Budapest sprawls along both banks of the Danube; it’s a spellbinding city, brimming with stunning, neoclassical buildings that flaunt their considerable beauty along both sides. From the Parliament complex in industrial, working class Pest to the National Gallery that dominates the skyline in lofty, patrician Buda, the entire city is almost a living, breathing museum in its own right.
The two halves of the city are linked by a string of fourteen bridges in all. Designed and executed in a smorgasbord of architectural styles, they are collectively as symbolic of Budapest as the bridges over the Tyne at Newcastle, or those that span the Arno in Florence. The city’s bridges not only link it; they define it’s structure and development. And, of cousre, they are hugely symbolic, too. Massive statements of intent, wrought in steel, chain and stone.
The first, and most iconic, was the Chain Bridge. Originally opened in 1849 and designed by the Scottish engineer, Adam Clark, the huge bridge was actually built in Great Britain, and shipped out to Hungary in sections.
With a central span of more than two hundred metres, this vast, graceful suspension bridge was one of the largest in the world at the time, and it is still one of the most famous and photographed in the world today. In 1852, a quartet of vast, stone lions- very similar to the ones in Trafalgar Square- were added to the approaches on both sides. They are still there today.
Although known worldwide as the Chain Bridge, the official name is the Istvan Szechenyl Bridge. A gracefully arching, steel green colossus, it has not always enjoyed the peace and serenity it has today.
On January 17th, 1945, the Chain Bridge was destroyed, along with four other major bridges, by German and Hungarian troops as they retreated from Pest to make their last stand on Castle Hill over in Buda. The partially submerged, twisted wreckage was gradually raised and restored. In 1949- on the centenary of its inauguration- the Chain Bridge was reopend.
Here it is, in all its glory. Enjoy.