City of Spas

30 03 2012

Ever since the Roman age, Budapest has been known for its many thermal springs with medicinal qualities.  As a result, Budapest has many world-famous thermal baths that were built throughout its history, with a wide range of architectural styles.  In fact, in 1934 it was christened as  “City of Spas” (or “Spa City”).

One of the most famous baths  is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.  In addition to being the largest thermal bath complex in Budapest, it is also one of the largest in Europe.  The bath was built in a Neo-baroque style in 1913 and was named after the great Hungarian statesman István Széchenyi.

Another of Budapest’s famous and more luxurious baths is the Gellért Thermal Bath, which is connected to the four star Gellért Hotel.  It was built in an Art Nouveau (Secession) style and opened in 1918.

Ever since their discovery, the springs of the Gellért Bath have been especially favored for the “miraculous” quality of their water.  The Gellért Bath was also referred to as Sárosfürdő (Mud bath) because of the fine silt that sprung up from the springs and settled at the bottom of the pools.

Other famous thermal baths in Budapest include the Király Baths, the Rácz Thermal Bath, the Rudas Baths, and Lukács Baths.  These baths originated during the Turkish period and are outstanding examples of Turkish architecture.

Some of these baths, the Rudas Baths in particular, also host special spa parties (referred to as “Sparties”) sponsored by Cinetrip, which attract younger audiences.  In addition to dancing and music, these Sparties include audiovisual features such as projecting lights and vintage silent films on walls to further enhance the experience.

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Hungarian Money

29 03 2012

One of my favorite hobbies is collecting foreign money, and since this blog is about Budapest, I think it would appropriate to show the Hungarian currency I have been able to collect.  Hungarian currency is known as the forint, and just like the dollar is divided into cents, the forint used to be divided into fillér coins, but they are no longer in circulation.  I have two forint banknotes, each from a different series of banknotes.

100 forint, from the 1947 Series

The first banknote presented is the 100 forint banknote from the 1947 Series.  This particular note is dated 1984.  The portrait on the obverse (top) side is that of Lajos Kossuth, a freedom fighter who is one of the most important figures in Hungarian history.  The image on the reverse (bottom) side is that of the painting “Flight from the thunderstorm” by the German-Hungarian painter Károly Lotz.

1000 forint, currently in use

The next banknote is the 1000 forint that is currently in circulation.  It depicts Matthias Corvinus, a King of Hungary during the Renaissance, on the obverse side and the Hercules Fountain from the Castle of Visegrád on the reverse side.  Of note of this banknote is that it is actually a newer version of the 1000 forint that was adopted in 2006, which added a copper-colored metallic stripe on the obverse side.  All previous versions, without the metallic strip on the obverse side, of these banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2007 and will be continued to be exchanged by the Hungarian National Bank until 2027.

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Bridges of Budapest

29 03 2012

One of the most visible, and important, landmarks of Budapest are its eight famous bridges that span the famous Danube River.  Each bridge has its own unique features and appearance, as well as its own contribution to the history and culture of Budapest.  The bridges are presented here in the order they were originally constructed.

 

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

The oldest and most famous of the Budapest bridges is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.  Named after Hungarian statesman István Széchenyi, the bridge was designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1839, and was inaugurated in 1849, becoming the first permanent bridge in the Hungarian capital.  The name “Chain” comes from the iron chains held by two 48-meter river piers on which the road-bed hangs.  Like all the other bridges, the Chain Bridge was completely destroyed in the Siege of Budapest in 1945, during World War II and was rebuilt in 1949.

 

Margit (Margaret) Bridge

The second oldest bridge is the Margit (Margaret) Bridge, completed in 1876.  In addition to spanning across the Danube, it is also one of the two bridges that crosses the famous recreational destination of Margaret Island, going through the island’s southern tip.  The Margaret Bridge is the most worn out of all the Budapest bridges and measures have been taken to renovate it without damaging its historical character.

 

Szabadság (Liberty) Bridge

The third bridge is the Szabadság (Liberty) Bridge, originally named the Franz Joseph Bridge, after the last Austro-Hungarian emperor and originally completed in 1896.  It is the shortest of the Budapest bridges.

 

Original Elisabeth Bridge

New Elisabeth Bridge

The fourth bridge is the Erzsébet (Elisabeth) Bridge, named after the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the wife of the previously mentioned Franz Joseph who was assassinated in 1898.  When completed in 1903, the original bridge had the longest span of any suspension bridge in the world until 1926.  The new Elisabeth bridge, opened in 1964, is regarded as the most elegant of all the Budapest bridges because of its alluring aesthetic.

 

Petőfi Bridge

The fifth Budapest bridge, the Petőfi Bridge, is named after the Hungarian poet and revolutionary Sándor Petőfi.  When originally completed in 1937 it was named the Miklós Horthy Bridge, after the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary.

 

Árpád Bridge

Named after the leader of the first Magyar settlers of Hungary, the Árpád Bridge was commissioned in 1939 but wasn’t completed until 1950 because of the onset of World War II.  Like the Margaret Bridge, the Árpád Bridge also crosses Margaret Island, passing through its northern end.

 

Rákóczi Bridge, formerly the Lágymányosi Bridge

The Rákóczi Bridge, named after a Hungarian noble family, was inaugurated in 1995.  It is the southernmost of the Budapest bridges and was formerly known as the Lágymányosi Bridge.  Worth noting is that the the Rákóczi Bridge was the first of the Budapest bridges to be originally constructed after World War II.

 

Megyeri Bridge

The last and newest of the Budapest bridges is the Megyeri Bridge.  Completed in 2008, it is also the northernmost of the Budapest bridges as well as the longest.  Concerning its name, the Megyeri Bridge was involved in a controversial naming poll which was ‘won’ by American comedian Stephen Colbert.  However, due to a certain Hungarian law, Colbert was not eligible to have the bridge named after him; therefore, the name ‘Megyeri’ was chosen instead, since it connects Káposztásmegyer and Békásmegyer.

 

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