Like all great cities Budapest is not ashamed to take something that works and put it’s own spin on things. Budapest also plays host to a wild menagerie of visitors – each bringing different cultural values and traditions. Some of these ideas have stuck!
In Monty Python’s The Life of Brian Reg (played excellently by John Cleese) asks the group “And what have they (the Romans) ever given us in return?!”
He is then given a plethora of things that the Romans gave to them. One of these was the Public Baths and Galilee was not the only recipient.
Due to the presence of thermal springs on the West bank of the Danube they decided to build extensive baths and spas. The Turks then followed this up with some baths of their own and before long Budapest had the best baths that Rome and Istanbul could offer. In 1934 it was officially recognised as a “City of Spas” due to hundreds of baths strewn across the city and beyond.
We had to choose between Szechenyi, Rudas, Lukacs, Gellert and Kiraly for our bathing experience. Luckily a few of our friends had been before and warned us that you need to be careful which one you went through or you would see “a lot of flesh!”. Some had segregated bathing areas and others were Women or Men only on certain days. In the end
we went to City Park and it’s bathhouse – Szechenyi Thermal Baths.
As soon as you emerge from the Underground Tram station you are confronted with a large majestic facade. Similar in design to Schloss Sansoucci in Potsdam (Baroque vs New Baroque) with decorated windows, yellow walls and statues, the medicinal baths were the creation of Hungarian architect Gyozo Czigler. The original baths were built after his death 1905 and since then multiple renovations have left us with a sprawling complex of 3 Outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools to enjoy.
The sun was shining and the baths were busy, but not mobbed. Most of the locals seemed more interested in watching the unfolding Rio Olympic Games on the big screens that had been temporarily erected then clogging the pools.
Two House both alike…
Let’s play a guessing game shall we?
I am situated on the banks of a major river that cuts through the heart of an old capital city. I am a meeting place of the people with two great chambers. My grand design is Gothic abound with clustered columns,pointed spires and flying buttresses. All my windows are all large stained glass. Beyond my powerful corridors are rooms with high vaulted ceilings and grand ornate designs. Any ideas of what I am talking about?
If you are thinking about the Palace of Westminster you would be correct. Another acceptable answer would be the Országház or Hungarian Parliament since it was heavily inspired by the former.
The surrounding area and facade is stunning so instead of butchering it’s beauty with mere words here is a collection of photographs to tell it’s story…
With the outside inspected it was time to head inside and luckily for us the Parliament ran daily tours.
After checking in at security our group was gathered together. Our tour guide brought us up some stairs while she gave us the Ts and Cs of the tour and gave us a brief history of the building and its day to day operation as the center of legislative administration for Hungary.They say that 40 kilos of gold and half a million precious stones went into it’s construction and most of these must have been used on the main grand staircase.
Above you are frescos painted on the ceiling, a red lush carpet below and as you walk up the main staircase you are surrounded by statues and busts – the most notable being that of Imre Steindl – the buildings Creator.
The next room we entered was heavily guarded by sword wielding members of the Parliamentary Guard. A force of 359 soldiers tasked with the buildings security and to protect it’s crown jewel – literally the Crown Jewel of Hungary – The Holy Crown of St Stephen. Its origins are cloaked in mystery but the popular belief is that is was gifted from the Pope in 1070 AD to St Stephen – Hungary’s first king – for his coronation and it has been used ever since to crown the new ruler of Hungary.
Today the Holy Crown is located in the grand central hall of the Hungarian Parliament Building. This hexadecagonal room is roofed by the great dome you can see on the outside of the building and acts as the link between both houses of parliament.Photography in this room is not allowed so here is some forbidden fruit for you to enjoy.
Hungary moved from a bicameral to a unicameral structure after WW2 so one of the assembly rooms is used for the tour. It was quite grand. A lot more decorative than either Dail Eireann or Holyrood back home.
We finished our tour in a small museum dedicated to the history of the Parliament. There were lots of interesting displays – the best of which was a gigantic red star that the communists had placed atop the main dome during their rule.
For more information about the Parliament and visiting it you should check out this blog.
Tip: Don’t even think about rocking up to this place for an English Speaking Tour. Do what we did: Register in advance online at www.Jegymester.hu and just rock up.
Bright Lights Big City
That night was mild so after dinner we headed out to get some shots of Budapest at night…