For the International Relations & Threats to Global Security group studying in Brno, Czech Republic, this was our first weekend away! Come Friday at the end of week 1, it was time for our first excursion to Budapest, Hungary with a stop in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, on the way.

In Slovakia we took a tour through the main attractions of the city including Liberty Square, Bratislava Castle and Parliament. We were fortunate with our timing through Bratislava as it was the day that Slovakia took over the presidency of the European Union for a period of 6 months, and as a result a great deal of money was being spent on beautifying certain parts of the city. This area still has remnants of the communist era which ended with the Velvet Revolution, also known as the Gentle Revolution of 1989, while the region was still Czechoslovakia and in 1993 they split in to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Liberty Square, sometimes referred to as ‘Freedom Square’ was the most fascinating area to me. Its fountain sits in the middle of a public space and has seen so much history it is hard to believe it has been allowed to fall into this level of disrepair. However, for economic reasons the square, which is in fact round, remains unkempt and invokes feelings of nostalgia of the socialist era and the home of guerrilla art dedicated to prominent figures in the community.

Liberty Square Fountain

The Capital of Hungary is a city that has more architectural wonders and cultural diversity than many other cities throughout Europe. The Buda side and the Pest side are separated by the Danube, a river that is at the heart of central European life running 2,860km long starting in Germany and running through or passing by Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine finishing in the Black Sea. Budapest has so many World Heritage listed sites that having the opportunity to travel around and learn about the history and marvel at the ingenuity of the peoples that have lived here was an incredible experience.

Parliament

With only 2 days in Budapest I intended to make the most of my time and see as much as possible, and as a group we visited the Buda Castle strict and Parliament. Buda Castle District is a collection of the Castle, houses, and churches all linked by cobblestone streets and as you walk through you can just imagine the lords, ladies and kings of the time walking these streets, the men discussing business and politics and the ladies gossiping and remarking on the fashions of the time. The special thing about this part of the world is its ability to transport you to back to another time and allow you to see the area from another perspective.

Matthias Church

Fisherman's Bastion

For me the main highlights of Budapest were the Buda Castle District, Parliament, the Citadel and relaxing at the Rudas Baths, Sulphur Baths, multiple pools and an amazing massage. The Citadel by far was the best view of the city but the most breath taking building was Parliament with half a million precious stones and over 40kg of gold worked into the detailing.

Budapest Parliament

If you have an interest in the Jewish culture and the atrocities committed against the Jewish community during the 20th century, then a visit to the Holocaust Memorial is essential. The majority of our group attended and the images, tales and artefacts of the time stunned many of us into contemplative silence. You need more than 2 days to see Budapest, but the essentials are Buda Castle District, Parliament and the Citadel at a minimum. We are headed back to Brno for the second week of classes in beautiful Brno and onto more adventures.

View from Citadel