Orszaghaz (Budapest Parliament) is one of the oldest legislative buildings in Europe. Modelled on the British Houses of Parliament it was inaugurated in 1896 to mark 1000 years of Magyar history in Hungary, even though construction had commenced 16 years earlier. It is, along with the Chain Bridge and the Buda Castle, a World Heritage site and is a spectacularly beautiful building. The statistics
for its construction include 40 million bricks, together with half a million precious stones and 40 kg of 22-23 carat gold. It has survived 2 World Wars, the Communist regime post WW2 and still houses the unicameral National Assembly.
We booked online for a tour and turned up to the new Visitors Centre underneath Kossuth Lajos Square and waited with the 100’s of
others for our tour guide to take us up 166 steps into the large area open to tourists. Under the dome at the heart of the building is the hexagonal Central Hall where the Hungarian Coronation Regalia is displayed, including the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen (Szvent Istvan). Around the bottom of the dome are statues from the earliest ruler (St Stephen) to the last, Franz Joseph and includes the only female, Maria Theresa. The dome was partly destroyed by bombs in WW2 but has been painstakingly restored. The building is fascinating both on the
inside and out but particularly when lit up at night.
Budapest was formed in 1875 when the towns of Buda, Obuda and Pest were combined. The first step in this process was the construction of the famous Chain Bridge linking Buda and Obuda with Pest. It was Count Istvan Szechenyi, a Hungarian nobleman and Minister for Transport and Public Works, who lobbied for the construction of the bridge and other improvements to regulation of the Duna river to improve transportation. The Count was influenced by British engineering and the bridge was designed by an Englishman and built by a Scottish engineer, called Adam Clark and there is still a bus stop on the Buda side of the bridge named after him. It was finally opened in 1849.
The bridge links the Orszaghaz in Pest with Varhegy or Castle Hill in Buda. The hill was settled in 13th century by King Bela in the wake of invasions by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Ogedei, whose Mongul horsemen reached as far west as the Hungarian Plain. A fortress was built to defend the city, the Buda Castle where you can still practice the ancient art of archery. Along from the Castle is the legendary St Matthias Church and Square and through the stone archways of the Fisherman’s Bastion the famous view across the Duna River to the Parliament Building. During the day we were there, we watched the Hungarian army change guard outside the Buda Palace, all incognito in their shades as hundreds of tourists took their photo.
Our return at night to The Castle area and to the wonderful Abarados Restaurant for Fred’s pre birthday dinner was a much quieter affair, with views of the Budapest skyline, lit like fairyland.