before the conference
The capital city of Hungary, Budapest, was created out of the unification of the separate historic towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda in 1873. Although the area had been inhabited from early times, it was from this date that the city's expansion into a world capital really began. Budapest is bisected by the River Danube, with the city as much a natural geographical centre as it is the country's transport hub. Covering an area of 525 square miles and divided into 23 administrative districts, it is home today to a population of 2 million people.
Budapest owes everything to the mighty River Danube which flows north to south through the centre of the city, simultaneously dividing and linking Pest in the east from the wooded hills of Buda on the western side. This majestic river has been the focus of Budapest's rich and fascinating history and vibrant cultural heritage throughout the centuries since the Celts first settled at Gellért Hill in the third and fourth centuries B.C. The city is rightly known as the Queen of the Danube. It has also been called the City of Spas, as there are a dozen thermal baths complexes served by over a hundred natural thermal springs.
Budapest is not an out-of-the way little town waiting to be discovered, it reveals itself right from the start. It is a city that has always attached great importance to its appearance, so that it would appear hospitable and friendly at first sight. In a single glimpse the visitor can take in the World Heritage panorama with the Parliament, the imposing Royal Castle, Fisherman's Bastion, the impressive Danube Embankment in the heart of the city and some of the nine bridges spanning the Danube.
On Monday morning, when people go to work, the city shows its other face. While the tourists set out to explore Buda, Pest is pulling up its shutters and the pedestrian streets are beginning to bustle with life again. Spending time in Budapest affords a real journey through time. In some areas, a stroll of merely half kilometre is all that is needed to reveal a dazzling architectural feat of glass-metal-halogen in contrast to the astonishing sight moments before of a Roman monument dating back over a thousand years. Whatever your favourite era or architectural style, you are certain to find a masterpiece of it in Budapest.
Naturally, the history and the beauty of the city is not all. The people living here create the soul of the city and they have contributed to its vitality throughout the centuries. Whether sitting in a quiet café over a pastry or admiring one of the performances in the Opera House or perhaps relaxing in one of the numerous ancient thermal baths, it is easy for one to observe how pleasantly the time passes in Budapest, the heart of Europe.
Come and visit Budapest!