Photo © Diane Dobry
Article originally published on Tumblr.com/gettinghungary July 22, 2017
It seems trite to say that Margit Sziget, or Margaret Island, is the Central Park of Budapest, but literally, it is centrally located in the Danube River between Buda and Pest. It was at one time a hunting ground for the rich and known as the Island of Rabbits in the 13th Century. Before that, it was the summer home of a Roman commander from Aquincum, the area of Budapest once occupied by the Romans. The island only became usable by the public about 100 years ago. Now, the island offers a reprieve from the busy-ness of the city, a variety of ways to decompress. From numerous spas and swimming facilities, to natural walkways and open green spaces, tennis courts, sports complex as well as an open-air theater, statues, rose, rock and Japanese gardens with a thermal spring running through it that fills the area with steam in winter, the island is even reminiscent of Saratoga Springs. In addition to the above, there is a petting zoo and a “singing fountain” –a very popular source of relaxation and entertainment with both classical and popular music synced with water sprays that are programmed to match the music.
Extra benches and new landscaping makes the fountain more accessible to more people, who sit or dance or relax nearby. At night, colorful lights are added to the mix of synchronized fountains and musical entertainment.I was looking for a walk in nature and a drink at a café with a pastry or small bite to eat. I took the Hev to Margit Bridge from Batthyany Ter, because of events that caused the Buda-side tram to be not running. The 4 and 6 trams run across the bridge and stop in the middle at the entrance ramp from the Bridge to the Island. I walked past the swimming pool being set up for the FINA World Aquatic Championship competition there.
I stopped to take a photo of the beautiful Centennial sculpture and flower garden, which I found out was commissioned in 1973 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the merging of Buda and Pest into one city.
The Singing Fountain
Just past that sculpture the musical fountain was calling to me with the Dire Straits song, “Money for Nothing” I wasn’t the only one getting into the music, and I did a short video of some girls moving to the music (see post on Instagram), and saw some young boys lip syncing to a later song.I moved on in search of a café that I knew I had enjoyed a few years ago, but was disappointed to see that it was under heavy construction for a remodel.
I saw a sign on a fence that said something about Hippie Island, and when I looked to my right and saw the 1960s swirl of colors, I thought it was some kind of amusement park, because it had that carnivalesque look to it—kind of like a bumper car ride, or something similar. So I went a bit further and sat on a bench to decide what I wanted to do and to watch the people going by.
A lot of pedal-powered vehicles went by, and some motorized rides, as well as scooters, and skateboarders. A group of kids started a game with a ball in the open grass in front of me, and lots of people walked by with towels and swimming stuff on the way to and from the uszoda (swimming pool). Hunger got the best of me and instead of continuing to walk further along into the Island, toward or past the beautiful octagonal Art Nouveau water tower built in 1911, I headed back toward the ramp to the bridge.
photo ©Diane Dobry
Walking back to the Margaret Bridge, I took a look toward Hippie Island, and saw that people were sitting inside. The construction work being done on the other café made me think nothing else would be open in that area, but I headed over there to check it out. I’m glad I did. It was a big open deck with shady trees and canopies and lots of tables going all the way to the edge of the river overlooking the Pest side, north of the Parliament. A glass wall separated the restaurant from the outer walkway and cushioned jogging path but it was a lovely view of passing boats and people walking by. The wine list was short, but had really nice quality brands and varietals, and the foods were really interesting. I chose a guacamole platter with a small salad and some toasted bread (isn’t avocado on toast a thing in the U.S.?) Another great aspect was the rock and roll music playing that I actually enjoyed listening to. I’m not normally one who likes music with my dining unless it is ambient “dinner” music. The side wall was filled with photos of 1970s musicians, and a lot of shots of the traffic heading to Woodstock. To see upstate NY (my home state) in a restaurant, with music playing from your own teenage years, and food and wine that you love, makes any less-than-perfect service (which there was) less frustrating. The problem was that the table area was so large and the number of servers was limited, and a large family arrived that needed extra servers, so getting simple things like a napkin and fork, as well as refills of my wine and water took longer than I liked. But Hippie Island is a place I would definitely go to again, and I would take into account the service challenges.
I went home happily full of guacamole and wine and a head full of memorable tunes.