János Hegy [map]
Buda, XII, János Hegy (Childrens' Railway), 15 min
One of the great advantages of Budapest is that it’s really easy to get out of. I love the city, don’t get me wrong, but every couple of weeks, I like to breathe unpolluted air; I like to see green things; I like to listen and hear nothing.
Thankfully, Budapest has its very own built-in countryside. Buda’s hills are the nearest faraway place. From the centre of town, you can be at Moszkva tér in ten minutes. After two stops on tram 56, you’re still in the city. But as soon as the cogwheel railway starts juddering and jolting, you know that you’ve escaped.
After a few minutes, the train pauses at a curious backwater. The houses of the well-to-do hide amongst the trees and the city visibly retreats into the distance. When you first use the cogwheel railway, you’ll realise that it’s less romantic than it sounds. It’s just bog-standard BKV transport, functional at best, but its function is romantic enough to make it a pleasant trip.
At the terminus, a short walk across the park brings you to the Children’s Railway, which is an enjoyable farce. There’s a mosaic in the station building that speaks volumes about the pride that the Soviets took in their scouts movement. Happy but disciplined children blow whistles and wave flags. Today, somehow, this tradition has been preserved. Three children salute us as the train pulls out of the station.
At János-Hegy, crooked steps lead out of the station and along a path which winds up towards the summit. Thankfully, a few stalls sell drinks and snacks before the steep climb to the lookout tower. The tower itself, looking fresh from its renovation in 2005, is more than a little reminiscent of the Fisherman’s bastion. It marks the highest point in Budapest and the views, naturally, are outstanding: in one direction, the city’s miniature landmarks; in the other, rolling hills coated in a deep green fleece.
For the descent, forget about the railways and head for the chairlift. Gliding down the hill, with the city opening out ahead of you is simply serene, or, if you’re a little wary of heights, exhilarating. Take a deep breath as you reach the bottom and ponder how to get off the damn thing, and with any luck, you might still have some oxygen left in your lungs by the time you get back to the city.
To follow the route above, take the 56 tram from Moszkva tér two stops to the Cogwheel railway terminus at Városmajor. Travel the entire length of the cogwheel railway, which should take about 25 minutes and costs just a single BKV ticket. At the Széchenyi-hegy terminus, bear left past a small cafe and continue on foot to the Children's Railway station at the end of the road. János Hegy is the fourth stop. After decending by chairlift, take a 158 bus back to Moszkva tér. You can take the chairlift both ways, if you prefer.
Janos Hegy, Hedge, Hill
Labels: Day Trips