Thursday, June 4, 2009

It All Started in BUDAPEST

I will start this post with a little disclaimer. "If you don't want to see, learn about, be bored by, or otherwise hear about my fabulous trip to Central Europe you should just stop now."

I want to journal this trip so when I publish my memoirs I will have some details, so I totally understand if you want to tune me out right this second.

We arrived in Budapest after a long but comfortable first class flight that our 120
thousand per ticket United sky miles paid for. (We actually had to buy a second home to accumulate said miles.)

The first picture is from our Marriott hotel room overlooking the Danube River whose bridges connect Buda with Pest (since 1849 after Count Istvan Szechenyi missed his fathers funeral because the river had thawed out making it impossible to cross). We had a great view to the south hills of Buda and the main downtown area here on the Pest side.

We went out to a cute little Hungarian restaurant that evening. The dinner music was the first of many ensembles that we listened to while on the trip consisting of a typical 3 man group. This includes one man on the bass violin, one on the violin, and the third on the cimbalom which is a cross between a piano and harp played by striking the strings with a mallets and is the national musical instrument of Hungary. Very Fun!

The next day we explored around the city. We walked to the metro which was the oldest line in Europe, and rode to the main park which used to be the hunting ground for the kings. There are hot springs all over the city and people use them for warm bath houses. We went to Szechenyi in City Park and just swam in the semi warm pool with bubbles and whirlpools for playing. The architecture was baroque style and pretty cool. Much of the city was restructured for the 1896 celebration of the millennium of the city and

this was the style of choice at that time.

We continued to walk and ride around town and the water front buildings and shops were the heart of the city. Here is an outdoor cafe (again with the 3 man band) near our hotel with a great ambiance and goulash for our eating pleasure.

The next morning was my 51st birthday (oh ... did I say that out loud?) we started off on the trolley along the river bank toward the Great Market Hall where farmers, butchers, bakers, and handicrafters, sell their wares. We bought some beautiful tablecloths and a few little gifts for our family and friends to remind us of Hungary.

We bought a lot of Paprika (just crushed dried chili peppers) in sweet and hot type, so I'll try to enjoy using that in my cooking for the next several months.

Hungary has won't be using the "Euro" currency until at least 2012, so it was interesting using the forint and converting it 200 to 1 dollar.

We walked all the way down the pedestrian shopping mall and saw the 1st McDonald's behind the iron curtain, many other "western" stores, and many quaint and very Hungarian ones too.
On to St. Stevens Basilica. (St. Istvan's that is)
Ornately decorated in gold with Steven strategically placed in the front and center, the church was full of marble and included many styles of architecture. 

Sunday morning found John and I looking for an address off of the Metro near Castle Hill. We found the nondescript street and it appeared to have many houses and/or flats that didn't look like a church of any kind. But alas we found this glass door that looked as if it had been ordered straight from Salt Lake City and a logo that although had very interestingly spelled words, looked very similar to something we'd seen before.

Here is the Opera House where we heard Xerxes by Georg Friedrich Handel. Good music, weird interpretation of story. I surprisingly loved the male high soprano (sopranista).

This large statue is called the Liberation Monument. Located at the Citadella on a hill seen by much of the city she is holding a palm branch. This replaced the Soviet Soldier with a red star that used to adorn the spot after 1989 when the Soviets left.

Checking on to the ship in the afternoon following a drive around town with a couple we met a church, we see a nice little room and planned itinerary for the week. 
Looks like fun!

We met some nice people at dinner and prepared for a beautiful week up the Danube River.

Next morning the bus takes us around Budapest. 
Guides talk about the sites and we started out at Heroes Square in City Park. So many beautiful buildings and 1000 year history that was celebrated in 1896. 

Then up to the hill side to the castle and Matthias Church. It is a Neo-Gothic style with gilded Moorish inspired painting in geometrics throughout. The porcelain tiled roof is many brightly colored hexagons and is uniquely vivid.

In the afternoon, John and I went on a "Jewish" city tour through the old WWII ghetto and 3 very different synagogues. 

The first is the Great Synagogue on Dohany Street. The biggest in Europe and the most Christian influenced architecture I had seen in a Jewish structure.  The alter was in the front instead of the middle of the room and there were pulpits on the sides for the lecturer to talk.
The stars that decorate the facade of the building are 8 sided instead of David's 6 sided star, and there is an organ in the building that has to be played by someone of another faith on the sabbath.

Outside the synagogue is a memorial garden and cemetery. The mass graves are from deaths in 1944 -45 near the end of the war when the Nazi's decided that they needed to quickly move in on their allies and exterminate the Jews, where they had before mainly concentrated on the Jews in countries that were their enemies.

This weeping willow "Tree of Life" depicts all of the Hungarian Jews who were killed by the Nazi's. Each silver leaf has the name of a family who lost a loved one in this tragedy.

This is a picture of the extermination order for 11,000,000 (eleven million) Jews from different European countries.

This is the second Synagogue we entered and is quite orthodox. What beautiful painted walls, beams, pews, and columns this place has. The men had to wear yamika's in all the working synagogues we entered.
This old synagogue has been in disrepair since it was bombed in WWII. Half of the walls and dome still look beautiful, but much of the rest is unrecognizable.

... And we're off.
The ship is going up the river on this warm 75 degree evening.  Everything along the path is lit up spectacularly. 
We pass the Gresham Palace, the Chain Bridge, Castle Hill, Matthias Church, Parliament, Margaret Island and off  through the green lit part of the bridges in the dark night. What a spectacular place to start an anniversary trip!!


  1. Love love love this post- what a fantastic trip! I am a tad jealous, Eastern Europe is definitely on my to see list. Such a cool once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It looks like you guys had a great trip!

  2. this is only the opening post, right? bytheby: what is your trick for getting micci to acknowledge you? try as i might...