Despite having been to Budapest countless times to visit my grandparents, I’ve somehow never had the chance to explore much on my own. Here is a remarkable city, not at all unlike a slightly more run down, faded-glamour version of Vienna, and with a big dose of eastern-bloc directness and charm.
This time around, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take my shiny new camera – a Nikon D7000 – out for a little play, and it’s just as well that I did. An uninspired start to the evening took a turn for the better when I discovered a little free festival going on at the base of the famous Lánchíd, Hungary’s first permanent bridge across the mighty river Danube.
Very much an improvised affair, this was a glorious setting to have a cheeky drink, enjoy the sunset and some Hungaro-pop tunes and give the low-light capabilities of my camera a little test run.
Inhibitions dampened by a glass of wine on an empty stomach, I began to cross the bridge after dark to continue my little tour, but got distracted by two Israelis coming down the cables leading to the top of the pillar. I couldn’t help but be tempted to see for myself what they saw, and after a little hesitation I decided to nip up to the top of the bridge. When else would I have an opportunity like this, after all? From about a fifth of the way up, banisters run along both sides of the cables, making this a very easy climb – more of a walk up an incline, really – but given my mild fear of heights, it was pretty exhilarating getting to the top and being rewarded with a very different kind of vista.
Wary of the considerable fine that would await me if police saw me, I snapped a few quick pictures and headed down again. But at the other pillar, I decided I wanted a few more and – you guessed it – headed up here as well. I wish I could have safely used my tripod up here, but I feel like that would have been pushing my luck…
With a metallic strip of colour on my hands where I’d traced the banisters, and with a generous portion of adrenaline-fuelled exhilaration, I continued on to Gellérthegy, the spectacular 235m block of raw rock jutting up in the middle of Budapest right by the Danube. It is dotted with statues, one of which is of the eponymous St Gellért. Acording to legend, he was rolled down the hill in a barrel full of spikes as a punishment for…actually, I’m not sure what for. It was the dark ages – it could have been anything!
These slightly sinister pictures feel right given the dark history of the man himself, and the slightly creepy nature of Gellérthegy at night: time and again, gates lead down black corridors into the caves that riddle the rock. This was unexpectedly similar to the stone-age barrow at Avebury, and I was not keen to explore these too closely.
My little venture up the Lánchíd, though, has sparked a bit of an interest in urban exploration – hopefully I’ll be able to report back with more along these lines soon!