Budapest City Tour

Our trip definitely saved the best for last! Of all the places we visited only Budapest and Amsterdam definitely made it onto our "next time" list, and we've already started looking into ways we can return to this beautiful city. There was not nearly enough time even to scratch the surface.


Szechényi Baths

Our morning started with yet another whirlwind bus tour. As in Bratislava we had four buses, but today Balázs scored one of the Crystal Cruises buses and a guide who was a personal friend. He even convinced her to add in some extra stops.

Budapest is known for its thermal baths. The neo-Baroque Széchenyi Bath was built in the early 20th century.


Roses

Budapest was formed in the late 19th century from three separate cities: Buda & Óbuda,  on the east bank of the Danube, and Pest.

Our first actual stop was in Pest at the Hungarian Parliament.

After the past few days of snow, it was cheering to see some roses still blooming in the adjacent gardens. For that matter it was a treat to have another day of brilliant sunshine.


Lajos Kossuth Monument

The Lajos Kossuth monument stands near the Parliament on the square named for him. The tone of the figures is somber. During the time of the Communist government the monument was removed and replaced with one that was rather more triumphant. Except that the 1848 revolutions that he in part inspired were failures! After 1989 a replica of the original monument was installed as part of a renovation of the square and the triumphant one removed.

Many Communist-era statues have been relocated to Memento Park. The notion of a park for former heroes who no longer speak to today is one that we should consider here in the US for Confederate generals and others who are being displaced as reminders of their association with the shameful cause of perpetuating slavery. (No, that's not PC-talk; that is fact.) It would be better to preserve them in context rather than trying to bury them.


Palace of Justice, Budapest

Also located on the square is the once and future palace of justice. In recent years the building, constructed in the late 19th century, has served as the Ethnographic Museum, but it is in the process of being returned to its original function.

NB: the links to the Wikipedia articles on the Kossuth monument above and the Ethnographic Museum as well contain out of date information as of this writing (12/17). At some point I expect they will be updated and I'll have to scrounge around for new links.


25 October 1956 Memorial

Bullet holes in the columns of the Palace of Justice. The plaque reads (more or less) "October 25, 1956, Remembering the victims of Bloody Thursday."

The bare facts are that on October 25 a crowd of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators supporting the Hungarian uprising came to Kossuth Square and were fired upon with great loss of life. Taking it beyond that gets a little weird. I found an extensive analysis of what might (or might not) have happened that day. It indicates that the demonstrators were unknowingly "herded" to the square specifically to be massacred as a show of force. There is an interpretive center underground at the square that we did not have time to visit. I would love to know what it said.

It's odd that there is so little on the WWW about this event, especially contrasted with material on the Tiananmen Square protests.


Hungarian Parliament

Part of the Parliament from Kossuth Square.

There are two banners flanking the main entrance. Our guide told us that one represents Hungary and the other is a tribute to the roughly 1.5M ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania, which once was part of Hungary and is now part of Romania.


Nagy Imre

Imre Nagy (or Nagy Imre, for Hungarian tradition places the family name first) was Prime Minister during the 1956 uprising. He was convicted of high treason and executed by the Communists then buried in an unmarked grave. In 1989 his body was exhumed and reburied with full honors. Shortly thereafter the Hungarian courts overturned his conviction.

Our local guide, who had been in the profession prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, described how the history she related to tour groups changed over the years. Many early tourists were from other Warsaw Pact countries and had only heard the official Communist versions. Now they could hear the facts.


Budapest Holocaust Memorial

In 1944 & 1945 as many as 20,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered along the Danube riverbank and carried away by the river. This memorial reminds us of the ever-present potential for evil.

The various offerings, stones, shells, ribbons, candles, are poignant.


St. Mattias Church

Our next destination is the Matthias church of Buda's Castle District.


Chain Bridge

This picture was taken through the bus window and has a reflection, but I still like it. The bridge is the Chain Bridge. The building behind is the Royal Palace. I struggle to imagine why exactly monarchs needed all that room.


Castle District

A colorful streetscape in the Castle District of Buda.


Matthias Church.

The first church on the site dated from the 11th century, but it was destroyed by the Mongols. The current church was constructed beginning in the 14th century. It suffered the common fate of being Baroque-i-sized in the 17th century, but an extensive restoration in the late 19th century returned it to its Gothic roots. The colorful roof tiles date from that time.

The church sustained heavy damage during WWII, but has been completely restored since with the most recent work completed in 2013. No wonder it looks almost brand-new!


Gothic altar

The interior decoration was ornate and stunning. During the various restorations some of the original Gothic elements were uncovered. I wondered just how much was based on the original.


Fresco

Scenes from the life of St. Lazlo, AKA Ladislaus I of Hungary.

Lazlo was an 11th century king of Hungary who greatly expanded its territory. He became known as "the incarnation of the late-medieval Hungarian ideal of chivalry."


St. Imre

This chapel honors Imre, son of Stephen I. He was the only son who survived childhood and he was killed in a hunting accident leaving Stephen without an heir. In naming a successor, Stephen passed over the closest relative in favor of his sister's son, but civil war ensued on Stephen's death. Stability was only obtained when Ladislaus I ascended the throne.

Stephen, who was later canonized, is credited for founding the Christian Hungarian state.


Oculu

I was fascinated by this oculus set in an asymmetrical spiral. It was hidden in a side chapel. I've never seen anything like it.

It is clearly intended to have some kind of mystical symbolism, but I've not found a direct reference in the Biblical text that might explain it. The closest I've found is a combination of Genesis 2:10, which describes four rivers flowing from Eden, and Revelation 22:1, which describes the River of Life flowing from the throne of the Lamb.


Black Madonna

This Black Madonna was located in a side chapel. We were told that the chapel was bricked up in anticipation of the Ottoman victory over the Hungarian kingdom. Under Ottoman rule (1541-1683) the church was turned into a mosque.

There is a legend that during the liberation of Budapest from the Ottomans, the wall came down and the appearance of the Madonna so demoralized the Turks that they capitulated.


St. Stephen

The Matthias Church is located by the Fisherman's Bastion, a late 19th century viewing terrace. In the center of the plaza is an early 20th century representation of St. Stephen.

The picture gives a hint at the Saturday crowds. If there are this many people on a December morning, I can only imagine how many there might be in high tourist season.

Balázs said that there were probably a lot of day-trippers visiting from Vienna and Bratislava in addition to the locals who were just enjoying a sunny weekend.


Parliament, Budapest

It is much easier to get a picture of the massive Parliament building from this overlook. The Kossuth Square is on the far side of the structure.


Matthias Church, Budapest

Looking up at the church from the stairs leading down from the Fisherman's Bastion. There were very many wonderful views as we descended the stairs. I had to ration myself to just one.


Click your "back" button to return to the previous page or click for our picture album.