Tag Archives: Pest

Pest, Part 1, a brief history

A Pest Square
A Pest Square

Pest, which lies on the east bank of the Danube, is flatter, bigger, busier and younger than Buda and Obuda. However, it is by no means less well endowed with majestic buildings, grand monuments, fascinating history and iconic characters than its west bank sisters.

Following the final defeat of the Magyars in 955, Istvan I set up Hungary’s Royal Court in Pest. His Arpad Dynasty flourished here until 1242, when, after the Mongol attacks, Bela IV moved it to his hilltop castle in Buda. Life continued peacefully for Pest until it was razed by the Turks in the 14th century. The town was rebuilt from the ashes after Hungary was finally freed from the Turks by the Hapsburg commander Eugene of Savoy in 1686. So, even though Pest’s history as a Hungarian town is older than Buda’s or Obuda’s, its bricks and mortar are younger. Its oldest building is the former Péterffy Palace, now Százévres Restaurant, which was built in1708.

With the formation of Budapest in 1873, came a frenzied building boom as the Dual Monarchy sought to create a city to rival Vienna, Paris and the other great cities of Europe. Pest, as the centre of government, administration and commerce for the new capital, benefited royally from the boom and its beautiful, coherent cityscape was born of this time.

Flat, compact, logically laid out and liberally dotted with landmarks, as well as picturesque spots to pause and drink them all in, Pest is a wonderful place for walkers.

A stroll around the boulevards uncovers one brilliant building after another. Each little side street opens onto a stunning square. Every square has at least one great monument with its own fascinating story.

 

Budapest, in the beginning

Looking across the Danube from Buda to Pest
Looking across the Danube from Buda to Pest

As a city, Budapest, Hungary’s Capital, is relatively young. It came into being in 1873 with the amalgamation of the communities of Buda and Obuda, on the west bank of the Danube, and Pest on the east. Its history, however, is long and marked by many rises and falls in fortune.

From their earliest days, Buda, Obuda and Pest had been tossed between a number of masters. Between the 1st and the 4th century AD the Romans pushed their empire across the Danube and the area was caught into the new state of Pannonia. In 896, the Magyars invaded. In 1241, the marauding Mongols swept through. The Turks came after, in 1541, followed by the Habsburghs in 1686. The invasions continued after the creation of the new city in 1873.  In 1919 the Rumanians stormed in. During World War II it was occupied by Nazi Germany. In 1945 the Russians took charge and the iron curtain fell. In 1956 Soviet tanks rolled in to quell a popular uprising and to re-assert their control.

Still, there were times of peace and great prosperity too. The Magyars were finally defeated at the battle in 955 and in 1001, Istvan I founded the Arpad Dynasty. He centralized royal authority, established Christianity as the official religion and organized Hungary into the administrative counties whose borders still remain today. The entire country flourished. Prosperous and orderly times continued between 1172 and 1196 under Bela III. After the defeat of the Turks by Janos Hunyadi in 1456 and the coronation of his son Matyas as King Corvinus in 1458, Hungary entered a seventy year Golden Age. Corvinus’ Neapolitain wife Beatrix transformed the royal palace at Buda into the greatest renaissance palace in Europe. Meanwhile Matyas extended Hungary’s borders into Moravia, Bohemia and parts of Austria, transforming it into the greatest kingdom in Europe. In 1867 the great compromise established the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy and ushered in a period of stability and prosperity, with a resurgence in Hungarian culture. Buda, as its centre, flourished for almost fifty years. Then in 1989, the Iron Curtain fell and Budapest entered a new age of optimism.

Today’s Budapest bears the marks of these 2000 years of checkered history. Ill fate and good fortune are etched in its buildings, its bridges, its streets, its public squares and gardens, its monuments and statues and on its people. In spite of and because of its history, Budapest is one of the world’s great cities. Tourists pour in from all over the globe, drawn by its legendary culture. Budapest is also the political, economic and cultural heart of Hungary, drawing people from all over the country in search of opportunities.