My first steps in Budapest were in several supermarkets, not museums. Expats are not tourists. Expats need to make their nest first, then they are ready to explore. And go to work!
From abroad we say Budapest. Once we have settled in the capital city we learn how to speak like locals. You either live in Buda on the west side of the Danube or in Pest (pronounced Pesht) on the east side. It was not until 1849 that a bridge – Chain Bridge or Széchenyi Hid in Hungarian – connected the multiple Buda hills to the plains of very flat Pest. About twenty years later Obuda (the ‘old’ Buda, north of Buda), united with Buda and Pest.
In Paris the districts (arrondissements) are set in a clockwise spiral, like a snail which makes them easy to learn: small numbers in the center and larger numbers on the outside. Because of the development of Buda, Obuda and Pest separately for many years, the numbers of the districts don’t really follow each other in an easy spiral. Buda has its center, district 1 (district 12 is next to it) and Pest has also its center, district 5 (district 13 is next to it), tough logic. Obuda comprises district 3 and 4 which says that this city was developed before Pest.
District 1 is dominated by the city’s main castle surrounded by ramparts. Locals call it the Vár district and it is about 100 meters above sea level. We live in district 12, a residential district, one of the largest, with the greenest hills – also the highest: this is where you may climb the highest point of the city, the János Hegy (John’s Hill) at 527 meters. The President, Prime Minister and many ambassadors together with only 75,000 others inhabitants live in district 12 out of almost two million inhabitants. Some time ago it was covered with vines. District 5 is where the magnificent parliament and our embassy are. It is also the most touristic district including the Basilica, the main pedestrian street Vaci utca, a huge Eiffel-inspired covered market ‘Vasarcsarnok’ and many five-star hotels.
From our new house to the embassy we take a tram for 15 minutes and then the subway for six minutes. There are four subway lines in Budapest. The Budapest subway was the first on the continental mainland, the second in Europe after London. Line 1 is yellow, line 2 is red, line 3 is blue and the brand new line 4 is green. The nearest subway station to the parliament is named Kossuth Lajos (pronounced Koshout Lah-yos) after a famous lawyer, journalist and politician considered the father of Hungarian democracy. On April 14th, 1849 he proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Hungary and the downfall of the Habsburg dynasty. Alas the Austrian Chancellor refused and Kossuth took exile in England and died in Turin.
The parliament, a major symbol of Budapest, is inspired by the British parliament. Near it is Szabadság tér (pronounced ‘Sobodshag‘) which translates as Liberty or Freedom square. The embassy is located in one of the beautiful old buildings which line the plaza.
Our surroundings are beautiful and our commute is short. This is a good start!