Adventure Travel Abroad

Budapest: The Best of Hungary

Budapest: The Best of Hungary


HI, I’M RICK STEVES, BACK WITH MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE. THIS TIME, WE’RE SOAKING IN
THE CULTURAL WONDERS OF HUNGARY, IN BUDAPEST. YOUR MOVE. IT’S COSMOPOLITAN, COMPLICATED
AND A BIT CHALLENGING AT FIRST. SEASONED TRAVELERS LIKE IT MORE
WITH EACH VISIT. FOR MANY, BUDAPEST
IS EASTERN EUROPE’S MOST FASCINATING
AND REWARDING DESTINATION. WE’LL SOAK IN ELEGANCE
AT THERMAL BATHS, STOMP AND SLAP
WITH TRADITIONAL DANCERS, VISIT THE COMMUNIST ALL-STARS,
NOW IN A STATUE PARK, REMEMBER HUNGARY’S
SECRET POLICE, SAMPLE SOME PAPRIKA… MMM, SWEET. …AND CRUISE
UNDER FLOODLIT MONUMENTS. HUNGARY, LANDLOCKED DEEP
IN CENTRAL EUROPE AND FORMERLY PART
OF THE WARSAW PACT, IS NOW PART
OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. THE SEPARATE CITIES
OF BUDA AND PEST ONCE STRADDLED
THE DANUBE RIVER. NOW THEY’VE GROWN TOGETHER
TO MAKE BUDAPEST. THIS MYTHIC BIRD, THE TURUL, WAS THE BIRD OF THE ORIGINAL
HUNGARIANS, OR MAGYARS, WHO MIGRATED OUT OF THE PLAINS
OF CENTRAL ASIA. IN 896, THE BIRD
DROPPED HIS SWORD HERE, INDICATING THIS WAS
TO BE THEIR HOMELAND. THE MAGYARS SETTLED HERE,
SETTING INTO MOTION A TUMULTUOUS AND FASCINATING
THOUSAND-YEAR STORY WHICH ULTIMATELY GAVE US
THE MODERN NATION OF HUNGARY AND THIS GREAT CAPITAL. SITUATED ON A CROSSROADS
BETWEEN EUROPE AND ASIA, THOSE ORIGINAL MAGYARS
ABSORBED WAVES OF MIGRATING ETHNIC GROUPS. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF BUDAPEST? START WITH THOSE FIRST
MAGYAR SETTLERS, MIX IN GERMANS, SLAVS,
JEWS, GYPSIES, SPICE WITH A DASH
OF TURKISH PAPRIKA AND SIMMER FOR A FEW CENTURIES
IN ITS FAMOUS THERMAL BATHS. EACH GROUP HAD AN IMPACT. ALL THIS ETHNIC PILING ON
CREATED A CULTURAL GOULASH THAT IS DISTINCTLY BUDAPEST. STARTING IN THE 16th CENTURY, THE OTTOMAN TURKS RULED HERE
FOR ABOUT 150 YEARS. LATER, AS PART OF THE HAPSBURG
EMPIRE, RULED FROM VIENNA AND ENERGIZED BY AN INFLUX
OF GERMAN SPEAKERS, THE CITY BECAME MORE EUROPEAN. THE LAST HALF OF THE 1800s
WAS BOOM TIME FOR BUDAPEST. ITS CAFES WERE PACKED,
AS WAS ITS OPERA HOUSE. THE HABSBURGS
AGREED TO A TREATY, MAKING HUNGARY A JUNIOR PARTNER
IN A VAST REALM IT NOW CALLED
THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE. AS VIENNA’S SECOND FIDDLE, BUDAPEST GOVERNED A HUGE CHUNK
OF EASTERN EUROPE. THE BOOM PEAKED
WITH A FLURRY OF CONSTRUCTION WORKING UP TO A GRAND PARTY
IN 1896. IT WAS HUNGARY’S
1,000th BIRTHDAY. LIKE SO MUCH OF BUDAPEST, HUNGARY’S PARLIAMENT WAS BUILT
FOR THE BIG 1896 PARTY. ITS ELEGANT, NEO-GOTHIC DESIGN
AND RIVERSIDE LOCATION WERE INSPIRED
BY ITS COUNTERPART IN LONDON. IT’S ENORMOUS, WITH LITERALLY
MILES OF GRAND HALLS DESIGNED TO HELP ADMINISTER THAT SPRAWLING, MULTINATIONAL
HABSBURG EMPIRE. BY THE END OF WORLD WAR I,
THE HABSBURGS WERE GONE AND HUNGARY,
WHILE MUCH SMALLER, WAS FULLY INDEPENDENT. BUT THEN CAME THE NAZIS,
FOLLOWED BY THE COMMUNISTS. THAT ELUSIVE FREEDOM
WAS FINALLY WON AFTER THE FALL
OF THE SOVIET UNION IN 1989. AND SINCE THEN THE CITY
HAS BLOSSOMED. [ upbeat classical music
playing ] TODAY,
HUNGARY RULES ONLY HUNGARY, AND IT’S RULED
NOT BY AN EMPEROR, BUT BY DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED
REPRESENTATIVES, WHO LEGISLATE FROM WHAT’S NOW
A PALACE OF DEMOCRACY. LIKE VIENNA,
BUDAPEST FEELS MORE GRANDIOSE THAN THE CAPITAL
OF A RELATIVELY SMALL COUNTRY. BUT THE CITY REMAINS THE CULTURAL CAPITAL
OF EASTERN EUROPE WITH A KEENLY DEVELOPED KNACK
FOR GOOD LIVING. YOU CAN ENJOY
THAT HUNGARIAN JOY OF LIFE AT THE SZECHENYI BATH. SOAK WITH THE LOCALS. OF THE CITY’S TWO DOZEN OR SO
TRADITIONAL MINERAL BATHS, THIS IS THE MOST ACCESSIBLE
AND FUN. BUDAPEST IS HOT, LITERALLY. IT SITS ON A THIN CRUST
OVER THERMAL SPRINGS, WHICH POWER ALL THESE BATHS. BOTH THE ANCIENT ROMANS
AND OTTOMAN TURKS ENJOYED THESE SAME
MINERAL SPRINGS. THEY STILL SAY, “POKE A HOLE IN
THE GROUND ANYWHERE IN HUNGARY, AND YOU’LL FIND HOT WATER.” MAGYARS OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
SQUEEZE THEMSELVES INTO TINY SWIMSUITS
AND STRUT THEIR STUFF. BABUSHKAS FLOAT BLISSFULLY
IN THE WARM WATER. THE SPEEDO-CLAD OLD BOYS CLUB GATHERS PENSIVELY
AROUND SOGGY CHESSBOARDS. AND THE CIRCLE OF RAPIDS
BRINGS OUT THE KID IN PEOPLE OF ALL AGES. AFTER 2,000 YEARS
OF EXPERIENCE AND INNOVATION, LOCALS HAVE HONED THE ART OF ENJOYING THEIR THERMAL
HOT SPRINGS. BUDAPEST STRADDLES
THE DANUBE RIVER. ON THE WEST SIDE IS HILLY BUDA,
DOMINATED BY CASTLE HILL. THE ROYAL PALACE
MARKS THE PLACE WHERE ONE OF EUROPE’S
MIGHTIEST CASTLES ONCE STOOD. SINCE THE 14th CENTURY, HUNGARY
HAS BEEN RULED FROM THIS SPOT. AS WORLD WAR II DREW TO A CLOSE,
BUDA BECAME THE FRONTLINE BETWEEN THE NAZIS
AND THE APPROACHING SOVIETS, WHO SIEGED THIS HILL
FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. TODAY’S PALACE, REBUILT
FROM THE RUBBLE OF WORLD WAR II, MAY NOT BE WORTH TOURING, BUT IT SITS ON SOIL
DRENCHED IN HUNGARIAN HISTORY AND IT’S CLOSE TO THE SOUL
OF THIS NATION. ANOTHER CASTLE HILL LANDMARK, THE 800-YEAR-OLD
MATTHIAS CHURCH, HAS ALSO BEEN DESTROYED
AND REBUILT SEVERAL TIMES. ITS FLAMBOYANT STEEPLE
AND OTHER FRILLY ELEMENTS WERE ADDED
FOR THE 1896 CELEBRATIONS. THE OPULENT AND GILDED INTERIOR TELLS A THOUSAND YEARS
OF LOCAL HISTORY: CRUSADER HEROICS… BEATING BACK THE TURKS… ALL PAINTED IN A FANCIFUL,
NEO-GOTHIC WAY. THE CHURCH’S PRIZE POSSESSION
HIDES IN A CHAPEL IN THE BACK. PEER THROUGH
THE BLACK IRON GRILL TO SEE THE 500-YEAR-OLD
STATUE OF MARY AND JESUS, WHICH COMES WITH A STORY. IN THE 16th CENTURY, THE TURKS
WERE ABOUT TO OVERRUN BUDA. LOCALS, ANTICIPATING
A TERRIBLE RANSACKING, HID THEIR MOST PRECIOUS STATUE
IN A NICHE AND PLASTERED IT OVER. THE MUSLIMS TOOK BUDA AND USED
THIS BUILDING AS A MOSQUE FOR OVER A CENTURY. THEY WHITEWASHED EVERYTHING,
HUNG CARPETS ON THE WALLS. THEN, DURING A LATER SIEGE, A NEARBY EXPLOSION
RATTLED THE BUILDING. THE PLASTER FELL AWAY
FROM THE STATUE AND THERE WAS MARY,
LOOKING OUT OVER THE MOSQUE. THIS SPOOKED THE MUSLIMS. ACCORDING TO LEGEND,
THE TURKS FLED, MAKING THIS THE ONLY PART
OF TOWN RETAKEN WITHOUT A FIGHT. JUST OUTSIDE STANDS THE
FISHERMAN’S BASTION, AN ICON OF BUDAPEST. IT OFFERS SWEEPING VIEWS
OVER THE DANUBE TO PEST. IN THE MIDDLE AGES, THE FISH
MARKET WAS JUST BELOW HERE, SO THIS PART OF THE RAMPART ACTUALLY WAS GUARDED
BY FISHERMEN. THE CURRENT STRUCTURE, THOUGH,
IS A FANCIFUL REBUILD, CONSTRUCTED FOR THE BIG BASH
OF 1896. ITS SEVEN TOWERS SYMBOLIZE
THE TENTS THE NOMADIC MAGYARS, THOSE ORIGINAL HUNGARIANS,
CALLED HOME BEFORE THEY MOVED WEST
TO EUROPE. HUNGARY’S FIRST CHRISTIAN KING,
ST. STEPHEN, TAMED THE PAGAN MAGYARS. HE ESTABLISHED STRICT LAWS,
INTRODUCED THE CONCEPT OF PRIVATE PROPERTY
AND MADE HIS PEOPLE, WHETHER THEY LIKED IT OR NOT,
CHRISTIAN. THE POPE CROWNED ST. STEPHEN
IN THE YEAR 1000, MAKING HUNGARY PART
OF CHRISTENDOM. THIS WAS A PIVOTAL POINT
IN HUNGARY’S HISTORY. WHILE STEPHEN COULD HAVE
ACCEPTED HIS CROWN FROM THE LEADER OF THE EASTERN,
OR BYZANTINE, CHURCH, HE CHOSE TO HAVE HIS RULE
LEGITIMIZED BY ACCEPTING HIS CROWN FROM THE
LEADER OF THE ROMAN CHURCH, AND THIS GAVE HUNGARY
MORE OF A WESTERN ORIENTATION. THE BUDA FUNICULAR
IS A POPULAR LANDMARK. BUILT IN 1870 TO PROVIDE
CHEAP TRANSPORTATION TO CASTLE HILL WORKERS, TODAY
IT’S A FUN LITTLE TOURIST TRIP. IT SHUTTLES VISITORS
EVERY FEW MINUTES UP AND DOWN BETWEEN THE TOP OF CASTLE HILL
AND THE MIGHTY CHAIN BRIDGE. GUARDED BY LIONS,
WHICH SYMBOLIZE POWER, THE CHAIN BRIDGE, THE CITY’S
FIRST GREAT BRIDGE, OFFERS A PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY
WAY TO CONNECT BUDA AND PEST. BEFORE THIS BRIDGE WAS BUILT, PEOPLE NEEDED BOATS OR A GOOD
FREEZE TO CROSS THE RIVER. SOMETIMES PEOPLE WOULD WALK
ACROSS THE FROZEN DANUBE ONLY TO GET STRANDED
ON THE OTHER SIDE DURING A THAW. ONCE, A CITY BIG SHOT WAS STUCK
ON THE OTHER SIDE FOR A WEEK TRYING TO GET
TO HIS DAD’S FUNERAL. HE MISSED THE FUNERAL. HE WAS SO FRUSTRATED,
HE COMMISSIONED THE BUILDING OF BUDAPEST’S FIRST
PERMANENT BRIDGE. THE CHAIN BRIDGE,
FINISHED IN 1849, IMMEDIATELY BECAME AN IMPORTANT
SYMBOL OF BUDAPEST. WHILE THIS AND ALL OTHER
GREAT BRIDGES OF BUDAPEST WERE DESTROYED IN WORLD WAR II,
THEY WERE QUICKLY REBUILT. PEST IS THE FLAT AND URBAN
COMMERCIAL HALF OF BUDAPEST. THE MAIN SQUARE OF ITS INVITING
PEDESTRIAN ZONE IS VOROSMARTY TER. THE LANDMARK GERBEAUD CAFE
IS A FIXTURE. BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS, THE WELL-TO-DO LADIES
OF BUDAPEST MET HERE AFTER SHOPPING. IT REMAINS THE MEETING POINT
IN BUDAPEST. IT’S CLASSY AND CENTRAL,
PERFECT FOR PEOPLE WATCHING AND A LITTLE HIGH-CALORIE
19th-CENTURY ELEGANCE. THE NEARBY HUNGARIAN
STATE OPERA HOUSE OFFERS MORE
OF THAT 19th-CENTURY SPLENDOR. THE OPULENCE RIVALS
PARIS AND VIENNA, FROM ITS PLUSH HALLS
AND STAIRCASES, DESIGNED FOR SOCIALITES
MAKING THE SCENE, TO ITS RANKS OF GILDED BOX
SEATS IN THE VELVETY THEATER. WHETHER YOU ACTUALLY
TAKE IN A PERFORMANCE OR JUST ENJOY
AN OPERA HOUSE TOUR, IT’S CLEAR THAT THE PEOPLE
OF BUDAPEST HAVE THAT HABSBURG APPRECIATION
FOR FINE MUSIC IN THEIR BLOOD. YOU’LL FIND MUSICAL EVENTS
ALL OVER TOWN. TONIGHT, WE’RE OPTING FOR A GYPSY AND HUNGARIAN
FOLK CONCERT. LIKE MOST
EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, HUNGARY HAS FINE FOLK MUSIC
AND DANCE. HUNGARY’S LARGE ROMA,
OR GYPSY, POPULATION, HAS HELPED KEEP THIS
FAST-FIDDLIN’ TRADITION ALIVE. WHILE MANY VISITORS LIMIT
THEIR GYPSY MUSIC EXPERIENCE TO GUYS DRESSED IN RED VESTS OUT FOR BIG TIPS
IN TOURISTY RESTAURANTS, I GET MY TRADITIONAL MUSIC FIX
IN CONCERT HALLS LIKE THIS. NIGHTLY SHOWS ARE INEXPENSIVE
AND HIGH-POWERED, MIXING TEUTONIC-STYLE
SLAP DANCING AND SLAVIC
COSSACK-STYLE FOOTWORK. [ lively fiddle music playing ] [ applause ] WE’RE SLEEPING
AT THE ART’OTEL. EVERY DETAIL HERE,
FROM THE STYLISH LOBBY TO THE BREAKFAST BUFFET,
IS DESIGNED WITH FLAIR. THIS BIG MOD HOTEL
IS A CLASSY SPLURGE, OR A BARGAIN IF YOU BOOK
DURING SLOW TIMES. IT’S A GOOD EXAMPLE
OF THE IMPRESSIVE BUILDING THAT’S BEEN GOING ON HERE
SINCE THE FALL OF COMMUNISM. AND IT ALL COMES
WITH A DANUBE VIEW. WHILE THE CITY IS BECOMING
INCREASINGLY MODERN, MANY BUILDINGS SURVIVE
FROM THE COMMUNIST AGE. THESE ARE REMINDERS
OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOCK OUT YOUR ARTISTS AND LET PARTY LOYALISTS
DESIGN YOUR BUILDINGS. ONE POSITIVE LEGACY
OF COMMUNISM IS BUDAPEST’S COLORFUL,
SUBSIDIZED AND VERY PRACTICAL NETWORK OF TROLLEYS,
BUSES AND SUBWAYS. LOCALS GET AROUND CHEAPLY
AND EFFORTLESSLY. I’M JOINING A HUNGARIAN
TOUR GUIDE FRIEND OF MINE, PETER POLCZMAN, FOR THE DAY. GUIDES LIKE PETER HELP ME
RESEARCH MY GUIDEBOOKS, AND WHEN I FIND A GOOD ONE, THAT’S A PERSON
I LOVE TO RECOMMEND. HUNGARIAN IS
A UNIQUE LANGUAGE. WE ARE ONLY RELATED
TO FINNISH AND ESTONIAN, BUT IT’S EASY, LIKE
Azelet habos oldala. CAN YOU SAY THAT? [ Rick tries
to speak Hungarian ] NOT TOO BAD. EUROPE, ESPECIALLY
EASTERN EUROPE, HAS MANY EXCELLENT YOUNG GUIDES
WHO SPEAK FINE ENGLISH AND ENJOY SHOWING OFF
THEIR HOMETOWNS. CONSIDERING THEIR
REASONABLE FEES AND HOW MEANINGFUL
THEY MAKE YOUR VISIT, HIRING YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERT
CAN BE AN EXCELLENT VALUE, AND YOU’LL KNOW JUST WHERE
TO GET THE BEST STRUDEL. HEY, THANK YOU. Koszonom. PUBLIC TRANSIT ALLOWS LOCALS
A WAY TO GET AROUND THE CITY FAR EASIER AND CHEAPER
THAN MESSING WITH A CAR. MANY UNDERGROUND STATIONS
TUNNEL DEEP BENEATH THE CITY. THIS IS DEEP. OH, IT’S AS DEEP
AS A TEN-STORY BUILDING. IN FACT, IT WAS MEANT
TO BE USED AS A BOMB SHELTER DURING THE COLD WAR. WE EMERGE NEAR BUDAPEST’S
GREAT INDOOR MARKET HALL, ANOTHER SOUVENIR
FROM THE PARTY OF 1896. THE GROUND FLOOR IS A COMMOTION
OF PRODUCE STANDS… BUTCHER STALLS… PEPPERS AND SPICES. Rick:
AH, THERE’S PAPRIKA
EVERYWHERE. Peter:
AH, THE WHOLE MARKET
HAS IT. IN FACT, IT’S A DOMINANT
SPICE IN OUR CUISINE. YOU TAKE THE DRIED PEPPER,
AND THEN YOU GRIND IT AND THEN YOU WOULD
GET THE POWDER. THERE’S DIFFERENT TYPES. THERE’S HOT, AND SWEET. THAT’S SWEET. MMM, SWEET. AS IN MARKETS ALL OVER EUROPE, THE FRAGRANT STALLS
ARE KEPT DOWNSTAIRS. TANKS OF CARP,
CATFISH AND PERCH, AND PILES OF PICKLES. Peter:
YOU WANNA TRY SOME? Rick:
YEAH. OH, THAT’S MY FAVORITE. SO HERE’S A PLATE OF
PICKLED PEPPERS HERE. LOOK AT THIS. NOW, THIS IS A PICKLED
PEPPER FILLED WITH KRAUT. YEAH. NOW HOW’S THAT? MMM. THAT IS…STRONG. HOW DO YOU SAY STRONG? [ speaking Hungarian ] [ Rick speaking Hungarian ] OH. UPSTAIRS ARE HUNGARIAN
HANDICRAFTS… AND INEXPENSIVE, STAND-UP, HUNGARIAN-STYLE
FAST-FOOD JOINTS. SO THIS IS
HUNGARIAN GOULASH? SOUP. SO THIS IS NOT
A THICK STEW, BECAUSE MANY AMERICANS
WOULD THINK THAT THIS IS
A THICK STEW. IN FACT, THIS IS LIKE
A CLEAR BROTH WITH POTATO AND CUBES OF MEAT,
PORK OR BEEF IN IT. AND AS YOU CAN SEE, EVERYTHING
SEASONED WITH PAPRIKA. OKAY, SO THIS IS THE
ACTUAL HUNGARIAN GOULASH. MAN, THAT IS AUTHENTIC
HUNGARIAN GOULASH SOUP. BUT I REMEMBER THAT,
BUT BON APPETIT? [ speaking Hungarian ] [ speaking Hungarian ] AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED, VISITORS TO BUDAPEST NEED
REMEMBER ONLY ONE DATE: 1896. THAT WAS THE 1000th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE YEAR THE HUNGARIANS FIRST SETTLED IN EUROPE. IN THAT THOUSAND YEARS, THE MAGYARS WENT FROM BEING
A NOMADIC CENTRAL ASIAN TRIBE, RAMPAGING THROUGH THE CONTINENT, TO A LEGITIMATE POWER,
HELPING THE HAPSBURGS RULE ONE OF THE MIGHTIEST
EMPIRES EUROPE HAD EVER SEEN. THE PEOPLE OF BUDAPEST USED
THEIR MILLENNIAL CELEBRATION AS AN EXCUSE TO BUILD MONUMENTS
AND BUILDINGS APPROPRIATE FOR RULING
A HUGE EMPIRE. NINETY-SIX IS THE KEY NUMBER. IMPORTANT STAIRWAYS
HAVE 96 STEPS. HOW TALL ARE THE DOMES? NINETY-SIX METERS. BUDAPEST’S MAIN DRAG,
ANDRASSY BOULEVARD, CONNECTS CENTRAL PEST TO THE
BIRTHDAY PARTY FAIRGROUNDS. LOCALS CLAIM IT’S LIKE THE
CHAMPS-ELYSSES AND BROADWAY ROLLED INTO ONE. WHILE THAT’S A STRETCH, IT IS A FINE PLACE TO GET
A FEEL FOR TODAY’S URBAN PEST. AND RUNNING JUST 15 FEET
UNDER ANDRASSY BOULEVARD IS THE MILLENNIUM UNDERGROUND. ALSO BUILT IN 1896,
IT WAS THE FIRST UNDERGROUND PUBLIC TRANSIT
ON THE CONTINENT, AND THE SHALLOWEST. IT’S JUST A FEW STEPS
BELOW STREET LEVEL. TRAINS WERE ORIGINALLY
HORSE-DRAWN. WHILE HANDY TODAY FOR STOPS
ALONG ANDRASSY BOULEVARD — TRAINS COME
EVERY COUPLE OF MINUTES — IT WAS ORIGINALLY DESIGNED
TO GET THE MASSES OF VISITORS CONVENIENTLY OUT
TO THE FESTIVAL GROUNDS, AND THAT’S WHERE WE’RE HEADING. HEROES’ SQUARE, AT THE END
OF ANDRASSY BOULEVARD, WAS THE CENTERPIECE
OF THE 1896 CELEBRATION. IT’S A HUGE SQUARE, BOOKENDED
BY TWO IMPOSING MUSEUMS. AT THE MILLENNIUM MONUMENT, YOU’LL MEET THE WORLD’S
MOST HISTORIC HUNGARIANS. THE GRANDDADDY OF ALL MAGYARS
WAS ARPAD. ATOP THE PILLAR, THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL OFFERS
THE CROWN TO ST. STEPHEN, THE KING WHO CHRISTIANIZED
THE MAGYARS. BUT FOR KIDS, THIS IS JUST
THE HOTTEST PLACE IN TOWN FOR STUNT BIKING
AND SKATEBOARDING, AS WELL AS THE GATEWAY
TO THE CITY PARK. BUDAPEST’S CITY PARK
IS A VAST PLAYGROUND BUILT TO HOST
HUNGARY’S BIG BIRTHDAY BASH. IT’S STILL PACKED
WITH HUGE PARTY DECORATIONS: A ZOO WITH QUIRKY
ART NOUVEAU BUILDINGS, A REPLICA
OF A TRANSYLVANIAN CASTLE — TRANSYLVANIA WAS
PART OF HUNGARY BACK THEN — THE PALATIAL SZECHENI BATHS, AN OLD-TIME CIRCUS, AND PATHS FOR STROLLING. IF THE SIGHTSEEING GRIND’S
GOT YA DOWN, HANG OUT HERE WATCHING LOCALS
PLAY SPEEDY CHESS. BUDAPEST’S WONDERFULLY RESTORED
SYNAGOGUE IS HUGE, THE BIGGEST IN EUROPE. IT’S A REMINDER
THAT IN THE 19th CENTURY, A QUARTER OF THE CITY
WAS JEWISH. THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE
LOOKS LIKE A CHURCH. WITH ITS PIPE ORGAN FLANKING THE HIGH ALTAR,
LONG NAVE AND PULPIT, IT FEELS LIKE A CHURCH
WITH THE SYMBOLS SWITCHED. IT WAS BUILT IN THE 1850s, WHEN HUNGARY’S JEWS WANTED
TO FEEL MORE INTEGRATED INTO THE COMMUNITY. THE EASTERN-FLAVORED DECOR
IS TYPICAL OF 19th-CENTURY SYNAGOGUES
IN EUROPE, PERHAPS DESIGNED
TO RECALL THE JEWS’ MIDDLE EASTERN
AND MOORISH HERITAGE. HUNGARY’S JEWISH COMMUNITY
WAS DECIMATED BY THE NAZIS. THE SYNAGOGUE’S TREE OF LIFE,
BUILT ON THE SITE OF MASS GRAVES OF THOSE KILLED
BY THE NAZIS, IS A POWERFUL MEMORIAL. HUNGARY LOST OVER HALF A
MILLION JEWS TO THE HOLOCAUST. THE WILLOW MAKES
AN UPSIDE-DOWN MENORA. EACH INDIVIDUAL LEAF
LISTS THE NAME OF A VICTIM. PEBBLES REPRESENT PRAYERS. SADLY, BAD TIMES
UNDER THE GERMANS WERE REPLACED WITH BAD TIMES
UNDER THE RUSSIANS. WHILE SOVIET RULE WAS HARSH,
HUNGARY MANAGED TO FASHION ITS MILDER, YET STILL ACCEPTABLE
TO MOSCOW, GOULASH COMMUNISM, WHICH ALLOWED FOR A LITTLE
PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, EASIER TRAVEL
AND LESS CENSORSHIP. BECAUSE OF THIS,
HUNGARY WAS THE ENVY OF ITS MORE STRICTLY CONTROLLED
NEIGHBORS. THIS PEDESTRIAN BOULEVARD,
VACI UTCA, IS THE MAIN SHOPPING
AND TOURISM ARTERY. BEFORE THE FALL OF COMMUNISM, WANNABE SHOPPERS
FROM ALL OVER EASTERN EUROPE CAME TO THIS STREET. THEY’D DROOL OVER NIKES,
REEBOKS AND THE FINE CAPITALIST CUISINE BEFORE ANY OF THESE WESTERN
EVILS WERE AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE IN THE WARSAW PACT REGION. IN THE 1980s,
A STROLL DOWN THIS STREET WAS THE CLOSEST EAST GERMANS,
CZECHS AND POLES COULD GET TO A DAY PASS TO THE WEST. BUDAPEST WAS ALWAYS
A BIT MORE REBELLIOUS, A BIT MORE INDEPENDENT
IN SOME SENSE, AND OUR NEIGHBORS
JUST LOVED THIS PLACE. CZECHS AND POLES WOULD COME
HERE FOR AN AMERICAN CIGARETTE OR TO JUST POP IN AND OUT OF
SHOPS, SIMPLY TO TASTE THE WEST. THIS WAS WESTERN LIFE. WHEN SOME HUNGARIANS
ARE NOSTALGIC FOR WHAT THEY CONSIDER
THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF COMMUNISM, THEY DROP BY THE JEGBUFE. LITTLE SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED
HERE AT THE JEGBUFE. FIRST, YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT
AT THE COUNTER. THEN YOU TRY TO EXPLAIN THAT
TO THE CASHIER, AND PAY. NOW, I’LL TAKE
THIS OVER HERE? TRADE YOUR RECEIPT BACK AT
THE COUNTER FOR YOUR GOODIES, AND FINALLY, ENJOY IT ALL,
STANDING UP, COMMUNIST STYLE. THE DARK UNDERSIDE OF HUNGARY’S
20th-CENTURY STORY IS ON DISPLAY
AT THE HOUSE OF TERROR, HOUSED IN THE FORMER
HEADQUARTERS OF BOTH THE NAZIS AND LATER THE COMMUNIST
SECRET POLICE. IT WELCOMES YOU WITH A SOVIET
TANK AND A TOWERING WALL COVERED WITH PORTRAITS OF THE
VICTIMS OF THIS BUILDING. THIS MUSEUM MAKES IT CLEAR THAT WHILE THE UNIFORMS
CHANGED IN 1945, THE TERROR DID NOT. IT OFFERS A DISTURBING LOOK
AT THE GRIM TERROR OF BOTH THE FAR RIGHT
AND THE FAR LEFT INFLICTED ON THE PEOPLE
OF BUDAPEST. TO KEEP DISSENT TO A MINIMUM,
THE SECRET POLICE OF BOTH THE NAZIS
AND THE COMMUNISTS IMPRISONED, DEPORTED
OR EXECUTED ANYONE SUSPECTED OF BEING AN ENEMY
OF THE STATE. ROOMS FEATURE THE MANY BLEAK
DIMENSIONS OF LIFE IN HUNGARY BEFORE FREEDOM. GULAG LIFE: COUNTLESS WRITERS,
ARTISTS, AND DISSIDENTS SPENT THEIR BEST YEARS
BREAKING ROCKS IN QUARRIES. PROPAGANDA PREACHED: WAVE
THE FLAG, TRUST YOUR LEADERS AND YOU’LL ENJOY THE MATERIAL
FRUITS OF YOUR OBEDIENCE. BOTH NAZISM AND COMMUNISM
CELEBRATED A SHAM JUSTICE AND A SHAM DEMOCRACY. BEHIND THE BANNERS WERE
ALL THE DOMESTIC SPY TOOLS GOVERNMENTS USED
TO KEEP A PEOPLE IN LINE. JOINING THE CHURCH WAS
A WAY TO EXPRESS DISSENT, AND A PEOPLE’S FAITH
WAS ONE THING THE TOTALITARIAN GOVERNMENTS
COULD NOT CONTROL. THE BASEMENT WAS THE GRIM SCENE
OF TORTURE AND EXECUTIONS. WHILE THERE IS
A HAPPY ENDING — VIDEO CLIPS SHOW THE FESTIVE
AND EXHILARATING DAYS IN 1991 WHEN THE LAST SOVIETS
DEPARTED — THE WALL OF THE VICTIMIZERS
IS AN EVOCATIVE SEND-OFF. IT REMINDS VISITORS
THAT MOST LOCAL MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
OF THE SECRET POLICE, MANY OF WHOM ARE STILL LIVING, WERE NEVER BROUGHT TO JUSTICE. [ patriotic band music playing ] STATUE PARK WELCOMES THE
CURIOUS AT THE EDGE OF TOWN. WHEN REGIMES FALL,
SO DO THEIR MONUMENTS. BUDAPEST SAVED ITS SOUVENIRS
OF TOTALITARIANISM AND SHOWS THEM OFF HERE. JUST THINK OF ALL THESE STATUES
OF LENIN AND COMPANY CRASHING TO THE GROUND
TO THE CHEERS OF THE MASSES. AT STATUE PARK YOU’LL SEE
THE COMMUNIST ALL-STARS: MARX, LOCAL WANNABE STALINS, AND LENIN, IN HIS FAVORITE
HAILING-A-CAB POSE. IN A KIND OF DEMAGOGUE’S HELL, THEY’RE LEFT WITH NO ONE
TO PREACH TO BUT EACH OTHER AND STONY SOCIALIST SYMBOLS: THE HEROIC SOLDIER… THE OBEDIENT WORKER… THE TIRELESS MOTHER. UNDER SOVIET COMMUNISM, CENSORSHIP WAS TAKEN
TO EXTREMES. ART WAS ONLY ACCEPTABLE
IF IT PROMOTED THE IDEOLOGY. THE ONLY SANCTIONED ART FORM
IN THE EASTERN BLOCK WAS SOCIAL REALISM. THIS IS SOCIAL REALISM. LEADERS WERE PORTRAYED
WITH UNQUESTIONED AUTHORITY. INDIVIDUALS WERE IDEALIZED
AS COGS IN THE MACHINE, STRONG, STOIC, DOING THEIR JOB
WELL AND PROUDLY FOR THE GOOD OF THE NATION. DISTINGUISHING FEATURES
WERE UNIMPORTANT. PEOPLE ALL LOOKED THE SAME:
UNQUESTIONING PATRIOTS, TRUSTING AND SERVING
THEIR NATION. THESE DAYS, WITH HALF
THE LOCAL CITIZENRY HAVING NO LIVING MEMORY
OF COMMUNISM, THERE’S JUST NOT MUCH RESPECT. THE GIFT SHOP OFFERS A TEMPTING
PARADE OF COMMUNIST KITSCH. CONSIDER PICKING UP
A RED STAR LAPEL PIN, A WORKER’S POCKET WATCH, OR EVEN A COMMUNIST PARTY
VODKA FLASK. Koszonom. THIS IS A FUN SOUVENIR,
THE GREATEST HITS OF COMMUNISM. NOBODY CAN ARGUE THAT THE
REPLACEMENT OF COMMUNISM BY CAPITALISM HASN’T PUMPED UP
THE ENERGY IN THIS GREAT CITY. CAFES ARE THRIVING,
PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING LIFE, AND THE CITY’S BREEZY
RIVERFRONT PROMENADE IS LINED WITH DIVERSIONS. A ROMANTIC WAY TO CAP YOUR DAY,
AND OUR VISIT, IS AN EVENING CRUISE
ON THE BLUE DANUBE. AS THE SUN GOES DOWN, AN ENSEMBLE OF ICONS
GRABS YOUR ATTENTION: MIGHTY BRIDGES
LINKING BUDA AND PEST, THE STUBBORN CITADEL
STILL STANDING TALL, AND MONUMENTS HONORING
A HARD-EARNED FREEDOM. BUDAPEST HAS SURVIVED ITS THOUSAND YEARS OF TUMULTUOUS
HISTORY BEAUTIFULLY, AND TODAY IT WELCOMES VISITORS
AS AN EMBLEM OF THE NEW EUROPE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. I’M RICK STEVES. UNTIL NEXT TIME,
KEEP ON TRAVELIN’.


Reader Comments

  1. I love your movies. It's quality content and pictures very good . I'm going to Europe for 9 days in this month. Thank you so much.

  2. Just came back from a 5 day trip to Budapest. Followed Rick Steves' guidebook religiously after watching this video and was very happy with how much we were able to experience!

  3. Dude, once you call it Eastern Europe, than Central Europe. It's Central Europe, or Central Eastern at the most.

  4. I was there August 2015. Love the architectural buildings, people's and decor. I will do it again. Love it!

  5. Outstanding video !!!!!! You really touched on a great many different topics in this video. This wasn't the typical tourism video. Thanks for a very informative and entertaining video. 👍🏼.

  6. I have a girl friend that lives in Budapest…..how do these people get a Visa to come to America ? Does anyone know….please reply…..thanks……John from North Carolina….

  7. I am wondering if I will have a problem bring Paprika back to the USA on a plane ? I would bring a few pounds 🙂 We can get the good stuff back here .

  8. Europe in general has lots of history, I would love to visit Budapest and the rest of Europe one day, I've been to Krakow warsaw and few more polish cities, lots of beautiful places to visit in Europe.

  9. 0:53 Did you just call Budapest "Eastern European"? I stopped the vid there and dont see any reason to continue – someone too lazy to fking look on a map before traveling isnt qualified for a guide! Hungary is CENTRAL EUROPE you ignorant old man!

  10. Budapest is a beautiful city. Hungary is beautiful country! "Isten aldd meg a Magyart" is a nice Anthem! Love Hungary from Greece!

  11. This is the beautiful city of my homeland i left and changed for violent and boring USA ! What got into me!??? 😭

  12. Latin America presente 🙏🌍I am really enchanted with Budapest. Thank you for existing ✈️

  13. Might I suggest that lots of Americans might benefit from the Gates Foundation subsidizing their emmigration, he does not only cater for super heroes.

  14. I visited during the communist era and it seemed the whole city was covered in scaffolding. What I could see was beautiful. Likewise the horses!

  15. Rick should do more videos on Hungary other than Budapest. Balaton cities, Pecs, Eger, Holloko, Tokaj, Villany… I could go on.

  16. what a heck ?not only finish and estonian! lots of languages in russia related to hungurian! hanti, mansi, erzya, moksha etc

  17. It's so Europe with a mix of Asian culture, so fascinating & with intrigue. But hungarian are strong-looking (may be because of the nazis).

  18. Visited at Christmas. This amazing city was even more beautiful with all the Christmas markets. The architecture, the food and the very friendly people make it a rare treasure. I will definitely be back.

  19. Know why every one pretty how Roman Catholic think city from hear and what place is. Nicest girl to talk to them peace sane again think my writing?

  20. Loved the video! I know this is totally off topic, I’m not Hungarian but this country seems really interesting, I’m looking forward to find songs in Hungarian to practice the language, do you guys have any suggestion?

  21. Fascinating ❤️I’m looking forward to our trip to Budapest next year. Thank you for sharing ,Rick .You’re awesome

  22. Absolutely love budapest,my parents were from hungary & still have relatives there,beautiful city & friendly people ❤

  23. Show this documentary in Africa… where the people in the 21st century still haven't figured out how to "build" a simple road on their own ! Oh but their are coming massively to enrich Europe ! Thanks Soros… and his "enlightened" community !

  24. we had a better time than expected in Budapest! Much much more beautiful seen with your own eyes than in videos. very clean, safe and orderly. Very affordable too. Would love to come back

  25. Could this Steves guy be outta the picture please. Kinda annoying unnecesary distraction. Vain too (on the guys part) Otherwise decent video about ancient middle Europe capital.

  26. My mothers family is from Pecs and left after WW2 when the communists took over . I have never had a chance to go there

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