After having gone to Prague, I was determined to visit Budapest, for comparisons are always made between the two. They’re both “classical” European capitals; they both have castles perched on a hill overlooking the rest of the city; they’re both built upon significant rivers. It took me a few years, but eventually I made it to Budapest.

This trip took place in August of 2003

Budapest was, for ages, three cities: the hilly Buda on the western bank of the Danube and the flat Pest on the eastern bank, and the oldest, Obuda, just north of Buda. In 1872, the three cities were joined into Budapest. (A note on pronunciation: “s” in Hungarian is pronounced “sh,” so the correct pronunciation would actually be “Budapesht,” a fact borne out in the Polish spelling of the city, “Budapeszt,” but strangely missing in the English spelling.)

Kinga and I had already tentatively planned the trip when we thought of going by bicycle. After all, who wants a relaxing vacation? With the nine-to-ten (i.e., 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) sightseeing and the all-night return trip, it made for a vacation after which I could only think, “Damn, I need a vacation.”

In the end, I’d have to say I prefer Prague. With its narrow, cobblestone streets, its old buildings and hidden squares, it has a medieval coziness that Budapest, with its broad boulevards and its 19th century predominance totally lacks.

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