standing for Hungary, and this landmark will have a ceremony. Also nearby was a famous Hungarina bath house and the city zoo.
The Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden is the oldest zoo park in Hungary and one of the oldest in the world. It has 1,072 animal species and is located within Városliget Park. The zoo opened its doors on 9 August 1866.
The zoo was almost entirely destroyed in the Second World War. At the siege of Budapest, the zoo was bombed and most buildings and animals were destroyed. After the siege, the remaining animals were eaten by the starving people of Budapest. From 2,000 specimens only 15 survived.
In 1945, the zoo re-opened with a few dozen animals. The damage was restored slowly. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a major modernization. Between 1956 and 1967, the Director General of the zoo was Dr. Csaba Anghi. Under his guidance, the zoo became once again one of the most modern zoos of Europe. In 1994, Miklós Persányi was appointed Director General. The historic buildings were reconstructed. The animal habitats have been modernized, enlarged, and made to look more natural.
We continued on through the city, through the Jewish community and across Margaret’s bridge to the Buda part, and to the Castle District.
The bus dropped us off at the base of the Castle District, where we also stopped for a toilet break. The use of the restroom cost €0.70 or 230 FT.
The Castle District (Várnegyed), is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings. It is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. The area is a part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, so buildings in this area cannot be modified at all, inside or out.
St. Matthias is located in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion at the heart of Buda’s Castle District. According to church tradition, it was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, although no archaeological remains exist. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of medieval Hungarian Kingdom.
After the church, we went on our own to the Fisherman’s Bastion, where we got a great view of the Pest side, including Parliament.
Our guide took us back over Margaret’s bridge, where we were reunited back with Viking Var, just in time for the tail end of lunch. We had the remainder of the day to explore, before the ship took a night time cruise of the Danube, to see Budapest lit up at night.