Riding in a cramped train car overnight from Krakow to Budapest is a good time to reflect on a busy couple weeks of travel. My good friend Shaefer and I would spend nearly three-weeks in exciting cities that have had many hundreds of years to grow and flourish. Long days, busy itineraries and extravagant views could often lead to sensory overload. No amount of words could come close to accurately describing the wonder of each unique city we passed through. This is a small attempt to share the impression that each city left on me personally.
The city is built tall and dense to accommodate the crowds who come to explore the land between the mountains and the sea. We chased the best views in the city, trying to find the tallest vantage point. First to the top of the Sagrada Familia, then to the color-filled trails of Park Gruell, and finally to historical bunker hill. It was rewarding to look out over the red-roofed city, and to be able to trace where we had been while appreciating the vastness that would remain hidden to us.
Architects sprinkle gold ornaments, details that are nearly hidden among the impressive baroque facades. The inclusion of these shimmering gold features alludes to the hidden beauty tucked away within the city itself. A city where a stroll down any old side street can reveal a grand royal garden, or a spectacularly cute courtyard with a view. The attention to detail extended far from the city center. The abundance of hundred-year old statues attempted to bring visitors back to times of old; mixing visitors with the historical figures who helped build and shape the ground beneath their feet.
A wonderfully preserved medieval gateway and network of cobble streets are a testament to the strength of this city that has lasted through the ages, through some of the most destructive acts of human history. With the majority of the medieval walls having been demolished long ago, the city center is now surrounded by a lush parkway, as if the historic center is better protected by the hundreds of visitors who now walk its shaded circumference with admiration and appreciation. A trumpet plays from the tower of St. Mary’s basilica at top of every hour, another testament to longevity and tradition. Knowing the history of suffering that occurred in the city under Nazi occupation, it is amazing to feel how welcoming and peaceful the streets have become.
The city separated by a river. Look toward Buda or cross the bridge and look out at Pest, but either way you are reminded that this city has much more to offer than can be seen in a single view. The visible ware on the streets made me feel as if the city had a lot to teach me, that it was my elder and I was a young child. Carrying this feeling up the stairway to the grand Buda Castle made me appreciate the powerful view even more. The castle grounds are inviting. The expansive view from the castle is a reminder that you are a part of something greater than yourself.