Budapest. It’s a city made for walking. After going grocery shopping, one of the first things we do when we arrive at a new destination for our two-week stay is to walk – and not anywhere in particular, we just wander around our neighbourhood.
If you’ve been travelling with us since the beginning of the trip, you might remember our meanderings along Rue Bab Doukkala in our neighbourhood in Marrakech, our ventures into Barcelona’s off-the-beaten-track barrios, our countless climbs up the hilly cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, our power walks along Rio’s Ipanema Beach, our sunset strolls along Camps Bay beach in Cape Town, and more recently our after-dark adventures in Istanbul.
That’s one of the things that we’ve come to love about how we’ve chosen to travel this year – the freedom that comes from having decided that we’re not in a place to tick off ‘top tens’, that we don’t have to go to any museums or monuments, and that we don’t have to do every ‘must-do’ sight. Rather, we’re here to get beneath the skin of the places and connect with locals, and that to spend time just strolling about a place is okay.
That’s what slow travel is all about for us – not just spending longer in each location than the average travellers do, but also slowing down in terms of how we spend each day. Sure, we’re working and a big chunk of our day is devoted to doing the things that travel writers and photographers do, but when we’re out and about sometimes we’re just kicking about places, doing whatever takes our fancy at the time.
The irony of spending a couple of weeks in a stunningly beautiful city like Budapest and being located so centrally on the posh street of Andrassy Avenue, is that we’re actually very close to all the ‘sights’, so close that we can probably say they’re in our neighbourhood.
St Stephen’s Basilica with its colossal 96-metre high dome is just around the corner, the Hungarian State Opera House is a five-minute stroll in the opposite direction. It takes less than 10 minutes to mosey down to the Danube River and the Parliament, and another 10 minutes to cross Chain Bridge and head up to the World Heritage site of Castle Hill and the Fishermen’s Bastion and the sights there.
The beauty of all these monuments being in our neighbourhood is that they’re not a big deal to visit. We must have walked past St Stephen’s a dozen times. This doesn’t mean that the Basilica is any less special. On the contrary, the more we pass by the more details we notice about the architecture, the more we’re able to observe how the church is used by locals.
Admittedly there have been times (in every destination we’ve visited this year), when we’ve said “we must take a look at that one day…” and our two weeks have whizzed by, and we haven’t stepped inside the door…
On a positive note, the longer we’re in a place the greater the chance of capturing it on a beautiful day. While we had blue skies just after we arrived in Budapest, temperatures quickly dropped and snow fell for most of our stay. Even when you travel slowly you have to move quickly to take advantage of sunshine when you’re blessed with it. On the other hand, when the weather’s miserable you can always stay in and not feel guilty!