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Published: August 11th 2019
Today is a day of two halves. I have plenty of time to see more of Budapest before catching the 15.34 train to Zagreb. After a fairly cloudy day yesterday I am pleased to look out of the window at a cloudless sky. I have an excellent breakfast in the Barceló - I am in the restaurant before 08.00 and it is still fairly quiet, although it gets much busier by the time I leave. I only need to check out at 12.00 so I head out early. I know it is going to be hot, and plan to get back soon after 11.00 to have another shower here so I can feel fresh for the trip to Zagreb. It is just brilliant to be so central. This morning I want to see other places that Eva, our local guide, mentioned to me, and I head off down Andrassy Avenue.
Andrassy Avenue is a world heritage site and connects the city centre with the City Park. It was completed in 1885 and was considered a masterpiece of planning becoming home to noble families, aristocrats, bankers and landowners. It was named after Prime Minister Gyula Andrassy, an advocate of
the project. Over the years it has been named many other things - Stalin after WW2, Hungarian Youth in 1956, People's Republic after 1956 and until 1989, and since then, Andrassy Avenue. Public transport was prohibited to preserve its character, which brought about the idea of building a railroad beneath it. The Millennium Underground Railway, opened in 1896, was the first subway line in continental Europe (only the London underground was started earlier).
Andrassy Avenue has four distinct parts as it leads away from the city centre: 1. Elizabeth Square to Oktogon - mainly high-end shops e.g Louis Vuitton, Gucci etc plus the Opera House and Liszt Ferenc Square. 2. Oktogon to Kodály kōrōnd - office buildings, residential properties and the House of Terror Museum. 3. Kodály kōrōnd to Bajza utca - residential villas. 4. Bajza utca to Heroes Square - villas and palaces, some of which are used as embassies.
Sadly, I don't have enough time this time to visit House of Terror Museum (and it wasn't open yet as I passed by as an early bird). Many people recommended it to me, and I shall visit next time that I am here. It is
a lovely walk all the way down Andrassy Avenue (possibly two miles) with many beautiful turn of the century buildings.
Heroes Square is the largest and most symbolic square in the city. It is dominated by the Millenary Monument - a 36-metre pillar topped by a golden Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown. At its base are the seven Magyar chieftains who occupied the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century. The square has played an important part in contemporary Hungarian history and has been host to many political events, including the reburial of Imre Nagy in 1989. The square also features the Museum of Fine Arts.
After spending some time in Heroes Square I wander into the lovely City Park. It is beautiful and peaceful. I appear to be the only tourist here, with lots of Hungarian families enjoying the glorious weather and facilities such as the lake, the zoo and the fabulous-looking Széchenyi Thermal Bath (I went into the reception and peeped through the gap!).
After a lovely coffee overlooking the lake I walk back along Andrassy Avenue to the hotel, shower (again!) and check out at noon. Leaving
my case at reception I head towards the Basilica and the Vaci utca area for a wander and some lunch. The early start to the day has given me plenty of time to see more of the city and at 2.30 I collect my case, walk to the metro station at Deak Ferenc Ter (less than five minutes) and take the red line four stops to Déli station. I am there very early but my train is already in and I find my carriage. I have a window seat in a compartment for six people. This reminds me of my two InterRail trips with Hazel and Elaine when I was 19 and 20, and to be honest, I don't feel much different! I am joined by a group of five young Greeks friends. They are doing InterRail and are delightful and interesting company.
The journey is pleasant. Although it takes over five hours, I love travelling and have my laptop, headphones and Kindle and never get bored. Aside from chatting with the others, the highlight is travelling alongside the very long and attractive Lake Baloton.
It is dark when we get to Zagreb. My
hotel is a a five-minute stroll from the station and I check in quickly to my comfortable room at the Best Western Premier Astoria.
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