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The Castle Area and Váci Utca

married here and built a fine home for himself and his family in Buda. He died in 1866 at the age of 55. The square on the Buda end of the bridge was named after him in 1912 and was one of the few streets named after a foreigner that was not re-named during the Communist period. Cable Car (Sikló) 2F – 2G ••• The cable car is located at the base of the Castle on Clark Ádám tér. With a track almost 100 metres long and a 48 percent gradient, the cable car opened for service in 1870. The idea was to provide cheap transport for clerks working in the Castle District. Originally it was operated with a steam engine, but switched to electricity when it was rebuilt in 1986. It still uses a cable, however, with the car going down counter balancing the car going up. The two carriages are named Elizabeth (the left one) and Margaret (the right one), after the bridges, no doubt. The cable car runs from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (but is closed every other Monday). At the lower terminus there is always a long queue, so you can take the Király lépcső (steps) as an alternate route up to the Castle. Castle Hill rises only 50 to 60 metres above the riverbank, so you can walk to the top in 5 to 10 minutes. If you make a little detour to the left at the first point where the paths cross, you can admire the fine proportions of the Lánchíd from above the tunnel. You’ll also see the cable car from a little bridge over the tracks. Castle Hill (Várhegy) ••• This flat 1.5 kilometre long crag is packed with houses and could be compared to a floating stone galley. At first sight the district may look poor and provincial compared to other historic districts in Western Europe that have remained substantially intact since the Middle Ages, but upon closer inspection it offers delightful sights and stories. Apart from some stately town houses, most of the buildings are simple plastered burgher’s houses. The streets, which lead from the old castle gates, follow the shape of the hill. After an unexpected and devastating Mongol attack in the mid-13th century citizens of Buda began moving up the hill. Later, the Royal Court was established on the hill and the long golden age of the district began. Buda became an important European city in the 15th century when its population is estimated to have been about 8,000. It was a melting pot of different nations: “Pontiffs of Italian culture live in the neighbourhood of noblemen used to the rough life of soldiers. Swiss ambassadors open their doors to Turkish aristocrats,” wrote a historian at the time. Buda started to decline when the Turks ruled between 1541 and 1686, but the siege and bombardment that happened just 75 days before its liberation in 1686 left it in ruins. The Austrian

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authorities counted 300 inhabitants in the remains of the city. There were no Jews among the survivors. The numerous and once prosperous community which had enjoyed the religious tolerance of the Turks was massacred by the Christian liberators because it sided with the Turkish defenders of the city. After the Turks left, reconstruction followed the old street layout, but with houses being built only two stories high rather than three. A Baroque city slowly came into being, hiding the old ruins behind its thick walls. The Castle became a district of government. It was besieged again in 1849, and again reconstructed. Later, most of the government ministries moved here. After a long period of peace, it was battered to pieces yet again in January 1945 when the Germans and Russians met there, before the eyes of an anguished civilian population. The German forces were completely surrounded, but held out for seven weeks (December 24, 1944 to February 12, 1945). This was the city’s thirty-first siege. The latest reconstruction lasted for a long time – too long for the ministries, which moved out and allowed museums to take their places. Most of the district’s houses are used as residential flats, some of which have only been modernized in the past few years. Cars have recently been banned from the entire area, with the exception of residents, guests of the Hilton Hotel, and taxis. The Castle has become quiet again. According to an architect/writer, the spirit of the city came here in its retirement. There is a peacefulness up here that cannot be found anywhere else in Budapest. The Venice Charter of landmark preservation regulating the reconstruction of historic buildings says: “if a building has several architectural layers, the reconstruction of the remains of some earlier state can be permitted solely on condition that in so doing only parts of lesser value are demolished while the reconstructed part should be of great historical, archaeological or aesthetic value.” The whole city of Buda is a good example of such reconstruction. While the rubble was being cleared away after the war, many remains dating from the Middle Ages came into light and were left intact. Regarding the Castle, from what we have left it seems certain that the walls of the buildings were painted different colours everywhere, with black, white and green patterns being dominant. Even the doorways of the ruined houses held surprises. Dozens of niches were discovered, whose function is still not clear to archaeologists. Some think they were resting places for night watchmen, others say they were used as stalls by broadcloth traders. Sixty-three such niches can now be seen in the Castle District. The oldest ones, from the 13th century, are finished in a simple round arch, while the later ones were

Walk ONE

Walk ONE

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2011.04.20. 15:49:12

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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