Down by the river in Budapest
In Budapest, on the banks of the Danube, you get two cities in one: the hilly Buda on the west of the river, and Pest to the east. Of course, there is plenty on both sides to keep the traveller occupied, from Buda Castle, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion up in the Buda hills over looking the city, to the hot springs baths on both sides of the river, and Dohany Street Synagogue and the fascinating Terror Museum in Pest.
On the Danube itself, there are two terrific photography opportunities in particular marking two important historical events: the Parliament building, built after the city was united and completed in 1904, and the “Shoes on the Danube” sculpture work marking the site where Jewish people were lined up at shot during the Second World War.
Of course, you can get a great view of the Parliament from above on the Buda side, notably from the Fisherman’s Bastion. But a better spot to concentrate on the building itself, rather than having it relatively lost amid other buildings in the background, is from ground level, across the river from the building.
There is plenty of space on the Buda banks as there are walking and cycling areas on this side. There are also some shady trees to offer natural framing. And from Pest, it’s a nice experience to cross the city’s oldest bridge, known as the Chain bridge, to get here.
Being on the eastern side of the river, Parliament looks best when bathed in late afternoon sunlight. I was lucky when I was there in October. It was a cold, windy and overcast day but I pushed on and kept walking and, thanks to the photography gods, as I reached a decent spot the sun briefly broke through the clouds and lit up the building – which had recently been cleaned in preparations for the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, or uprising – against a backdrop of dark clouds and the dark waters of the Danube.
Earlier in the afternoon I had walked on the Pest side towards the Parliament to see the art installation “Shoes on the Danube”, by Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer.
The work commemorates the mainly Jewish victims of the fascist Arrow Cross who were lined up on the banks of the Danube and shot, having been ordered to take off their shoes and boots. The bodies fell into the Danube but the shoes and boots could be used by the Arrow Cross murderers.
It’s a popular work and getting photographs without other people in view can be a challenge, or you can keep some people in the shot and portray how they interact with the work. A wide aperture and using the river as the background can help cut out other people.
While taking in these two sights, there are plenty of opportunities to capture locals and visitors alike enjoying all the Danube offers, on both sides of the river.
– Chris Mannolini
In the camera bag:
The Danube is not that wide a river. Standing across the river from Parliament House, I was using a 24-105mm zoom lens and taking shots around the 55 to 60mm range. So you won’t need a strong zoom. At the shoes sculpture, the 24-105mm lens opens to f/4. I don’t think you need to open the aperture any wider than that as you want to keep the Danube in the shot, it’s part of the story.
For more of my photographs from my stay in Budapest, go to my Flickr website album here.
Have you been to Budapest and enjoyed the Danube? Have any other photography or travel tips? I’d love to hear your views.