Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Budapest, Hungary: April 21-24, 2018

St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest


The Airbnb apartment we had reserved was just two blocks from the Chain Bridge where the ship was docked so it was a very easy transition from ship's cabin to roomy apartment. Since we had three more nights in Budapest, the first thing we did was buy a 72-hour Budapest Card which gets you into most museums and almost all public transport without extra charge. Then, we began exploring.

St Stephen's Basilica was about two blocks on the other side of the Airbnb apartment. On one evening, we attended an organ concert with a vocalist. The sound of the organ was especially powerful with the acoustics in the basilica.

We headed back to Castle Hill on the Buda side to see Budapest views and visit the Hungarian National Gallery which is housed in the former castle. In the museum, you can climb a small stairway to the dome and look out over the city.



Budapest was two cities, Buda and Pest, that are now one. Budapest should be pronounced "Budapesht." Buda is the side with hills while Pest is flat land. They are joined by several bridges across the Danube.

Parliament with the Chain Bridge beyond
Parliament is neo-gothic with a romanesque dome. We passed by Parliament several times before I noticed that there sandstone cats sitting atop some of the lower gothic spires.



In the Hungarian National Gallery, my favorite sculpture was "Maya, 1978" a piece by Gyula Pauer (1941-2012). The woman's shape was sculpted in wood, wrapped in silk, and paint applied to create the woman's features. After completion, the wood sculpture naturally split down the middle of the torso and the creative process aided by nature was complete.


A memorial called "Shoes on the Danube Bank" was also sculpted by Gyula Pauer. The memorial was installed to honor the people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest in 1944-1945. The victims, mostly Jews, were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. 



According to the US Holocaust Museum, "most of the murders along the edge of the River Danube took place around December 1944 and January 1945, when the members of the Arrow Cross Party police (“Nyilas”) took as many as 20,000 Jews from the newly established Budapest ghetto and executed them along the river bank."

The Dohány Street Synagogue, also called the Great Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world with its ability to seat almost 3,000 people. It was built in the mid 19th century. The architectural style, Moorish Revival with Byzantine and Gothic elements, and its organ set it apart from most synagogues. The original 1859 organ with 5,000 pipes was played by Franz Liszt. The design of the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, New York City, is based upon the Dohány Street Synagogue.



This synagogue was bombed and later used as a stable by German soldiers. "In 1944, the Dohány Street Synagogue was part of the Jewish Ghetto for the city Jews and served as shelter for many hundreds. Over two thousand of those who died in the ghetto from hunger and cold during the winter 1944-1945 are buried in the courtyard of the synagogue" (Wikipedia and the tour guide at the synagogue).

The courtyard cemetery
About 200 bodies are buried in each garden bed. Ivy and mulberry trees were planted over the graves.

Near our Airbnb stay we came across another memorial of sorts. This one is a Memorial Tree in Honor of Michael Jackson. It is located in Erzsébet Square directly across from the room MJ stayed in 1994 and 1996 at the Kempinski Hotel. It is around this tree that fans would gather to watch for MJ. Both times we went past this tree, the same woman tidying up and adding decorations around the tree.

Some of the photos of MJ are quite high up the tree's trunk. MJ's fan said that she used two of the park's trash cans stacked on top of each other in order to reach that high. Each day she replaces the votive candles and adds plastic flowers around the trunk.

MJ Memorial Tree with Kempinski Hotel
The Great Market Hall is two levels of everything you might ever need from restaurant, food, souvenirs, and imported items. We had lunch and strolled around.





On Sunday afternoon we headed to a thermal bath on the Buda side, but we were distracted by the "I 🚲 BP" ride. The ride went on for hours up and down the Danube and over bridges. If it had wheels it was on the road. One of organizers told us there were about 10,000 riders. It was a good thing we were on foot because traffic on the roads/bridges stopped to allow the bikes to cross. It was cool to watch and then we went to the baths.





"Sightseeing on Land and Water" bus
We visited Budapest in 1994, and it wasn't so nice. All I can say now is what a change. We so enjoyed our few days exploring Budapest. It's very easy to get around using pubic transportation or just walking. Our last morning we were up early and took the subway to the train station to begin our journey to Romania.

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