Located on the banks of river Danube, between the Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge on the Pest side of Budapest is the parliament of Hungary. A huge building in off-white and beige with Red domes sitting on it like a crown. And green spires providing the lines that add to the majesty of the building.
Parliament of Hungary
On top, it is fluttering the flags of Hungary, which from a distance do not look very different from Indian Flag. The only difference being Saffron replaced by the Red and the missing Ashok Chakra. You admire it in entirety when you are on the other bank of the river. And realize that it is one of the biggest and tallest buildings in the city. Why not this is the seat of National Assembly of Hungary – The Parliament of Hungary building.
Oldest Legislative Building in Europe
Standing tall for more than 100 years this is the oldest legislative building in Europe. It was built to mark the millennium of the country in 1896, the year it was officially inaugurated, though it was completed only in 1904. It may not be a coincidence that the height of the building is 96 meters matching the commemorative number. Hungarian architect Imre Steindl designed this beautiful building. You can sense a resemblance to Westminster Palace that was indeed an inspiration for this building. His bust rests in one of the niches in the walls of the building. We were told that he went blind before the building could be completed.
Symmetric Gothic building
While the outside of this symmetric Gothic style building is charming, wait till you see the inside of the building. To enter the building you have to come from the side not facing the river. A part of the building is used as offices. And the rest is open to the public through guided tours when the parliament is not in session. The outside symmetry continues inside as well.
As you walk through the main entrance you can see the highly ornate walls and ceilings shining against the bright red carpet. The shine comes from the many kilograms of Gold that was used in the building. There are large frescos on walls with bright borders in Gold depicting the various historical events in the history of the country. As a visitor you get to see only a sample of these paintings as the ceilings of all 691 rooms and 10 courtyards are supposed to have Frescos, along with many more sculptures, stained glasses, and mosaics.
The central hall, beneath the central dome, displays the Hungarian Coronation Regalia that includes the Holy Crown of Hungary, Orb, Scepter, and a Renaissance sword. These are well guarded by the two guards who stand beside it and change their position every few minutes in army style and this is worth a watch. One must be careful though of not coming in the way of their swords. The jewels kept here have changed many hands before they reached here. This hall’s interiors are in dark green and gold with a chandelier hanging from an inverted double layers flower petal-like a ceiling. Faint light comes through the stained glass windows lined above a viewing gallery. Statues of various kings and rulers adorn the walls of this hall along with their coats of arms.
A long corridor with pink pillars, round red seats and glass windows allowing lights inside leads you to the Assembly Hall. The shimmer in this hall compares to that of the State Opera House and makes the central hall look sober. The light color of the wooden furniture adds to the Golden hue of the hall. The high seat for the speaker reminded me of a similar setting in Indian Parliament except that here there are exquisite paintings behind the seat. The hall looks smaller than ours but is very well maintained.
The first floor has viewing and media galleries. Just outside the assembly hall, I noticed a curious brass plate with large grooves in it. And a number engraved on each groove. Guide played the guessing game and when we gave up. She told us that these are meant to be cigar holders and the numbers correspond to the parliamentarians. So each of them has their own cigar holding the place. It made me wonder if you really need to put those numbers. And the guide’s smile said well if it avoids a few conflicts, it is worth it.
I wish there was an option of a longer tour where they could explain the paintings and sculptures. That would serve both as an introduction to the history and culture of Hungary and its art forms. In less than an hour, you can only wonder at the opulence and beauty of the interiors of this heritage building. Visiting Hungarian parliament dispels the myth that parliament buildings are only meant to be serious places where lawmakers work. It can be the most sought-after tourist destination as well. For those who work here, you can only envy them or be motivated to join them.