Jul 29, 2006

What did I like best about Vienna and Budapest?

As you probably already know, I visited Vienna and Budapest last week, both for the first time. I'm used to European cities, having been to a number of them. Crooked streets, often narrow; old buildings, often many large, ornate ones; domed churches and tall cathedrals; long, continuous histories, with much drama and changing of hands and governments; royalty, revolts, rebuilding. So why did I like Vienna and Budapest?

Why Budapest is the easiest to answer: The river. The Danube (Duna in Hungarian, Donau in German/Norwegian). A dramatic hilly west bank (Buda) meets the flat Hungarian plains on the east bank (Pest), and the ribbon of water passing under many bridges past large, elaborate buildings (like the Whitehall-inspired parliament) creates a gorgeous and exotic scene:

Why I like Vienna is harder to nail down. Perhaps it's the city's combination of being both old, charming and Austrian. Or its more compact city center and narrow streets, some mere passageways, like in Bergen.

Budapest had much wider streets, longer blocks, and so didn't have that compact city center that many western European cities have, and which I am used to. The Hungarians love space and the flatness of the plains make it easy to build wide boulevards and large town squares, which is characteristic of the Pest side of Budapest. All the space in the picture below is just the entrance to a Metro station.

Also, the walk from our hotel in Budapest to the river/shopping district was typically city (Budapest is a bit larger than Vienna, too). The walk in Vienna from our hotel to the downtown area was partly along the U-bahn and now channeled Wien river (which reminded me of Los Angeles' river) and Naschmarkt (open air market), so walking in Vienna had a different feel.

I felt very comfortable navigating Vienna by myself, and less so in Budapest. Being baffled by Hungarian probably played a part. However, I do want to see both cities again, and one way that I think would be great is to travel by boat on the Donau between them, like in the old days. I wouldn't mind starting in the port town of Passau, in Germany, just across the Austrian border:

So what captured my fancy? Buildings. Buildings, buildings, buildings. Like this one, two blocks from our hotel. It is the Eastern train station and where the Orient Express stops.

Even though I live in an old European city, Norway has had a poor past, which shows in our buildings. Many buildings in Vienna and Budapest are huge, elaborate, no-expense-spared memorials to a glorious, powerful and rich past - a joint past until World War I, illustrated by this street scene in Vienna:

Sightseeing also means looking up. From atop what I believe is the winter palace in Vienna:

Walking back from shopping in Budapest, I happened to look up at these looking down on me:

And to answer Alice: Oh, yes, Hundertwasserhaus was wonderful! I enjoyed the whole area and took lots of pictures. Here's one of the building; the glass, trees and terrace are all part of it:

12 comments:

Mark said...

Welcome back but......

Where are the pics of all the topless women you were talking about at paula's???

:o/>

Mark said...

BTW - Seriously - Very cool pics!!!!

Keera said...

I wasn't at the beach. (Nor do I expect Catholic countries to, uh, embrace such things as easily as do Protestant ones. Hm. That needs rephrasing. Or not.)

Thanks for the compliment!

alice said...

I wonder if your trouble nailing down why you like Vienna has anything to do with how the city feels about itself, and the way it grew up as the seat of an empire, rather than with a firm sense of nationalism. I got a very different vibe from Vienna than I've gotten from other cities, but I have a hard time putting my finger on what is different about it...

Great photos! The Budapest riverscape is breathtaking!

Keera said...

I wonder if your trouble nailing down why you like Vienna has anything to do with how the city feels about itself,

Actually, what the guide book I bought said about the people of Vienna, reminded me very much of Norwegians. I decided not to let that spoil my holiday, though. ;-)

Great photos! The Budapest riverscape is breathtaking!

Thank you! I am very pleased with that shot myself, coming as close as it did to the reality. I really want to see Budapest again.

Anonymous said...

Flotte bilder! :D Høres ut som du har hatt det kjempefint! Det e bra veit du!
Du har monsterbein!! XD
Klem fra en liten nisse!! O_o

Anonymous said...

Øh. velkommen heim forresten!! XD

Keera said...

Til min lille nisse: Takk for klemmen!

Øh. velkommen heim forresten!! XD

Jo, takk. :-)

max said...

DId you go to Gundel's?

max
['Looks like you had fun.']

Keera said...

No, we didn't. We did have fun. Gundel's was over by the zoo, and the "Hero's plaza", and we had a guide take us there in the morning, but we never got around to going back to that part of town for any reason.

max said...

TOTAL BUMMER.

max
['I am sad.']

Keera said...

Don't be. I'm not. So many other wonderful experiences.