New family-friendly guidebook “Fabulous Budapest” launched
Budapest is an open book. The Hungarian capital has much to offer for visitors of all ages. In a newly released travel resource, local tour guide-cum-author Kinga Tittel gives you a handy compass to the city’s key landmarks and sites that typically remain off the radar. Complete with easy-to-grasp historic references, urban legends and map details, “Fabulous Budapest” provides entertaining navigation for families visiting town, international students, tourists and local expats. But what makes this book stand out amid the manifold Budapest guides? We speak to the writer to find out.
When the Mesélő Budapest family guidebook was first released on the Hungarian market in 2016, it was an immediate success. The first print run was sold out within just five weeks. This accomplishment made author Kinga Tittel especially keen to start working on a foreigner-friendly edition of the same work. Less than two years down the line, Fabulous Budapest has just been launched and now this English-language adaptation is available across the city’s Libri bookstores.
Tittel didn’t have to go far to find inspiration for her writing project. As a tour guide with international experience and a young mother of two aficionados of urban travel, she is used to receiving floods of questions like “How deep is the Danube?”, “Who was Margaret?” or “What was life like in Budapest under Communism?”.
“When I started compiling the Hungarian book, I just wanted to answer the questions I usually get from my children about Budapest,” says the author. “But then, I had to update the script by adding narratives and even more facts.” Tittel soon realized that this compassionate deed for her family had turned into a much bigger undertaking.
“I’ve always found the way children see Budapest fascinating,” she adds. “And now with this new English version, I would like to inspire foreign families visiting Budapest, descendants of those with Hungarian origin, and anyone who stays here for longer or shorter term to discover the charms of our city.”
And Tittel has really gone to town to create a comprehensive guide. The publication is divided into chapters about history, general Budapest information, and sightseeing in Buda and Pest, but entire segments have been dedicated to Óbuda, Margaret Island, the Danube, and the city’s baths, as well. History descriptions span the arrival of the Magyars to the Carpathian Basin, the Austro-Hungarian period and Hungary joining the European Union in 2004.
Tittel says that she tried to remain impartial while touching sensitive subjects. “Hungary’s history is filled with periods that are controversial or painful,” she says. “For example, I didn’t want to elaborate on things like who were the winners and losers with the change of system.”
Meanwhile, general information about Budapest includes details about its coat of arms, but the same chapter also reveals entertaining morsels such as the city’s longest and shortest street names.
However, the book’s major appeal lies in the many descriptions of Budapest’s landmarks and hidden sights, presented with lovely map illustrations by Judit Kecskés. Along with portraying Buda attractions, Tittel explains who were the hussars or what makes the House of Houdini a magical destination in Castle District. When flipping through the pages on Pest, you can find out what the bullet marks symbolize by Kossuth tér or why a downtown tree is now a pilgrimage site for Michael Jackson fans. Other chapters help you discover Margaret Island with its diverse sights, the city’s statuesque Danube bridges and historic baths.
Thanks to her children’s fascination with the city and her early Budapest experience, Tittel knows Hungary’s capital like the back of her hand. “I didn’t grow up in Budapest, but I used to come here with my parents for theater shows,” she says. “I also remember Budapest Zoo and the March 15th parades with all the flags. I have memories of the city’s vibe and atmosphere. Back in the day, Budapest was not as clean, colorful or bright as it is today.”
With extra information for foreign readers, the English volume is 80 pages longer than the local edition. “While I had to compromise on some of the content included in the Hungarian version, I was able to add a lot more details with international resonance,” she points out. As a result, the English book incorporates features about VIP visits in Hungary, the city as a popular filming location and many other lesser-known facts.
And while the book is a little too heavy to carry around, and a little light on navigation from chapter to chapter, the entire content with the bonus features make this guide a handy tool for both the first-time visitor and for those who want to take their Budapest knowledge to the next level. “I tried to include short, easy-to-absorb text boxes, so then the book can be picked up or put aside any time, without obliging the reader to read it from beginning to end,” the author explains.
As to how the featured themes were adapted to suit a broad readership, Tittel points out that for many, history is much easier to comprehend when it’s linked to a specific building or a legend. “The photos and illustrations are there to add color to the book. I hope that both children and adults will enjoy reading it.”
Fabulous Budapest by Kinga Tittel. Kolibri Children’s Publishing, 5,999 forints.