The “Paris of the East” as Budapest is called cannot be imagined without the Danube River.
Buda and Pest, the two halves of the Hungarian capital, are separated and at the same time linked by this ancient course of the second longest river in Europe.
The two sides of the capital, divided by the river, are linked by eight elegant bridges. The best known ones are the Liberty Bridge, the Elizabeth Bridge, and the oldest, emblematic and busiest, the Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge).
These bridges of different styles, together with the imposing presence of the baroque and gothic Hungarian Parliament building, give Budapest a unique character and distinction.
The magical atmosphere of the Danube through Budapest at night can best be experienced along the river from a distance. Even the newest and most modern bridge, the Rákóczi, has a specially designed lighting system that gives it a sleek and modern look.
I particularly remember two nights when I visited the river. The first was at the Fisherman’s Bastion monument. Blue twilight was slowly giving way to night, and the lights were turning on on the other side of the river, in Pest. All of a sudden the black darkness contrasted violently with the dramatically lit-up granite columns of Parliament.
The second night I remember I was on Margaret Island, a sublime oasis of green, suspended in the middle of the Danube. At the point where the island ends and projects towards the city, almost under the Margaret Bridge, people were exercising in silence. One of them, seeing me with my camera, stopped, came closer to me, and pointed out the moon above the buildings on one of the banks. That moon was enough inspiration for me to start what became my nocturnal photographic tour along the river, which only ended after several hours at Liberty bridge.
But one thing was still missing from my Budapest night tour in order to make it complete. The giant wheel illuminated in white that my camera had picked up from the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Budapest Eye, is a Ferris wheel located in the famous Erzsébet Square.
The most famous Ferris wheel in Europe is the London Eye, an iconic part of the London skyline. Hungary wanted one too, and so in March 2017 it inaugurated the Budapest Eye. Curiously, the top of this Ferris wheel, which is about 65 meters high, is one of the highests places in the capital.
Only the Basilica of Saint Stephen and the Palace of the Parliament are taller. It was a warm September night when I got to it, and the light of the Budapest Eye reflected on the faces of the people picnicing at the tables in the square and relaxing on the grass next to the small man made lake.
That same light illuminated my way to Andrássy út, the Champs Elysée of modern Budapest, which brought me to the nocturnal heart of the modern city of Pest, a place of sophisticated and avant-garde restaurants and nightspots.
Pablo Munini, Milano © April 2022