The 5 oddest things in Budapest

1) Pest is rising

Looking from hilly Buda at Pest, the latter looks completely flat. Anyone who ever tried to bike from the river to Kőbánya or District X. knows that isn’t true. Pest, as a matter of fact, is incrementally growing higher and higher, as it moves away from the Danube. Geologists compare it to an amphitheatre created by nature.

2) 23 semi-independent fiefdoms

Budapest, a city of 1,7 million inhabitants, is highly compartmentalised; there are 23 districts, each with their own elected mayor and city council. There is a mayor-in-chief as well, but he has limited power. The coordination of the different districts is slow and difficult, and corruption is probably higher as a consequence.

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3) A spa city and a big city at the same time

Budapest is a spa city, but a special one: usually spa cities are small settlements that have little to offer besides thermal water. Budapest has a lot of attractions; the baths are just one of them. The concept was first brought to Buda by the Turks. Until WWII there were about a dozen Danube swimming pools. These days Budapest baths are mostly used by families with kids, and tourists. Ordinary people go to fitness clubs and gyms with small pools.

4) Chapel in the rock

The medieval-looking chapel was inaugurated in 1931. It has been carved into the south slope of Gellért Hill and serves as a place for prayers by the monks of the nearby monastery. It was brutally closed on Easter Monday 1951, when the monks were deported, and some of them killed. The chapel was reopened for the monks and the public in 1992.

5) An exact copy of the Firenze palace

You could call Budapest a city of copies: many buildings will remind visitors of buildings in Vienna or Paris. Batthyány Palace for example (Teréz körút 13.) is a close to perfect copy of Palazzo Strozzi (1538), in Firenze. The copy was designed by Lajos Hauszmann, a leading architect of his time.

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