The importance of BUDAPEST to Hungary is difficult to overestimate. Over two million people - roughly one-fifth of the population - live in the city, and everything converges here: wealth, political power, cultural life and transport. Surveying the city from Castle Hill, it's obvious why Budapest was dubbed the "Pearl of the Danube". Its grand buildings and sweeping bridges look magnificent, especially when floodlit or illuminated by the barrage of fireworks launched from Gellért Hill on Constitution Day. The inner city and the nineteenth-century boulevards are now under siege from Western fashions and advertising, but they retain a distinctively Hungarian character, which for visitors is highlighted by the sounds and appearance of the distinctive Magyar language.