Budapest: Margaret Island and Óbuda
I knew before we arrived in Budapest that it had been formed in 1873 from the cities of Buda and Pest which lie on opposite banks of the Danube. What I didn’t know was that there was a third settlement involved: Óbuda (Old Buda) which, although largely modern these days, still had a historic town centre. One morning we set off to walk there.
Our route took us from our hotel in Pest to the Margaret Bridge (Margít hid). On the way, we were amused by this pub sign – has the campaign for Scottish independence now reached Hungary?
Margaret Bridge is slightly V-shaped with a spur in the middle onto Margít-sziget, or Margaret Island, walking the length of which gives access to another bridge leading to Óbuda. Like many places we’ve visited at this time of year (it was early March) the island was still gearing up for the tourist season – nothing had been planted out yet in the gardens, and there were several diversions to avoid repairs which were being made to the roads and footpaths. There was still plenty to see though. I made a friend.
I don’t know who he is, but later in the week we saw a photograph of children playing on the same statue in the 1960s, so he’s been there for a while.
We saw the ruins of a Franciscan Church from the 13th century, and a chapel with a Romanesque tower dating back to the 12th.
There are also ruins of the Dominican Convent inhabited by St Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271) after whom the island and bridge were named in the 19th century.
Margaret was the daughter of King Béla IV who vowed to bring her up as a nun if Hungary survived the Mongol invasion. When it did, he consigned her to the convent at 9 years old. What a father! She seems to have made the best of it by curing lepers and performing other saintly deeds as well as, allegedly, never washing above the ankles. Eurgh! Although she was beatified soon after her death, she didn’t actually become a Saint until 1943.
Other attractions include two thermal baths and an outdoor theatre, all probably very busy in the summer. Behind the convent sign above you can see an Art Nouveau water tower peeking through the trees, and below is the Japanese garden.
Árpád híd at the far end of the island is just a big modern road bridge, so we strode over that as quickly as possible to reach Óbuda which, as I said, is largely modern but still has some attractive historic buildings.
The town square houses several museums, one of which is dedicated to Imra Varga who created the sculptures with umbrellas below. This time it was John’s turn to make friends.
As I’ve observed before, Budapest is fond of its outdoor sculptures and statues. The signpost amused us – 2336 km to Stirling which is not far from us. I wonder why they chose it?
This statue is Pál Harrer who initiated the founding of Budapest. It’s good to see him honoured.
We had a quick lunch in a café but didn’t linger to visit any of the museums. John had a plan – he wanted to visit a cave. The hills to the west of Óbuda have a network of caves formed by rising thermal waters, two of which are open to the public. We set off to walk to the nearest, Pál-völgyi Cave. I have to confess I was a bit grumbly here, as the walk was not very interesting: uphill through residential areas. Also, I was far less keen on this idea than John was. I’d read the description of the cave in the guidebook which mentioned 400 steps and a 7 metre ladder. Steps I can deal with, but I wondered where this ladder would be taking me.
In the end, I needn’t have worried. Although not all that spectacular, the cave had some interesting formations and fossils.
The ladder wasn’t too bad – you can see me disappearing up it, feeling glad that it didn’t look like the other one pictured which, I’m assured, is there for illustrative purposes only.
From the cave, the walk back to Margaret Bridge was all downhill, thank goodness. This time we stopped to admire its sculptures – and to rest my weary feet.
By the end of that day I had done 31,744 steps! This was our longest day in Budapest by almost 10,000 steps, and my longest ever since I started wearing a Fitbit in February 2016. The only other time I have cracked 30,000 was hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – I didn’t expect to exceed that in a city. All in all, I feel totally justified in linking this to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in sunny Portugal again this week.