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The Pearl of the Danube

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For over a thousand years, the city of Budapest, Hungary has been straddling the Danube River. Because of its mysterious charisma, Budapest has been held captive by the Mongols, Turks, Austrians, Nazis, communists, and Soviets throughout its turbulent history and evidence of their presence can still be seen.

The capital of Hungary, a nation that has witnessed the mixing of many cultures, is home to St. Stephen’s Basilica, a very large Catholic church, Dohany Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, and the Tomb of Gül Baba, the world’s northernmost Muslim pilgrimage site. St. Stephen’s Basilica, whose large black dome can be seen from any point in the city, is the largest church in the city; anyone who walks inside will be overwhelmed by the enormous marble walls, the gold-plated roof, and the numerous pieces of traditional Hungarian folk art that are found on the altars. Surprisingly, many people do not notice the shape of a menorah on the ground in front of Dohany Synagogue; the building’s black and gold onion domes have intrigued visitors for hundreds of years. After seeing the large interior, which is painted with different shades of red, purple, and pink, and the many wooden pews, it is easy to believe that this place has been held sacred by over eighty-thousand Hungarian Jews. The Tomb of Gül Baba, a Turkish poet who first brought roses to Hungary, has been surrounded by botanical gardens since the sixteenth century.

Like many other cities, Budapest is divided into districts and has many unique neighborhoods; the main parts of the city are the Chain Bridge, Castle Hill, Andrassy Avenue, the Jewish Quarter, and Moscow Square. The Chain Bridge, which has been connecting Buda and Pest in the center of the city since 1849, is the best place to go for breathtaking views of the Danube; it is a popular place for gypsy musicians to gather and play their instruments. The oldest part of Budapest, Castle Hill, overlooks the Danube River and the Chain Bridge from a hill in Buda. Castle Hill is home to Buda Castle, a large stone palace with a uniquely green dome, the Matthias Church, and several long, cobblestoned streets with houses that are painted in every color. Because it is Budapest’s main street, a lot of people and traffic can be seen on Andrassy Avenue at any hour of the day. The street, which is about two miles long, is lined with designer stores, cafes, the Hungarian Opera House, pizzerias, the old secret police headquarters, and bookstores. The Jewish Quarter is a very large area near the city center; it is home to kosher restaurants, several old synagogues, and the smell of spices and falafel emanating from Syrian and Turkish cafes. Moscow Square is in a large residential area directly behind Castle Hill. Large shopping malls, old apartment buildings, Hungarian bakeries, and small grocery stores can be seen in Moscow Square.

Budapest is a very interesting and unique city that has been impacted by many different cultures from Europe and the Middle East. Because of the few tourists that visit Budapest and the alluring sound of the Hungarian language, it is safe to assume that Budapest will always be exotic and untouched.





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