It was such an interesting feeling to wake up refreshed from a great night’s sleep miles away from where I had closed my eyes. The Hungarian sun peeked eagerly though the edges of my window shutters, bidding me to explore another of Europe’s most interesting cities. At one point, an Ottoman administrative centre and at another, a royal metropolis, the city plays host to a myriad of syntheses. Turkish and oriental designs amidst imposing baroque provide a vibrant architectural symphony almost as rich as the city’s historical ethnic diversity. Even its name and borders give testament to such prominent combinations. In 1873 the cities of Buda and Pest were united to form the present-day jurisdiction we know as Budapest. Situated on both sides of the Danube, the city has historically been a large centre of culture, trade, industry, and subsequently political influence. Here, we once again view the mark of the Hapsburgs, who reclaimed the territory from the Ottomans in 1686. Under their rule, the city witnessed a general increase in population and development.
As you would have read in an earlier post of mine, the Hapsburgs ruled the Austrian Empire. That is, until 1867, when the empire was internally reconstituted as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Hapsburgs ruled Hungary as King of Hungary, a crown distinct from their Austrian one. This led to the Hungarian capital achieving more autonomy in its affairs.
Hősök Tere (Heroes’ Square)
In Budapest’s Heroes’ Square stands an impressive construction I had only seen in glancing travel photos before. The Millennium Monument stands as a testament to “the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our [Hungary’s] national independence.” It features seven kings from medieval Hungary, the Renaissance King Matthias, and Janos Hunyadi, who fought the 15th-century invading Ottoman armies. The Archangel Gabriel stands atop the column centrepiece and holds the Holy Crown of Hungary in one hand and the other, the Hungarian Apostolic Cross (a Latin cross with an additional bar).
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence Monument
This other interesting resident at the site is dedicated to the Hungarian revolution against Soviet oppression in 1956. Hundreds lost their lives in a failed attempt at declaring independence from the Communists when over 2,000 tanks and numerous divisions of the Russian army were sent to crush the insurrection. This monument is quite different from others I’ve seen and is built where the statue of Josef Stalin was once erected when the Communists bulldozed a catholic church that stood on the site. The rusted steel pillars are arranged to form the triangular blade of a knife. It is an abstract, ultramodern monument.