Two Cities in Eastern Europe: Budapest and Prague

Since 2017, I have led a team each year to conduct a “History of Eastern Europe Transformation History”, usually through Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany. Public buildings such as museums, monuments, sculptures and square parks that stand on the streets of the historic cities of Eastern Europe are truly “visible history.” Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are the top priority of the entire itinerary.

Blessed Budapest
Budapest is located on the Danube River and is a combination of three independent cities in history, namely Buda and Old Buda on the west bank of the Danube, and Pace on the east bank of the Danube. The Perth on the east coast belongs to the plain terrain, while the Buda on the opposite side belongs to the hilly terrain of the mountains. This unique geographical condition creates a unique urban landscape for Budapest.

From the side of Perth, visitors can explore the famous attractions such as the Buda Palace, the Matthias Cathedral and the Fisherman’s Bastion on the other side of the Danube River on the other side of the Danube River. They can also climb to the heights of the Buda side. From here, you can see the famous buildings such as St. Stephen’s Cathedral on the Pest side and the Hungarian Parliament Building. You can also take the Szechenyi Chain Bridge across the Danube, where you can see the iconic buildings on both sides of the river.

There are countless places to see in Budapest. If you want to say landmarks, I am afraid to cite the Capitol on the east bank of the Danube. It is the most famous and bulky building in Hungary, with a typical Neo-Gothic style that is reminiscent of the Palace of Parliament in Westminster on the banks of the River Thames in London. They are also located on the banks of the city’s main waterways, and they also have neo-Gothic architecture. They are also the seat of the country’s highest legislative body, and even the main chambers are two.

Hungarian citizens relax in the therapeutic waters of the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest

However, unlike the historic Palace of Westminster, the Hungarian parliament building was built between 1884 and 1904. Corresponding to this is the difference in political system. Since the “Glorious Revolution” in 1688, the United Kingdom has established a basic constitutional monarchy system and has become the beginning of modern parliamentary democracy. In a sense, the Palace of Westminster, where the British Upper and Lower Houses are located, is a symbol of the old European democracy. Modern Hungary has long been under the autocratic rule of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, so the independence and democracy of the country have always been the goal of the Hungarian nation.

The form of architecture is often closely related to people’s value orientation, so we will inevitably ask such questions – since the Hungarian parliament building has so many similarities in architectural form to the Palace of Westminster, then the Hungarians At the end of the 19th century, when they decided to open this large-scale project, did their hearts also expect the Hungarian government to become a representative of the emerging European democracies?

The answer to this question may not be able to get a definitive test, but what we know is that in 1896, in order to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian settlement on this land, the Hungarian Parliament was held in the congress building that was not completed at the time. First meeting. People of that year may not have expected that their country could truly achieve independence and democracy, and wait until the 1990s after a whole century. The congress building itself has since become the protagonist of Hungarian history many times and has witnessed the ups and downs of the country throughout the 20th century.

Andrássy Avenue is another important attraction in Budapest. This straight boulevard connects the city centre with the famous Heroes’ Square in the northeast. On both sides of the street are apartments with neo-Renaissance styles, each with its unique façade and interior design, forming a beautiful landscape in the city.

This street is also home to famous historical buildings such as the Hungarian National Theatre, the Liszt House and the Old Conservatory. Some villas have also been chosen as embassies of other countries in Hungary. Just below this street is the first subway on the European continent. It was completed in 1894 and is still in operation today. Due to the historical and cultural value of Andrássy Avenue, UNESCO listed it in the World Cultural Heritage List in 2002.

Also on this street, there is a building that is incompatible with the romantic colours of this street – this grey building at 60 Andrássy Avenue was used at the end of World War II and after World War II. The headquarters of the Nazi political police and the Hungarian secret police have now been converted into a historical museum called the “Terrorist House Museum.” The various exhibition halls in the museum showcase the important historical events of Hungary from the end of the Second World War to the Cold War in a creative way. They also solemnly commemorate the victims who were politically persecuted during those periods.

At the northern end of Andrássy Avenue is the most famous square in Budapest, the Heroes Square. The plaza was built in 1896 to commemorate the Hungarian nation’s settlement in Europe for 1000 years and was completed in 1929. In the center of the square stands the Millennium Monument, 36 meters high. At the top of the monument is the statue of the archangel Gabriel. He held the double cross of the apostolic era on his left, and held the Hungarian crown in his right hand, overlooking and guarding the city. On the platform of the tablet is the horse-riding bronze statue of the seven tribal leaders who led the Hungarian nation to settle there.

Yellow tram passes through the bridge connecting the Buda area to the Pest district

In front of the monument is a symbolic stone sarcophagus built to commemorate the national heroes of the Hungarian era. Built after the First World War, the following words are enshrined: “The heroes who sacrificed for the freedom and national independence of our people are immortal! At the back of the monument are two curved colonnades with a height of 16 meters. There are 14 statues of rulers of various important historical periods in Hungary.

On both sides of the square, there is a beautiful classical building, the Hungarian National Art Gallery and the National Art Museum. To the north of the square is a beautiful city park, and the Szechenyi Thermal Bath, the largest spa in Europe, is located in it.

“City of Thousand Towers” Prague
Prague has always been a historic city in Central Europe, and most of its historic buildings have been preserved intact without being destroyed by too many wars.

Therefore, the city of Prague has a large number of historical and various styles of architecture – from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, to Baroque, Rococo, neoclassical, to Art Nouveau, Cubism And ultra-modernism is a veritable “European Museum of Historical Buildings”.

Among them, the most numerous and most representative are the Gothic and Baroque buildings, which make the city of Prague staggered with various spires and domes, which are connected into a piece of Tallinn, which won the “Thousand Towers” ​​for Prague. The name of the city. The roofs of these buildings are mostly vermilion, the walls are mostly ivory yellow, and they are magnificent under the sunlight, so Prague is often called the “Golden City”. In 1992, the old city centre of Prague was listed on the World Cultural Heritage List as a whole.

“I stood in the square at dusk in Prague, and cast hope in the wishing pool. The white pigeons are facing the sunset. The picture is too beautiful. I dare not look at it…” For the younger generation in China, mentioning Prague, many people The singer’s “Prague Square” may be heard in the ear. Indeed, this popular song by Jay Chou and Jolin Tsai has further deepened the public’s good impression of Prague. Today, Prague may have become one of the most popular destinations in Central and Eastern Europe.

Of course, I also found that when people actually visited the above two cities, many people would say that Budapest is not as inferior to Prague as a tourist city, but the styles of the two are not the same. If the temperament of Prague can be described as graceful and beautiful, whether in terms of the city’s pattern and planning, or the volume and style of the building, Budapest’s temperament can be summed up with grandeur and atmosphere.

Take their own streets as an example. The city centre of Prague is dominated by small trails, some of which are also twisted and twisted, with small buildings of moderate size and side by side on the road, giving people a sense of winding path; while Budapest is mostly Straight and wide avenues, the buildings on both sides of the avenue are also more ambitious, and the façade is mostly stone-based, which is solemn and atmospheric.

Taking the main waterways of two cities as an example, Prague is located on the banks of the Vltava River. The volume of this river is also significantly smaller than that of the Danube. Therefore, one of the representative buildings in Prague, the Charles Bridge on the Vltava River, The scale is also significantly smaller than the Szechenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest.

On the two sides of the Charles Bridge are 30 statues of extremely beautiful biblical figures. The bridge is now car-free and only allows pedestrians to walk through. This makes the bridge full of many open-air art performances, as well as small traders selling all kinds of handicrafts, and a beautiful art pedestrian street. In contrast, the wider and longer Szechenyi Chain Bridge carries a lot of daily commuting tasks. The bridge is divided into car lanes and sidewalks, and the whole day is a scene of traffic. What visitors feel on the bridge is not the breath of art, but the beauty of the Danube and its scenery on both sides.

In short, the evaluation of these two different styles of cities is probably a matter of opinion, but it is certain that the two cities have reached some extreme in their respective styles.

There are also too many places to visit in Prague – Old Town Square (Prague Square), Old Town Hall, Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Kafka Museum, Jewish Quarter… … is too numerous to enumerate. However, in the midst of these picturesque scenery, we will inevitably also have a curiosity, that is, also as a country with more successful transformation, does the Czech Republic now have a commemoration and reflection on the heavy history of the past?

In fact, when we walked around the city center, it was very likely that we would meet with a museum poster – there was only one image on the whole poster, a huge Russian doll, she showed two rows of sharp fangs. The face is very embarrassing. Next to the doll, the meaning of this image is marked in English. Looking further down, you can find its address information. This idea is really subtle, with a face-to-face Russian doll as a symbol of the museum, which is a very vivid indication of the 40-year-old rule imposed mainly by external forces from the east.

“Golden City” in the sun, Prague, picture shows Prague Square

The museum is located on the second floor of a classical building in the centre of Prague. The exhibition hall not only shows the history of Czechoslovakia from the end of World War II to the 1989 velvet revolution, but also dates back to 1918 in the Czechoslovak Republic due to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The creation of the defeated disintegration, the signing of the “Munich Treaty” in 1938, the severance of the Sudeten region to Germany, the occupation by Nazi Germany in 1939, and the liberation of the Soviet army in 1945, are more complete. The centuries-old history of Czechoslovakia.

For the people of Eastern Europe today, the history of the Cold War period has been turned over. The old system no longer exists. Although the new system still has many imperfections, it has at least a stronger mechanism of self-improvement and error correction. The open mindset that these societies now have enables people to understand their past, remember the past history, and avoid repeating the mistakes of history.

On the streets of Budapest and Prague today, these “visible history” are everywhere. They not only show the richness and deepness of the history of these peoples, but also highlight the openness and wisdom of these peoples. At the same time, they make these two thousand-year-old ancient cities complement each other and show their irresistible eternal charm.