A little north of the city centre, Margaret Island lies in the middle of the Danube river that greatly helps Budapest to be such a pleasant city. Because of the shape of the island, it seemed logical to explore it from north to south, criss-crossing the 2.5km long island. On a morning in spring, when a cloud cover was still preventing the sun to shine its warm rays on the streets of the Hungarian capital, I took a subway to the north of the city. A ten minute walk along a busy road west took me to the northern tip of Margaret Island, where I descended and walked under the same road before I actually entered the island proper. At once, the atmophere was different, and I felt excited for the walk along the island that was coming up. Quickly, I heard all kinds of birds in a good mood - they all seemed to be singing about the beautiful spring weather that was breaking through.
Soon enough, I entered what is called the Japanese Garden. While the man-made landscaped area looked beautiful to me, with water lilies, small bridges, hills, waterfalls, and statues in a pond, it still did not look like the gardens I had seen in Japan; not just for the lack of carps in the pond. Whatever its name, I loved this quiet corner of the island, and unfortunately did not have time enough to wait for the music to play in the Musical Well, a building with a statue of Neptune on its dome. From here, I walked towards the Danube, until I found the ruins of the Dominican convent. Built by king Bela IV in the 13th century, the convent was used until the 16th century, when the many religious buildings on Margaret Island were destroyed during the Ottoman Wars, thus ending the religious importance that the island had had until then. The convent is important to the island, though: Bela IV promised to send this daughter Margaret as a nun to the convent if the Mongols were driven from the island. They were; she spent her life on the island, and is buried on the grounds of the convent. While the island was initially called Rabbit Island, it was later renamed in her honour to Margaret Island. The fresh flowers on her tombstone are testimony of her continued popularity, even after almost 800 years.
Close to the Dominican convent, it was easy to spot the water tower, the tallest building on Margaret Island and unfortunately not yet open when I passed by. It is possible to climb to the lookout gallery, which I can imagine provides good views over the island and both Buda and Pest. From here, I walked further south, through beautiful gardens, past the ruins of the Franciscan church and monastery - only a wall and part of a tower remain. Here, in the central part of the island, I was the only person around, and the trees and plants all around me gave me the illusion of being in some remote place. I walked back to the eastern side of the island, and I walked along the running track that runs around the island. It appeared very popular: many runners were making their body work here, and I almost regretted not having taken my running clothes. To the south, Parliament and Castle Hill, as well as Margit Hid were clearly visible, and reminded me that I was still close to downtown Budapest. After passing tennis courts overgrown with grass, and a small aviary where storks were on the lookout for passers-by, I arrived at a spot with an abundance of spring flowers in colourful beds; as a background, a fountain that was spouting water in sync with classical music. I stayed to watch this spectacle, which was all the more pleasing to see since the sun was now in control of the sky. With the water spurting high and low, I moved on, passing the Centennial Monument that was erected in 1973 to commemorate the unification of Buda and Pest into one city, not forgetting that this island itself is a unification of three smaller ones. From here, I walked up to the Margit Hid, or Margaret Bridge, and walked back to Pest, but I could not take my eyes off the sight of Margaret Island to the north. I would have loved to spend more time - but my time was up.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Margaret Island (Hungary). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Margaret Island. Read more about this site.