From my many visits, the town's main feature has to be the Weiss Manfréd Acél-és Fémművek ("Manfréd Weiss Steel and Metal Works"), colloquially known as the "Csepel Művek". It is a large industrial site that could still resemble a socialist showpiece, but in fact the Művek was built long before, in latter Austro-Hungarian Empire times.

As the work came in, the Művek flourished with mass production peaks during both world wars, before air raids took their toll in late World War II. Communism followed, then capitalism and privatisation today. Despite big shake-ups over the years to both the factory compound and workforce alike, the Csepel Művek has survived.

The various areas of the factory, with steel and iron furnaces, copper, nickel and aluminium installations and so forth, became more and more built up over the 20th century. Many orders came in for all types of equipment from weaponry and ammunition to airplanes, automotive engines, trolleybuses and cars, providing work for tens of thousands. As the Művek’s since-removed Lenin statue signified, the place had great importance to the totalitarian regime.

The renowned Hungarian Ikarus buses were mass produced in large numbers here and shipped all over the world until the company went out of business in 2003. Production of high-quality Csepel brand bicycles began in 1928 and continues today. Near the site are the not-so-accessible heavy-goods docks and warehouses that face Budafok, an attractive suburb on the Buda mainland and the rolling Buda hills further on.

Exploring Csepel island is more about curiosity than "attractions", though for me this is perfectly fine. As for picking up a postcard or a glossy tourist brochure about the place, forget it – at least for now. My personal impression is that Csepel has a "Full Monty" atmosphere: while the film is set in industrial Sheffield, in northern England, both areas can be seen as similar out-of-the-way working-class hubs where the locals go about their business in order to get by.

With its imposing main entrance and array of very tall chimneys, the retro Művek is easy to find, on Színesfém utca. The gateway appears like a not-so-illustrious Brandenburg Gate. The prominent "CSEPEL MŰVEK" inscription, highlighted in industrial-looking red block-capital lettering, greets visitors. At night, the illuminated wording gives off a warm, cherry-red glow, creating a mellow and retrospective atmosphere for passers-by.

Depending on how helpful is the security at the entrance, you may be allowed in for a quick look around.

Nearby is Szent Imre tér, a pleasant enough juncture. The eye-catching, pink-coated Kisboldogasszony (Virgin Mary) Roman Catholic church is surrounded by newly restored parkland and hosts a touching 1956 "young Csepel boy in arms" memorial statue. From this point onwards, it’s easy to find the local amenities, public transport and an intriguing Hungarian/ Polish friendship plaque placed in recent times by the town hall.

I conclude that an industrial museum would do much for the town, and perhaps guided tours of the factory and docks? Such tours would not only make an intriguing case study for historians and industrial enthusiasts, but would do much to promote the area.

For even though Csepel is not famed for exquisite architecture or an elegant cafe culture, it is still worth a visit. It may not be comparable to the rest of the capital but neither is the Csepel neighbourhood meant to be, with its tower blocks, high-rise water tower and M0 motorway. To make this more of a worthwhile visit, proceed further to Ráckeve, preferably by bike along the Number 6 bicycle lane, which originates from the city, to the HÉV railway line. This graceful riverside town is as pleasing as Szentendre but without the crowds. Further on is rambling farmland with storks flying overhead. An overwhelming silence hangs over these dusty lanes until one reaches the island's southernmost tip.

Another enjoyment is to rest by the splendid Csepel island shoreline while awaiting one of the various ferry crossings to take you over the river to the Buda or Pest side before returning home. The views of the Duna and mainland are spectacular.

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There is a ferry that crosses over to Molnar island, a very gentle residential area. Then from Molnar island there is a light passenger bridge that directed me to the Pest mainland at Soroksár, an equally pleasing out-of-the-way town that is also connected with public transport. Another, shorter itinerary from Csepel, but equally appealing, is to go from the Művek to the portside near Tököl and take a ferry crossing to Százhalombatta, on the Buda side.

If bicycling isn’t your thing, there are other ways to get to and around Csepel island. There are two suburban railway line services. To reach the Művek with quick, easy access from the city, go to the Boráros tér HÉV H7 juncture by the Pest side of Petőfi Bridge. Then it’s a 10-minute ride with three stops to Szent Imre tér. For those cyclists who want to cut out the city traffic, bikes are allowed on board.

To get to the calmer Ráckeve without too much thought or effort, it's one hour on the clackety HÉV line, which proceeds from the Kőzvágóhíd H6 terminal at the Pest side of Rákóczi bridge. Finally, there are bridges and crossings for cars, bikes and walkers alike to be found around the island. But for the sake of independence and less dependency on public transport, the best way to get round the large island is by bike, as I have done many times. And I shall return.


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