Sunday, September 3, 2017

Europe: Budapest diary HUNGARY

“It’s time for your cruise along the Danube River. Dinner will be served then. Be sure to fully charge all your camera devices or you’ll regret it”, our cheerful tour guide quipped as she ticked off our names on her all important folder containing what felt like an endless stack of paperwork.

Towards the end of our two month European espionage, I was beginning to feel weary and had my fill of churchs/ cathedrals, medieval castles, bridges, not forgetting the dreaded long bus rides that we used for commuting around. A few yawns escaped me with little resistance and before I could catch a few dozes, we arrived at a pier along the Danube river where our lovely tour bus driver guided us carefully to our rocky cruise boat.
We feasted on a big spread of Hungarian food and wine, of course. I would not have minded sitting in the dining area throughout the duration of the cruise but I was lured out on deck, out of curiousity, to see what Budapest has to offer me.
And that was when Budapest left me speechless. A panoramic view of the parliament, chain bridge and liberty bridge, all brightly illuminated at night in a golden hue, contrasting beautifully against the cobalt blue clear skies. At the distance, Castle Hill fiercely competed for a spot in our camera and we happily obliged to that.

The following morning, after a much needed photo transferring from my camera to my computer, we embarked on a tour to the older part of Budapest. The awing did not cease at the extensive Chain Bridge that connects both parts of the city but rather, continues forth until all of us set foot around the Fisherman’s Bastion, built to celebrate the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian state. There are 7 towers of the Halaszbastya features the 7 Hungarian chieftains who have contributed to the making of Hungary and a statue of St.Stephen, the first Hungarian king.

Next to the Bastion lies the Gothic inspired Matthias Church which, just like most churches around Europe, undergone extensive restoration works. A stroll along the Bastion provides visitors with a splendid bird’s eye view of the city.

Heroes’ square was next on our agenda and here, we were treated to a majestic view of the seven Hungarian chieftains celebrating millennia of the Magyar conquest in 1896, surrounded by statues of other prominent figures in the Hungarian world. Bearing a holy crown and the double cross of Christianity, Archangel Gabriel can be seen soaring above the other statues. Art fanatics rejoice in knowing that the Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Art sit within walking distance from this platform.

After parting ways (temporarily until dinner time), the sister and I followed the Oktogon tram line path, leading us to the new- Renaissance Hungarian State Opera and subsequently, St.Stephen’s Basilica. Albeit packed with photographer wannabe tourists and a few locals seeking spiritual deeds, we felt at ease exploring the nooks and corners of this basilica.

Strategically located along the Danube river, the sister brought us to the mountainous looking dom topped Parliament. Would have liked to take a step in but time was slowly escaping us and not long after, we made our way to the easily missed stretch of shoe sculptures, dedicated to the many Hungarian Jews forced to march towards the river on a cold winter day and made to end their lives there. For those wanting a better insight about the Jewish community in Budapest, a visit to the Great Synagogue is a must at a slightly hefty price.

We stopped by Central Market Hall a little after lunch for a quick bite and to browse at the various local souvenirs available. Instincts cautioned us to be wary of our surroundings and as always, to keep personal belongings attended to at all times.

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