Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad vára) is one of my favorite spots in Budapest, Hungary. While loosely modelled after a Transylvanian fortress of the same name, the building is not really a castle at all: it's a (very large) scale model built for Hungary's 1896 millenial celebrations. The structure has three distinct wings, one Gothic, one Romanesque and one Baroque, making it quite a bizarre sight when seen from a distance! But sneak up closer and its magic will be revealed: thanks to the moat, the trees and the carefully laid footpaths, you can usually only see one section at a time. The attention to detail (all copied from real sites around the country) has been painstaking, so it's like seeing three extraordinarily pretty castles rolled into one.

The structure was originally supposed to be only a temporary one, but Budapest's people liked it so much that it was rebuilt to last. The baroque wing is the only part open to the public, and it now houses the Hungarian Agricultural Museum, featuring exhibits on breathtaking topics like cattle breeding and fishing. But at 50 Ft a throw for students it's worth seeing just for the architecture. The castle itself is set on a little island in a lake within Városliget (City Park), the leafiest spot in Pest, and is easily accessible with the yellow subway line (nearest station Hősök tere). Entry into the park, including the castle grounds, is free.

There are two additional spots of interest in the castle grounds. First is the Ják Chapel (Jáki kápolna), another creatively borrowed building, this time based on the Abbey Church of Ják in Western Transdanubia. The outstanding part of the chapel is the portal around the doorway, an amazingly ornate multilayered sculpture of geometric patterns, apostles and lions. Next to the chapel is the statue of Anonymus, a hooded monk representing the unknown historian who recorded the annals of the early Magyars in the time of the mighty King Béla. (He is unknown partly because the King Béla he dedicated his work to could be any of 3 or 4 during the 12 and 13th centuries.) Hungarian writers still trek to the statue to touch his quill for inspiration.

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