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I think I have mentioned before about Budapest being a fantastic city. There is always something to do whether it is visiting thermal baths, strolling on Andrassy Street, peeping in at the museums and at galleries, wining and dining in some very stylish cafes and restaurants or even travelling on the Metro. I have reviewed several sightseeing attractions already but one I have forgotten from my Budapest journal is the Children's Railway; a delightful way to spend forty five minutes of your time when in Hungary's capital.
The Children's Railway is at the terminus of the Cogwheel Railway which runs through one of the most picturesque residential areas in Budapest. The railway doesn't look like the 21st century networks of some modern cities but it is a very important means of transport to city commuters. The railway was built in 1874, runs at 15 minute intervals, for a pleasant 20 minutes ride, stopping at seven stations along the way before it reaches the terminal.
To reach the start of the track you will need to board a tram No 18 or a bus No 56 at Moszkva ter for two stops and then get off at the tall, circular Budapest Hotel. Cross the road to Varosmajor, the terminal of the Cogwheel railway.
On leaving the Cogwheel terminus turn left: on the right is a cafe where you might wish to stop and have some refreshments. A short walk after the cafe the terminus of the Children's Railway, 600 metres away from the cogwheel railway comes into view.
The Children's Railway formerly the Pioneer Railway run by the Communist Youth Organisation, was constructed between 1948 and 1951. Virtually all of its staff - comptrollers,conductors, booking clerks are children dressed in official MAV (Hungarian State Railway) uniforms. The children receive special training and are supervised by adults (Don't worry the driver is an adult).
At the station you will find a train with open-sided carriages - if not, one will soon appear: the trains run throughout the day (Mondays excepted) on the hour, or thereabouts. Purchase your ticket at the station; it will be checked on the train by young conductors who also sell postcards that feature the railway. The train chugs along for for some 12 kilometres along the narrow gauge track that follows the ridge of the Buda hills. The entire journey, which there are seven stops, takes about 45 minutes.
The first stop is Normafa, which derives its name from an occasion in 1840 when a celebrated diva, Rozalia Klein, sang the grand aria from Bellini's Norma to a company of artists seated under a large beech tree. Where the tree once stood there is now a plaque commemorating the alfresco rendition.
Rather than proceeding to the end of the line you might wish to alight at the fourth stop Janos - hegy. From here a rather steep but fairly short (1km) footpath leads to the Janos-hegy Kilato (lookout), which is the highest point (529 metres) in Budapest. En route, the path crosses a road at the side of which is a restaurant and the cable-car terminal.
The summit of Janos-hegy is topped by the 23.5 metre high neo-Romanesque Erzebet Kilato (lookout tower), which dates back to 1910. Ascend the kilato and you will be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the hills around Buda - in clear weather you can see as far as the Pilis hills to the north. Moreover, if you walk round the tower, you will gain a virtually comprehensive view of the city.
Once you have had enough of vistas, walk back the 400 metres to the chair lift terminal that you previously passed. The open seats of the chair lift offer delightful; views and provide a breezy journey down to the Zugliget (Hidden Woods), from where it is but a couple of hundred metres to the stop for the Number 158 bus which will take you back to the starting point on Moszkva ter.If you don't fancy the climb to the Erszebet Lookout, or if you do not appreciate the windswept delights of chair lifts, you can stay on the Children's Railway until the end of the route at Huvosvolgy (Cool Valley) - a remarkably splendid station for such a small railway. From here it is but a short stroll down a flight of steps to the terminal from which you can board the No 56 back to Moszkva ter.
It may be an idiosyncratic form of transport to travel through the Buda hills but at least you can enjoy the passing scenery as you go. On this journey it isn't the destination but the journey that matters.
A lot of fun - highly recommended.
Important info - prices; A one way adult ticket for just a few stops costs 450 Hungarian Forints. If you travel the full length of the line then the price is 600. A return ticket will knock you back 1200 HUF.
Children aged 6-14 will have to pay 250 HUF for a one-way with a few stops, full length of the line 300. Return ticket costs 600 HUF. Children under the age of six travel free and a family daily ticket costs 3,000 HUF.
If you have bought a Budapest card and I recommend every visitor should you only have to pay 450HUF for one adult and a child.
Today's rates: XE Currency Converter; 1.00 HUF = 0.00307219 GBP
A lot of fun - highly recommended.
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