Explore The Budapest Metro
Melbourne by tram, a city known for its extensive tram network.
Budapest has one of the oldest Metro’s in the world, though from small beginnings it is gradually growing. Metro Line M1 opened in 1896 and is still in use today. The latest addition, Metro Line M4, opened in 2014 and a fifth line is currently being planned.
I was in Budapest for the weekend and the city’s public transportation system was going to be how I got around to the places I wanted to see. I would be using the metro system for those longer trips while relying on Budapest’s extensive tram network for those shorter ones.
Metro Line M1 Is a unique experience. Immediately upon entering one of the stations you are surrounded by tiled walls and wood panelling. The trains are small and simple, perfect for serving the short platforms. Inside there is little seating, instead leather straps hanging from the hand rails, to maximise standing room.
This line has been in constant use since 1896 and is known locally as a kisföldalatti, the small underground. Surprisingly M1 took less than 2 years to complete, which is incredible as the more recent M4 took 10 years. In the 1980s and 90s major reconstruction work was carried out though the original appearance was preserved. At this time three stations were added to the route.
M3 is the longest line in Budapest, with 20 stations and measuring 16.5km long. A number of times throughout its operation people have called for it to be updated but work has only recently begun. Due to construction work I was unable to travel using this line and instead had to regularly rely on a replacement bus service.
Metro Line M4 is the newest addition to the Budapest system, though construction eventually began in 2004 the first 10 stations weren’t opened until 2014. It was first proposed that the line would open in 2003 but faced continuous delays, 17 in fact. Finally open the line had cost 1.5 billion Euros.
The scale of the spaces is huge. The station platforms are large and cavernous, especially when you compare them to the cramped M1 line. Though I travelled at different times throughout the day there was never a time where they felt crowded. More often than not they were empty, which was perfect for taking photographs.
During my time in Budapest this line was the one I used the most, largely because M3 was closed for construction work, but also because it was home to some of the more appealing stations. It was clear that during the planning process they had given some thought to the individual design of the stations, though many involved large amounts of concrete.
There are two stations on the M4 line that stand out amongst the rest. Szent Gellért for its mosaic platform tunnel and Rákóczi tér which is decorated Red, white and green, the colours of the Hungarian flag.
I have come to find that using the Metro of places I visit has changed over the years. The reason to travel by metro is not only to get from A to B but the metro itself has become the reason. They are often places of design and interest, their symmetry and spaces are pleasing especially when it comes to photography. The journey has become the destination.
While in Budapest I really wanted to visit All Saints Church and It had come down to the last minute. The Sunday morning before my flight I took a bus into the hills on the Buda side of the capital. It was early when I arrived at the church but not early enough.
The church was busy with people coming for the Sunday service, there were already plenty of people inside and seating was quickly filling up. As I stood taking my last photos of the unique building a man approached me and asked if I was from around this area.
He introduced himself as Warren Richardson, an Australian photographer living in Budapest. He told me about the nearby cemetery and pointed out the hills he was heading into to shoot some abandoned Buildings.
I explained that I was tight on time and waiting for the next bus back to town as my flight was leaving in the afternoon. He said not to worry, there was a train station on my bus route back to the city centre and I should get off there and explore a nearby cemetery.
I found the station easily, the bus stopped right outside. I went inside to admire the architecture and watch as people made their daily commute.
From Keleti Station I followed the instructions as best as I could. They were fairly simple. Outside the station I spotted the small narrow street only for trams, that Warren had told me to look out for, and followed that until I reached the walled perimeter of Kerepesi Cemetery.
The cemetery was vast, with winter in full effect. There wasn’t a single leaf left on the trees that lined the long roads as they stretched off into the distance.
There was a mix of old and new in the cemetery. Many of the older graves and tombstones showed their age, to me these were the most interesting. It was hard to tell if the damage was something that had just happened over time or were signs of Hungary’s troubled past.
One of the reasons Warren had suggested the cemetery to me was there were apparently hidden signs of World War II. He had described a statue to me of a woman with her head bowed and hands drapped over the top of the tombstone. I found what I thought had been described to me and when I looked closely there were age worn holes that may have been the bullet holes he had mentioned.
Due to my time constraints I was only able to explore a small section of the cemetery but what I saw in that short period of time left a lasting expression on me. Kerepesi Cemetery became a highlight of my weekend in Budapest, not only because of what I saw there but because of the story that took me there in the first place.
Australian photographer Warren Richardson
A short piece about All Saints Church
Due to financial constraints architect István Szabó decided to use prefabricated elements and concrete when constructing All Saints Church. The unusual looking church is located in a hilly neighbourhood on the Buda side of the Hungarian capital. The project was financed by donations and built largely by volunteers from the parish.
The building now known as Original Sokos Hotel Viru first opened in 1972, after construction delays and a fire in one of the upper floors. Apart from being a hotel the building and its secret history plays an interesting part in the history of the city.
The hotel is known for once hosting the KGB. Though, like anything involving the Soviet Union, the details are foggy. It is known that the 23rd floor of the building, now a museum, was home to a radio centre and that a number of rooms were under surveillance.
At the time the hotel was becoming a meeting point for international guests visiting the city and prime location for gathering information. Mystery still surrounds why information was collect, for what purpose and what was done with it after.
In 1991 the KGB quickly abandoned residence in the hotel when Estonia became independent. Now, the hotel is operated by the Sokos Hotel chain.
Modern day Sokos Hotel Viru and its KGB Museum
Other Soviet stories in A visit to Porkkala and 1950’s Era Russia
Over the years I have visited Tallinn many times thanks to it being only a short ferry ride from Helsinki. Each time visiting new places and getting to know the city that little bit more. Whatever my plans they always include a trip to its Old Town.
Tallinn’s Old Town refers to its medieval region that dates back to the 13th century in the heart of the city. Its cobbled streets, gothic architecture and well preserved city walls make it a must to people visiting the Baltic region.
There are plenty of small laneways to walk and discover. You don’t need to worry about get lost because, more often than not, you end up at the Town Hall Square, home to one of the best Christmas markets, and surrounded by authentic restaurants, bars and cafes.
There are two great view points over Tallinn’s Old Town. They can be difficult to find but after a climb up hill and winding through the small cobbled streets you will be rewarded with uninterrupted views, even on a snowy winter’s day.
Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town can easily take a day but make sure you spare some time to travel further afield. Telliskivi, Kadriorg park and the beautiful neighbourhood of Kalamaja are all worth a visit.
For more photos from Tallinn visit my Instagram.
Take a look at one of my other visits to the city in Doors of Tallinn.
I was in Tallinn for the day, as many of you may already know, photographing the city for Day With A Local. I have been in Tallinn many times but this time was different. Firstly, I was alone and could explore at my leisure, secondly, I was able to see the city in a completely different way.
It started with Linnahall, an area I have always wanted to visit but never got around to, even though I have passed by it many times when leaving and returning to the port. Then as I walked through the neighbourhood of Kalamaja, pretty much by accident, I started to see a city of colour. Each building and door different from the last.
Once seeing these details there was no stopping my eyes from seeing more. As I begun walking the streets of the medieval Old Town I started to see faces hidden in the buildings themselves. Maybe it was just me, after looking for so long you can start to trick yourself, so I want to hear what you think.
Here are my best buildings with faces from Tallinn. If you enjoy them I would like to hear from you in the comments below, tell me what your favourite is or share with me a building you have photographed that has its own expression.
The strange expression of St Nicholas Church.
Timed this one perfectly when a passer-by appeared down the alleyway, or should I say open mouth.
This one could be a little bit of a reach but those half circular windows in the roof definitely resemble eyes.
Looking out of the old town. Many tourists and visitors to Tallinn’s old town come through this way. Doesn’t this entrance look surprised?
Tell me your favourite below.
I am a team member of Day With A Local and these photographs were taken in cooperation with them.
Another great city I recently visited was Copenhagen.