One of the things I wanted to do in Budapest was photograph the buildings. I love the big, wide, colourful, square buildings that make up many cities around Eastern Europe. Now that I’m older, and I pay more attention, I realise how different the architecture of each country or region – or even between nearby cities – can be. The streets in Budapest are wider than the streets in London, letting more light shine on the buildings. In narrow streets, the colours are washed out by constantly being in shadow, and you don’t get as good a view. Aside from the actual structures, many of the buildings are covered in iron balconies, carved statues and other elaborate details. It would never have occurred to me how much of a difference these little additions could make to the mood of a city but honestly, the features matter. Every little careful detail adds depth and an understated elegance to an otherwise busy and gritty city, which is marred by a traumatic history.
One of the most impressive buildings in Budapest is the Hungarian Parliament. It’s 265m wide and made up of cream spires and burgundy domes. If you head across the river – which I did not, this time – you can see the whole building sprawling out in its full glory, which comes especially alive at night. However, I stayed on the Pest side of the river this weekend, so my shots of this structure are from wandering around the perimeter.
Budapest has a number of other notable buildings, including Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle. However, I didn’t have time to visit them on this trip, which was fine because I was less interested in the big ticket buildings and more interested in the general streets and the ornate railings and details you could find adorning even the most average of houses. I loved wandering around, looking up, trying to get a perspective on buildings that filled up the whole frame without even trying.
Photographing these buildings is a challenge, because you have to get creative with the angles and how much of the houses you include in shot. The streets tend to be narrow enough that you can’t get a head-on straight shot of a whole building, you can only get snippets from below. I experimented with getting the tops of both sides of the street in shot, getting portrait-orientation photos with a person or lamppost to anchor the picture and bookending certain buildings, like the basilica, with the streets either side. I looked out for bright buildings, unusual buildings and buildings that were out in open space enough that I could capture the whole thing in a flattering way.
I could know more about the actual architecture of these cities, but instead I’ve preferred to walk around and soak it up, rather than head to the books like I often do. Certain cities just suit you; you like how they work and look and feel. I remembered Budapest being somewhere that worked for me. I was glad to return and find out that it was just as I’d remembered.