First impressions about Budapest from Jesus

8-19 October 2012 - First impressions in Budapest (Jesus Roche)

Along centuries, rivers have been barriers that separated territories placed in each bank. In most occasions, they have been the physical line that marks the frontier between neighboring countries, as the Danube does in some parts.

For centuries, the Danube was the natural border that splited in two parts what today is Budapest, made of the historic cities of Buda and Pest. In the middle of the XIXth century, with the construction of the first bridges (Szechenyi Lánchid, Margit hid and Szabadsáp hid) it became possible to join the cities of each riverbank of the Danube, thus building a single city. In this way, the Danube evolved from being the barrier between the two cities to standing as the nexus.

However, the impression one gets when walking along the Danube in the city is that a new barrier has been built, this time to separate the citizens of Budapest or visitors from the river: the traffic. It is very difficult (often impossible) to be near the river or walk along the riverbanks because it is taken by cars.

On my first day in Budapest, I was able to coincide with the celebration of the Budapest Marathon and realized that, for one day at least, the citizens have prevailed over cars and took possession of the banks of the river. Too bad it only lasted one day, but it can help to reflect on the great possibilities for the Danube flowing through Budapest.

On the following Sunday, I took the boat to Rómaifürdő to observe what happened in the riverbanks when you moves away from the historic city, a city that was already designed in their current outlines late XIXth. And it is curious that, when one recedes upstream, the traffic barrier disappears, thus recovering a more friendly proximity between the river and the inhabitants of the city. But it is just at this point where the city becomes diluted. It seems as the lines of traffic, when the river withdraws, are pushing the city inland so to distance the river from the inhabitants of Budapest.

Just in some reduced areas - such as Graphisoft and Rómaifürdő -, you can see that friendly relationship between the river and the city could be established with an adequate design of the riverbanks. Is there, indeed, where I can appreciate the great opportunities of this great space along the river.

However, even these areas are disconnected from the city by bike lanes or pedestrian paths.