06 Feb Hidden gems of the Buda cave systems
Hidden gems of the Buda cave systems
“Budapest is the capital of thermal waters.” That’s an often heard true sentence about our heritage. You might have already been to some of our world famous thermal baths such as the Rudas, the Gellért or the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. But where does the super beneficial thermal water come from? Especially in Buda, people have been enjoying the effects of these waters supplied by the hot thermal springs for centuries. These thermal springs formed about 200 smaller or bigger natural caves in Buda and the whole cave system is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Most of these hydrothermal caves were only discovered at the beginning of the 20th century during drainage or major housing works and some of them were made open to visitors interested in another world which lies under our wonderful city.
If you are adventurous enough and want to take part in my Budapest Classical Tour or a Child Friendly Budapest Tour in an especially unique way, let me plan you an underground part of the tour visiting a natural, drip-stone rich cave such as the Pálvölgyi or the Szemlőhegyi Caves. Except the caving experience, the plus joy in a super hot summer day might be to cool down or in extremely cold weather warm up in a cave which always keeps the temperature of 10-12 Celsius (about 50 Fahrenheit).
The Buda Castle District, one of the most central tourist spots of Budapest, has been one of the must-see locations for many travellers visiting Budapest. The Royal Palace, the Castle Garden, the Coronation or Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion with the breathtaking panorama over the Danube and Pest and the beautiful medieval residential buildings in the crooked, cobblestone streets are well-known attractions, offering a lot to see and experience above ground from the rich historical and cultural heritage of Buda. But the Buda Castle Hill is also home to a huge interconnected cellar system that consists of natural caves created by thermal water and man-made passageways which were in use for centuries from the early middle ages as great storage rooms, mainly for wine, and also as shelters or hiding places. Hungarian viticulture and winemaking dates back to the the middle ages: people drank a lot of wine mainly because the quality of drinking water was quite questionable. So it was simply safer to drink wine. Even if the tap water in Budapest is absolutely safe now, don’t miss to taste some of our excellent wines, indulge yourself in Hungarian wine heritage. Believe me, there is much more to try than the unquestionably great Tokaj dessert wine or the well-known Bull’s Blood of Eger.
But let’s get back under the ground: a Jewish ritual bath, a mikveh is also hidden in this cellar system. The excavation of this medieval mikveh was important because it proved the presence of Jewish families living in this area of the Castle Hill from as early as the 13th century. The wonderfully illustrated medieval chronicle, the Chronicon Pictum mentions a synagogue in this area. Some of its ruins had been accidentally found and excavated years before the mikveh was found nearby but because the whole thing had happened during road works, it had to be recovered, cannot be seen today. The remains of the two man-made representations of the Buda Jewish heritage are significant and if you have a great interest in Jewish culture and history, visiting a unique finding such as the ruins of this Buda mikveh might be part of your Budapest Jewish Tour exploring this absolutely exciting and challenging part of the city, planned and organised especially for you by Budapest Jewish Walk.