Well…… for Jim and I the decision was easy. We wanted to head to the oldest part of the city, which meant a trek up to Buda, the palace city. Fortunately for us, from our hotel (The Marriott Budapest), we were able to walk right across the Chain Bridge to the other side of the Danube and the foot of Buda hill.
Chain Bridge is guarded by two huge lions sculpted by Janos Marshalko. An old story attached to the Lions says the sculptor drowned himself in the river because he forgot to give the Lions tongues. I won’t tell you here whether they do or not, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!
Fortunately, we didn’t have to walk or take a horse to get to the top. We jumped on the convenient funicular railway located at Clark Adam tier, which moved us with ease to the top of the hill.
The 15th century Gothic palace was built in the same location as the current structure but was destroyed during Turkish rule. The palace was rebuilt under Hapsburg rule in the 18th and 19th centuries. This 19th century palace was destroyed during WWII and restored in 1945 back to its 19th century incarnation.
We decided to take a carriage ride, which was a fun way to get an overall picture of Buda. As we trotted through the lanes, our driver filled us in on the history of Buda and she pointed out places we should return to for a closer look. One of these was the Labyrinth, a system of underground caves and cellars dating back centuries which have been turned into a strange but fun (and a little cheesy!) “museum”. But more of that later!
Buda’s old town flourished under its Kings, particularly King Sigismund and because of this, wealthy German merchants set up shops on Lord’s Street to supply the palace court. Aristocrats also built their mansions on Lord’s street and the medieval foundations can still be found underneath the colorful 19th century facades. You will love wandering through the cobbled streets and squares.
The name of the church refers to King Matyas Corvinus who greatly enlarged and embellished the structure. Unfortunately, much of the original detail was destroyed when the Turks converted the church into the Great Mosque in 1541 and then later almost completely destroyed during the liberation of Buda.
That being said, you will be stunned by its beautiful interior which has soaring Gothic style vaulted ceilings, tall jeweled colored stain glass windows. The intricately carved pulpit is based on Gothic Triptychs. The Tomb of King Bela III and Anne de Chatillon is located in the Trinity Chapel. And don't forget when you walk back outside to look up at the beautiful multi-colored glazed tiles that decorated the roof with an intricate design.
The caves themselves hosted humans beginning a half a million years ago and continued to be used by human beings throughout the millennia. Since the historical period, the extensive cave/cellar system was used for a number of purposes. During the Middle Ages the caves were used for storing food and belongings and its natural wells provided fresh water. The Turks were the first to connect the separate caverns in the 16th century, primarily for military purposes.
During WW II the interconnected caves and cellars were fortified and used as an air raid shelter and a hospital. In the Cold War period the caves were upgraded to serve as a nuclear bunker. The entire network of caves, cellars and passageways is approximately 6 miles (10 km) long and most recently has been used as the “Labyrinth” and “Hospital in the Rock” museum.
Unfortunately, the Labyrinth Museum we visited has been closed by the government off and on, for the last several years. Be sure to check whether it is currently open or not before you visit!