Budapest is a bustling metropolitan city of incessant clamour, miserable people in shops, trams, buses and smog. The homeless and dogs alike use the streets as their toilet, while underground, people rush headlong into your path in a no-holds-barred free-for-all. That’s why a spot for some inner solitude is crucial.
It’s surprising how little traveling you have to do to feel like you’ve reached the verge of suburban and earthly terrain: just a little south of Castle Hill and within spitting distance of the city center (depending on the power of your expectoration.) Although the cave-chapel, close to the foot of the hill, is certainly worth a look, it doesn’t give much respite from the masses – not least due to its tiny proportions. My mission for peace was of the urgent, selfish variety, so I opted for a more personal route.
There is a surplus of paths snaking their way through the park, akin to the inner reaches and windings of New York’s Central Park. No matter which strategy you have for traversing the trails (both paved and muddy), you’re bound to stumble upon surprises along the way: a tent pitched on a small patch of grass, couples getting mawkish, and strange playgrounds that materialize out of nowhere.
Five rather massive slides lie somewhere about halfway up the hill. They may look like a death wish for small children, but after I’d youthfully bounded up the steps, I found the downhill journey a bit on the slow side. Fun nonetheless.
There are countless lookout points where you can catch your breath from the arduous climb, and take in the now calming din and expansive views of Budapest below. It’s pretty easy to wax nostalgic about the beauty of this place. Sure, city life is a daily war, but here, towering above it all, you can feel like a conqueror.
The „Statue of Liberty“ and Citadella, lie atop the hill and for some, will be the main motivation for the climb. But for me, it’s the serenity of the journey itself that’s the main draw. At the top you’ll find the typical tourist hubbub and vexing vendors rushing you with their, “English? Deutsch? Français?”, which might prompt you to find the nearest trail and lose yourself again in the undergrowth.
The most popular approach is from a Gellért Baths, direction but you can also start at the foot of Erzsébet hid, by the Szent Gellért statue, or take a #8 bus to Sánc utca for a lengthier exploration.