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  • HI, I'M RICK STEVES, BACK WITH

  • MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE.

  • THIS TIME, WE'RE SOAKING IN THE CULTURAL WONDERS OF HUNGARY,

  • IN BUDAPEST.

  • YOUR MOVE.

  • IT'S COSMOPOLITAN, COMPLICATED AND A BIT CHALLENGING AT FIRST.

  • SEASONED TRAVELERS LIKE IT MORE WITH EACH VISIT.

  • FOR MANY, BUDAPEST IS EASTERN EUROPE'S

  • MOST FASCINATING AND REWARDING DESTINATION.

  • WE'LL SOAK IN ELEGANCE AT THERMAL BATHS,

  • STOMP AND SLAP WITH TRADITIONAL DANCERS,

  • VISIT THE COMMUNIST ALL-STARS, NOW IN A STATUE PARK,

  • REMEMBER HUNGARY'S SECRET POLICE,

  • SAMPLE SOME PAPRIKA...

  • MMM, SWEET.

  • ...AND CRUISE UNDER FLOODLIT MONUMENTS.

  • HUNGARY, LANDLOCKED DEEP IN CENTRAL EUROPE

  • AND FORMERLY PART OF THE WARSAW PACT,

  • IS NOW PART OF THE EUROPEAN UNION.

  • THE SEPARATE CITIES OF BUDA AND PEST

  • ONCE STRADDLED THE DANUBE RIVER.

  • NOW THEY'VE GROWN TOGETHER TO MAKE BUDAPEST.

  • THIS MYTHIC BIRD, THE TURUL,

  • WAS THE BIRD OF THE ORIGINAL HUNGARIANS, OR MAGYARS,

  • WHO MIGRATED OUT OF THE PLAINS OF CENTRAL ASIA.

  • IN 896, THE BIRD DROPPED HIS SWORD HERE,

  • INDICATING THIS WAS TO BE THEIR HOMELAND.

  • THE MAGYARS SETTLED HERE, SETTING INTO MOTION

  • A TUMULTUOUS AND FASCINATING THOUSAND-YEAR STORY

  • WHICH ULTIMATELY GAVE US THE MODERN NATION OF HUNGARY

  • AND THIS GREAT CAPITAL.

  • SITUATED ON A CROSSROADS BETWEEN EUROPE AND ASIA,

  • THOSE ORIGINAL MAGYARS ABSORBED WAVES

  • OF MIGRATING ETHNIC GROUPS.

  • WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF BUDAPEST?

  • START WITH THOSE FIRST MAGYAR SETTLERS,

  • MIX IN GERMANS, SLAVS, JEWS, GYPSIES,

  • SPICE WITH A DASH OF TURKISH PAPRIKA

  • AND SIMMER FOR A FEW CENTURIES IN ITS FAMOUS THERMAL BATHS.

  • EACH GROUP HAD AN IMPACT.

  • ALL THIS ETHNIC PILING ON CREATED A CULTURAL GOULASH

  • THAT IS DISTINCTLY BUDAPEST.

  • STARTING IN THE 16th CENTURY,

  • THE OTTOMAN TURKS RULED HERE FOR ABOUT 150 YEARS.

  • LATER, AS PART OF THE HAPSBURG EMPIRE, RULED FROM VIENNA

  • AND ENERGIZED BY AN INFLUX OF GERMAN SPEAKERS,

  • THE CITY BECAME MORE EUROPEAN.

  • THE LAST HALF OF THE 1800s WAS BOOM TIME FOR BUDAPEST.

  • ITS CAFES WERE PACKED, AS WAS ITS OPERA HOUSE.

  • THE HABSBURGS AGREED TO A TREATY,

  • MAKING HUNGARY A JUNIOR PARTNER IN A VAST REALM

  • IT NOW CALLED THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE.

  • AS VIENNA'S SECOND FIDDLE,

  • BUDAPEST GOVERNED A HUGE CHUNK OF EASTERN EUROPE.

  • THE BOOM PEAKED WITH A FLURRY OF CONSTRUCTION

  • WORKING UP TO A GRAND PARTY IN 1896.

  • IT WAS HUNGARY'S 1,000th BIRTHDAY.

  • LIKE SO MUCH OF BUDAPEST,

  • HUNGARY'S PARLIAMENT WAS BUILT FOR THE BIG 1896 PARTY.

  • ITS ELEGANT, NEO-GOTHIC DESIGN AND RIVERSIDE LOCATION

  • WERE INSPIRED BY ITS COUNTERPART IN LONDON.

  • IT'S ENORMOUS, WITH LITERALLY MILES OF GRAND HALLS

  • DESIGNED TO HELP ADMINISTER

  • THAT SPRAWLING, MULTINATIONAL HABSBURG EMPIRE.

  • BY THE END OF WORLD WAR I, THE HABSBURGS WERE GONE

  • AND HUNGARY, WHILE MUCH SMALLER,

  • WAS FULLY INDEPENDENT.

  • BUT THEN CAME THE NAZIS, FOLLOWED BY THE COMMUNISTS.

  • THAT ELUSIVE FREEDOM WAS FINALLY WON

  • AFTER THE FALL OF THE SOVIET UNION IN 1989.

  • AND SINCE THEN THE CITY HAS BLOSSOMED.

  • [ upbeat classical music playing ]

  • TODAY, HUNGARY RULES ONLY HUNGARY,

  • AND IT'S RULED NOT BY AN EMPEROR,

  • BUT BY DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES,

  • WHO LEGISLATE FROM WHAT'S NOW A PALACE OF DEMOCRACY.

  • LIKE VIENNA, BUDAPEST FEELS MORE GRANDIOSE

  • THAN THE CAPITAL OF A RELATIVELY SMALL COUNTRY.

  • BUT THE CITY REMAINS

  • THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF EASTERN EUROPE

  • WITH A KEENLY DEVELOPED KNACK FOR GOOD LIVING.

  • YOU CAN ENJOY THAT HUNGARIAN JOY OF LIFE

  • AT THE SZECHENYI BATH.

  • SOAK WITH THE LOCALS.

  • OF THE CITY'S TWO DOZEN OR SO TRADITIONAL MINERAL BATHS,

  • THIS IS THE MOST ACCESSIBLE AND FUN.

  • BUDAPEST IS HOT, LITERALLY.

  • IT SITS ON A THIN CRUST OVER THERMAL SPRINGS,

  • WHICH POWER ALL THESE BATHS.

  • BOTH THE ANCIENT ROMANS AND OTTOMAN TURKS

  • ENJOYED THESE SAME MINERAL SPRINGS.

  • THEY STILL SAY, "POKE A HOLE IN THE GROUND ANYWHERE IN HUNGARY,

  • AND YOU'LL FIND HOT WATER."

  • MAGYARS OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES SQUEEZE THEMSELVES

  • INTO TINY SWIMSUITS AND STRUT THEIR STUFF.

  • BABUSHKAS FLOAT BLISSFULLY IN THE WARM WATER.

  • THE SPEEDO-CLAD OLD BOYS CLUB

  • GATHERS PENSIVELY AROUND SOGGY CHESSBOARDS.

  • AND THE CIRCLE OF RAPIDS BRINGS OUT THE KID

  • IN PEOPLE OF ALL AGES.

  • AFTER 2,000 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AND INNOVATION,

  • LOCALS HAVE HONED THE ART

  • OF ENJOYING THEIR THERMAL HOT SPRINGS.

  • BUDAPEST STRADDLES THE DANUBE RIVER.

  • ON THE WEST SIDE IS HILLY BUDA, DOMINATED BY CASTLE HILL.

  • THE ROYAL PALACE MARKS THE PLACE

  • WHERE ONE OF EUROPE'S MIGHTIEST CASTLES ONCE STOOD.

  • SINCE THE 14th CENTURY, HUNGARY HAS BEEN RULED FROM THIS SPOT.

  • AS WORLD WAR II DREW TO A CLOSE, BUDA BECAME THE FRONTLINE

  • BETWEEN THE NAZIS AND THE APPROACHING SOVIETS,

  • WHO SIEGED THIS HILL FOR SEVERAL MONTHS.

  • TODAY'S PALACE, REBUILT FROM THE RUBBLE OF WORLD WAR II,

  • MAY NOT BE WORTH TOURING,

  • BUT IT SITS ON SOIL DRENCHED IN HUNGARIAN HISTORY

  • AND IT'S CLOSE TO THE SOUL OF THIS NATION.

  • ANOTHER CASTLE HILL LANDMARK,

  • THE 800-YEAR-OLD MATTHIAS CHURCH,

  • HAS ALSO BEEN DESTROYED AND REBUILT SEVERAL TIMES.

  • ITS FLAMBOYANT STEEPLE AND OTHER FRILLY ELEMENTS

  • WERE ADDED FOR THE 1896 CELEBRATIONS.

  • THE OPULENT AND GILDED INTERIOR

  • TELLS A THOUSAND YEARS OF LOCAL HISTORY:

  • CRUSADER HEROICS...

  • BEATING BACK THE TURKS...

  • ALL PAINTED IN A FANCIFUL, NEO-GOTHIC WAY.

  • THE CHURCH'S PRIZE POSSESSION HIDES IN A CHAPEL IN THE BACK.

  • PEER THROUGH THE BLACK IRON GRILL

  • TO SEE THE 500-YEAR-OLD STATUE OF MARY AND JESUS,

  • WHICH COMES WITH A STORY.

  • IN THE 16th CENTURY, THE TURKS WERE ABOUT TO OVERRUN BUDA.

  • LOCALS, ANTICIPATING A TERRIBLE RANSACKING,

  • HID THEIR MOST PRECIOUS STATUE IN A NICHE

  • AND PLASTERED IT OVER.

  • THE MUSLIMS TOOK BUDA AND USED THIS BUILDING AS A MOSQUE

  • FOR OVER A CENTURY.

  • THEY WHITEWASHED EVERYTHING, HUNG CARPETS ON THE WALLS.

  • THEN, DURING A LATER SIEGE,

  • A NEARBY EXPLOSION RATTLED THE BUILDING.

  • THE PLASTER FELL AWAY FROM THE STATUE

  • AND THERE WAS MARY, LOOKING OUT OVER THE MOSQUE.

  • THIS SPOOKED THE MUSLIMS.

  • ACCORDING TO LEGEND, THE TURKS FLED,

  • MAKING THIS THE ONLY PART OF TOWN RETAKEN WITHOUT A FIGHT.

  • JUST OUTSIDE STANDS THE FISHERMAN'S BASTION,

  • AN ICON OF BUDAPEST.

  • IT OFFERS SWEEPING VIEWS OVER THE DANUBE TO PEST.

  • IN THE MIDDLE AGES, THE FISH MARKET WAS JUST BELOW HERE,

  • SO THIS PART OF THE RAMPART

  • ACTUALLY WAS GUARDED BY FISHERMEN.

  • THE CURRENT STRUCTURE, THOUGH, IS A FANCIFUL REBUILD,

  • CONSTRUCTED FOR THE BIG BASH OF 1896.

  • ITS SEVEN TOWERS SYMBOLIZE THE TENTS THE NOMADIC MAGYARS,

  • THOSE ORIGINAL HUNGARIANS, CALLED HOME

  • BEFORE THEY MOVED WEST TO EUROPE.

  • HUNGARY'S FIRST CHRISTIAN KING, ST. STEPHEN,

  • TAMED THE PAGAN MAGYARS.

  • HE ESTABLISHED STRICT LAWS, INTRODUCED THE CONCEPT

  • OF PRIVATE PROPERTY AND MADE HIS PEOPLE,

  • WHETHER THEY LIKED IT OR NOT, CHRISTIAN.

  • THE POPE CROWNED ST. STEPHEN IN THE YEAR 1000,

  • MAKING HUNGARY PART OF CHRISTENDOM.

  • THIS WAS A PIVOTAL POINT IN HUNGARY'S HISTORY.

  • WHILE STEPHEN COULD HAVE ACCEPTED HIS CROWN

  • FROM THE LEADER OF THE EASTERN, OR BYZANTINE, CHURCH,

  • HE CHOSE TO HAVE HIS RULE LEGITIMIZED

  • BY ACCEPTING HIS CROWN FROM THE LEADER OF THE ROMAN CHURCH,

  • AND THIS GAVE HUNGARY MORE OF A WESTERN ORIENTATION.

  • THE BUDA FUNICULAR IS A POPULAR LANDMARK.

  • BUILT IN 1870 TO PROVIDE CHEAP TRANSPORTATION

  • TO CASTLE HILL WORKERS, TODAY IT'S A FUN LITTLE TOURIST TRIP.

  • IT SHUTTLES VISITORS EVERY FEW MINUTES UP AND DOWN

  • BETWEEN THE TOP OF CASTLE HILL AND THE MIGHTY CHAIN BRIDGE.

  • GUARDED BY LIONS, WHICH SYMBOLIZE POWER,

  • THE CHAIN BRIDGE, THE CITY'S FIRST GREAT BRIDGE,

  • OFFERS A PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY WAY TO CONNECT BUDA AND PEST.

  • BEFORE THIS BRIDGE WAS BUILT,