They may appear nonchalant, but there is a sense of magic and romance that stirs among the people of Budapest when they consider their bridges. Ask them a question about the bridges of Budapest and their answers may come back at you purely ‘historical’, but even then, that history has a touch of the romantic about it: for example, Hungarians may reel off the tale of how a famous aristocrat dreamt of a bridge. How he searched for his idea of the prefect one; how he found the design and the engineer who could build it, and finally, how he helped finance and get the bridge completed: Count Széchenyi István and his iconic ‘Széchenyi Chain Bridge’. Or people might recall the sad images of the bridges lying partly-destroyed in World War 2. They’ll tell you how they had to be rebuilt, but one of the bridges was so badly damaged, that it was never the same again: ‘Erzsébet bridge’. Perhaps, with a hint of heavy irony, they might tell you the post-WW2 story of how one bridge was renamed ‘Liberty Bridge’. Whatever they tell you about the bridges, the people of Budapest won’t be wrong: every bridge in Budapest is steeped in a little history, in a little tragedy and in an idealistic drama of wanting to make the city ever-more successful. As a group of structures then, the bridges recall a nation’s enthusiasm, its triumphs, its dark hours and its eventual recovery.
But scratch a little deeper and you might notice that for someone who has lived long enough in Budapest, their attachment to the bridges is clearly much more personal. The citizens of Budapest may not always be aware of it, and their deeper feelings may not be stirred by each and every bridge of the city, but all of the people here have cherished memories of crossing one of these beautiful bridges either as a happy child, or perhaps later, hand-in-hand with a long-revered loved-one. This romance often proves irresistible for anyone visiting the city too, and like the citizens of Budapest, no doubt you too will leave with memories linked to at least one of the bridges here.
None of this should be of any surprise: aren’t bridges, by their very purpose, designed to bring people together? While in engineering terms, bridges are for the ambitious; for those who dare to think a little grander. For those who know that you can’t do something this extravagant alone. And for the people who had to build them: those who had the strenuous endeavor and took the risks in making the dream come true? Well, yes, they were built for hard economics, people might say. Yes, but they were also done so a child living in Pest, could walk over and give flowers to a grandmother living in Buda.
And of that journey across? In Budapest, a walk across one of the bridges is often accompanied with a stunning backdrop of castles, turrets, bastions, spires, hills and domes. Later at night, amazingly, the view might just be even more breathtaking, as the stars are outdone by the glistening lights of the city and all of those towers and church spires. (No one should ever come to this city and fail to experience the Danube at night.)
But then back into the daylight, and above the Danube, there is the great canvas of the sky, often with a multicolored cloud display. (Gazing out from Margit Bridge can be seriously mesmerizing in this regard.) But from all of the bridges, the views can be wonderful, no matter the weather, nor the time of the year: the bridges are always grand, but inviting. As a visitor, you have to walk upon them. They are irresistible. You have to gaze out as you cross. And like the citizens of Budapest, hopefully you will walk across a bridge of Budapest with someone that you love.