Bicycle Budapest!

Bicycle Budapest!

Bicycle Budapest 2Budapest has a growing number of designated cycling lanes, which makes seeing the city by bike fun and safe. Traffic is a bit chaotic sometimes but not too much so if you know where to go. This 4 hour guided bike tour enables you to see a lot of the city in a relatively short time and go beyond the well­visited tourist attractions in the old centers of Buda (Castle Hill) and Pest (Vörösmarty Square and surroundings). Faster than by foot, more leisurely and far more flexible than by bus, a bike is the perfect vehicle for a first, overall introduction to the city.

On this 4 hour tour, we will first cruise the busy streets of downtown Pest. We start nearby Nyugati Station –built by the company of French engineer Eiffel with techniques very much reminiscent of his famous tower in Paris. We pass a remarkable Art Nouveau palace, see the infamous former Soviet embassy where the fate of Hungary was decided in communist times and arrive at Heroes Square, a monumental square constructed to commemorate the 1000 year existence of the Hungarian kingdom in 1896 (or there about, but you’ll hear that story on the spot). We’ll ride all the way down Andrassy Street, the Champs Elysée of Budapest with its grandiose palaces, pass the most terrifying building of Budapest where the fascist and Stalinist secret police interrogated political prisoners and visit a truly aristocratic coffee house.

Bicycle-Budapest-3From there, we’ll turn into the old Jewish quarter to have a look at the main Synagogue, and then pass the National Museum where the 1848 revolution against Hapsburg domination began. Our last visit in Pest is to the main Market Hall, the busiest and prettiest indoor market of Budapest with hundreds of stalls displaying vegetables, meat, cheese, fish and other tasty staples of Hungarian cuisine.

After crossing the Danube to Buda, we will cycle back right along the embankment, a pleasant ride even in summer as there is always something of a fresh breeze so near to the water. The view is wonderful, with Castle Hill and the Fishermen Quarter on the left and, on the right, the Pest embankment and the towering Parliament, Margaret Island and a succession of bridges ahead. We’ll have a look at the Gellért Bath Hotel (a stunning piece of Art Nouveau architecture), the famous Chain Bridge, Bem Square (where the first big demonstration of the 1956 uprising against the Soviets started) and the oldest Turkish bathhouse in town (still in use).

Bicycle-Budapest-4We then cross back over the Danube via Margaret Bridge and Margaret Island, and on the Pest embankment make a stop at the Holocaust monument where thousands of Budapest’s Jewish citizens were tragically killed in the last months of the Second World War. Finally we will have a look around Kossuth Square in front of Parliament and at nearby Freedom Square with its many interesting buildings, including the US embassy, and the sculptures of Ronald Reagan and US General Bantholz.

ZoltanZoltán Csipke was born and raised in Los Angeles. After starting his PhD in History at the University of Liverpool in 2006, he moved to Budapest in 2007 for his research, where he has lived ever since. Zoltán’s research focused specifically on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and collective memory, with a wider interest in the Cold War. He formerly lectured at Eötvös Loránd University and the Balassi Institute, having also been a senior editor at the All Hungary Media Group, where he focused on Hungarian politics and Budapest nightlife. He can frequently be found wandering the streets of Budapest with his camera as he indulges in his hobby of cityscape photography or providing impromptu history lessons at a table with friends in one of the city’s cafés or ruin pubs.
RunaRuna Hellinga is a freelance journalist, writing for Dutch newspapers. She came to Hungary in 1989 when communism was just collapsing and the century’s most exciting political, economical and social changes were unfolding. From 1994, she spent a number of years in South Africa, covering the end of Apartheid in that country for the Dutch press. In 1998 she returned to Hungary as a freelancer, and has been living in the country ever since, first in Budapest and the last couple of years in the small Baroque town of Vác. In 2008 she wrote a book about Budapest, covering the city’s history and culture, but also the social and political developments from the times of the Romans until today. Together with her husband Henk Hirs (also a journalist) she organizes themed tours, covering subjects from Jugendstil architecture and the remnants of the Turkish occupation to the communist past. As a correspondent, she can also offer a lot of insight in recent Hungarian political and cultural developments. On request, she also organizes tours around special subjects like Hungarian literature or current social issues.
HenkHenk Hirs is a Dutch radio and newspaper journalist who first came to Hungary in the summer of 1989, when the country was in the midst of pulling down the Iron Curtain. He has been reporting on its many ups and downs ever since,getting to know the people, their turbulent history, their various cultures and their impossible language in the process. Between 2006 and 2010, he was editor in chief of Business Hungary, the monthly magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. After living in Budapest for many years, in 2008 he moved with his wife, Runa (also a distinguished journalist), to the lovely little Baroque town of Vác close to the Hungarian capital. Suddenly, he got to know “the other Hungary” of gracious suburban town life. He has published several books on the country, among them a tourist guide which he updates yearly. He is also the co-author of various Dutch-language blogs on current events and tourism developments.
CsabaCsaba Tibor Tóth born and raised in Szeged, acquired a distinguished interest in the history of his country quite early on, finishing his BA studies in 2010 at the University of Szeged, with a double major in history and cultural anthropology. On the cultural anthropology track, he finished a thesis on the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish Folklore in the 1890’s, then he expanded on with this topic at Central European University, where he achieved a MA with Honors in 2011. In order to study Jewish history and culture in a broader context, Csaba went through a second Masters program at the University of Southampton, UK in 2012. He currently works at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center in as a guide and educator, while regularly blogging in Hungarian about the country’s history and daily politics.