Throughout the three days after my interview, I walked and walked and walked. I think the best way to get to know a city is to walk as much of it as possible. And center city Budapest, which is where most of the sights and activities are, is a great place for walking. There are even some pedestrian-only streets and zones.
Turns out, Gellért Hill was named after bishop Gellért who was thrown to death from the hill (on the actual spot of the statue) by pagans in the fight against Christianity in 1046. My picture isn’t very clear, but his statue depicts him holding up a cross, as if defending Christianity or trying to convert non-believers. Near his feet on his left, there is figure climbing towards him, representing the pagan opposition. Gellért greets everyone traveling across Elisabeth Bridge.
Further south and on the top of Gellért Hill is the Citadel, a fortress built by the Habsburgs after the 1848 Revolution to watch over the Hungarians. I didn’t go inside, but supposedly you can see the air raid bunker and other items. I enjoyed walking around and seeing the expansive view of the city. DiVino Wine Bar even has a small branch there. I didn’t have a glass of wine while there, but it was tempting.
Just next to the Citadel is the Liberation Monument, built by the Soviets after liberating Budapest from the Nazis. There was a smaller Soviet soldier statue there too, but it was taken away after the fall of Communism.
Down the hill, south toward Liberty Bridge, is Cave Church. It’s a real church built inside the hill. The Soviets sealed the entrance in the early 50s, and it was reopened after the fall of Communism. I didn’t go in, but there are services daily.
Just a note: I walked from mid Pest down to Liberty Bridge, crossing the bridge and hiking up to the top of Gellért Hill (and that was only a small part of my walk that day). If you do this, wear good shoes and take water, especially during the summer. Pretty obvious, right? You wouldn’t think so based on what some people were wearing. I felt sorry for their feet.
Also, I didn’t have a guidebook (not sure why I didn’t buy one for the trip—maybe I was too focused on the interview?), but fortunately figured out there were markings to guide me to the top. There are actually two sets of markings starting at the bottom; I’m not sure where the other markings go. Initially, I wasn’t sure which markings I should follow, but decided the ones that consistently took me up hill made the most sense. To misquote the movie Rain Man, “I’m an excellent navigator. Excellent navigator.”
Coming up: Castle Hill