I used to be a sunset person. As a night owl, it fit my inner clock better than the sunrise. I loved blue hour, when the evening glow hit the horizon, bursts of lights illuminating the clouds and that calming tone slowly enveloping my surroundings from behind. It was a subtle goodnight. And living in Budapest, nothing could beat blue hour, with those famous city lights on the Chain Bridge and Parliament twinkling to life, much like crickets waking to greet the night.
In Budapest, blue hour was sometimes pink hour or purple hour. It depended on the day, the clouds, the storms, the season. But there was truly nothing like it. The sun dipping behind the Buda Hills, always performing a final show, drenching each monument in a soft orange hue before a calm tint claimed the sky. Delicious perfection. I wanted nothing more. That is, until I saw a Budapest sunrise.
It was during our final week living in the city. We had moved into a temporary apartment near the Buda hub of Széll Kalmán tér where Castle Hill was a quick 10-minute jaunt. I set my alarm, waking to its vexatious buzz, alerting me that it was indeed a summer sunrise, nothing short of 4AM. I obliged, the desire to wake with the city outweighing my night owl need for slumber.
Go to Castle Hill midday in the summer, and get ready to share that prominent view with hundreds of others. But go at sunrise, and you get it nearly all to yourself. Only three others were strolling the vista, witnessing morning’s moody reveal. Pinks and oranges emerged, enhancing the stream of low clouds hugging the city. The sun eventually peeked through, light stretching in all directions, a spotlight on the weary white tiles of Fisherman’s Bastion.
Another perk of visiting at sunrise (or night, for that matter) is its freebie status: no ticket needed to climb the turrets. This gives you a nearly uninterrupted view of Pest, the curvy Danube at a rest providing nothing but calm reflections. And you can do the same: reflect on your own journey, how you came to know Budapest and whether you’ll ever want to leave. For me, the answers were complicated. I was already missing the city I was still in; and now, just two weeks out, I already long for that silent sunrise morning.
So, what’s your vote? Budapest at dawn or Budapest at dusk? I just can’t decide.