Buda Castle: a Kingdom of Many Nations

Buda Castle: a Kingdom of Many Nations

Buda-Castle-2Two buildings stand out on Castle Hill, the oldest part of Budapest, known for its narrow and cobbled streets and its baroque and gothic facades: the massive and imposing palace on the southern tip of the hill and the colored roof of Matthias Church in the middle, with its rank steeple pointing towards the heavens.

We start our tour at the palace, the ancient seat of royal power. It was rebuilt, extended, changed, burned down and rebuilt again several times over and it got its current eclectic appearances only after World War II. The first to build on Castle Hill was King Béla IV. He erected a fortress on this spot around 1250 after a devastating invasion by Mongolian hordes. Renaissance King Matthias made it into the most famous court in Europe at the end of the 15th century. Then came the Turkish pasha’s who ruled the country for over 150 years from here, followed by a succession of Hapsburg emperors.

Buda-Castle-3Walking past the Presidential Palace and the National Dance Theatre, we enter the Castle Hill residential district. The modern wars suffered by Hungary did not pass unnoticed here. This part of town, too, was completely destroyed at least twice; once when Hapsburg­led troops retook it from the Turks in 1686 and again when the Russians crushed the besieged troops of Nazi­Germany in 1945. It was lovingly rebuilt in the 1950s and 60s.

A highlight of the tour is Matthias Church with its abundantly decorated roof and amazing interior. In many ways, this church is not what it seems; to begin with, it is not old. It is, in fact, a very finely executed neo­gothic reconstruction fantasy from the end of the 19th as is the romantic Fisherman’s Bastion at its feet. Nevertheless, it is a strikingly beautiful building. For most of the 19th cultures, populated as it was by the majority Germans, but also by Serbs, Hungarians, Turks, and Jews. The remnants of a Middle Age synagogue and a monument for the last Turkish pasha who ruled Buda still bear witness to that multi­ethnic past.

Buda-Castle-4Along the way, you’ll also pass numerous town palaces and visit one of them, the house of an 18th century pharmacist’s family. Here, you can also see the extensive damage caused by the siege of Buda in the first months of 1945, when German troops and their allies were hiding out in the cellars and caves under Castle Hill. We drop by the hidden garden of an interesting gallery, see two wooden hussars and the stone statue of a hussar who conquered Berlin – if only for a few days – and come along a drainage pipe that has to do with the Cold War. You’ll also hear about the mythical Turul bird, the genius baron and his amazing chess machine, and the reason why the bells of Catholic churches chime routinely at midday. Our tour ends at the Vienna Gate, from where you can see all the way to Obuda (Old Buda), where the Romans founded the city then called Aquincum.

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.

 

To order a private tour for your groups of up to 10, click our link right below Reserve Private Walk
Additional costs:

Castle & Castle Museum Tickets:
Adults: 2000Ft
Students and seniors: 1000Ft

Matthias Church Tickets:
Adults: 1500Ft
Students and seniors: 1000Ft

Fisherman’s Bastion Tickets:
Adults: 800Ft
Students and seniors: 400Ft
Starting Location:   Bálthazár, a hotel with a café Országház utca31, 1014 Budapest 50m from the first bus stop on Castle hill (which is on the Bécsi kapu tér)  

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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