Winter in Budapest: A symbolic bridge
RUTH ALLEN strolls through Budapest. We are often urged by songs to spend April in Paris, or summer in the city, or autumn in New England … But how often have songsmiths hailed the pleasures of winter in Budapest? It may at first not sound an inviting prospect, with images of snow, mist, cold and a frozen River Danube. Yet such conditions will not put off the hardy Scot – indeed there are these and many other Budapest features that a Scottish visitor will easily recognise.
A walk along the river bank will bring you to a suspension bridge that reminds you of Glasgow’s River Clyde crossing. And no wonder, designed as it was by London engineer William Clark and built by Scotsman Adam Clark through the 1840s. The latter is most fondly remembered by Hungary with commemorative plaques at one end of this Chain Bridge and Adam Clark Square at the other.
Further on in Kossuth Square, a statue to 19th century Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos (Louis) Kossuth harbours a series of other Scottish connections. Like his fellow nationalist hero from Italy, *Giuseppe Garibaldi, Kossuth was a great fan of Scotland (“the land of liberty”), seeing William Wallace as the prototype nationalist rebel hero and lending his moral and financial support to the building of the Stirling Wallace Monument. Also like the Italian patriot he corresponded with radical Glasgow businessman John McAdam. But unlike Garibaldi, the exiled Hungarian did get a chance to visit Glasgow in 1856 to thank an enthusiastic City Hall audience for their support for his cause of Hungarian independence (as well as enjoying “a feast of strawberries” after the meeting!).
Scots who are noted for their spirit of adventure will not want to turn down the chance to sample the local Budapest potent spirit, Unicom. The recipe for this herbal concoction has been a well-kept family secret for over a hundred years and survived the Nazi invasion of Hungary in World War Two.
There are frequent flights to Budapest and a good selection of hotels on both sides of the river. Our choice was on the Pest side, close to the modern city centre, the K and K Opera Hotel, Revay Utca 24. As the name suggests, it is just round the corner from the Hungarian State Opera House, where we enjoyed a memorable Hogmanay special that brought in the bells in cultural style.
Within easy walking distance are the main sights of Budapest – St. Stephen’s Basilica, Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the spectacular Parliament Building, Hungarian National Museum, Buda Castle, Hero Square and of course an unrivalled choice of thermal baths of which the Gellert probably leads the field in olde worlde charm. If there is nothing on at the Opera, a visit to the nearby Belcanto restaurant will satisfy your musical ear as the singing waiters offer a selection of classic arias between courses.
Pub quiz time! Question: What were the two middle names of US librarian Melville Dewey, founder of the Dewey Decimal System? Answer: Louis Kossuth (so impressed were his parents with the Hungarian nationalist!).
* See Ruth Allen’s story – the Great Italian Biscuit Bake-Off
Main pic, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, by Ruth Allen.