Wednesday, July 7, 1993

1993 Hungary: London (7/5/1993)

Tuesday, July 6, 1993
Up at 7:30 to iron, pack, and shower. We assumed we could change Forints into English pounds, but learned it was hard to get rid of Hungarian “soft” currency, which is not wanted in the West. So we hopped on a tram to the Vigadó in hopes of seeing the market with leather goods, but not open today. Took the tram back, and let Brynne use a playground while Kent went to buy some of the local juice boxes to take back as souvenirs for kids in the neighborhood. Back to the Ls’ apartment to await the minibus to the airport, due between 12:20-12:30. We left our Forints with the Ls, except for what we needed to pay the minibus driver. We saw the bus on the street at 12:25 and went down on the lift with Brynne in charge of pushing buttons. Piled in the minibus and had our last view of Budapest on the way to the airport.
Last view of Budapest (Royal Palace)
Arrived at Ferihegy 1 at about 13:00, checked in, went through passport control and the security check by 13:15! Wandered through the duty-free shops and at 14:15 we were called to board. It was noted that we had two boarding passes for me and none for Brynne. An intercom message, and the correct pass arrived. Waited in another area, then took a bus according to row number. Driven out to the plane and climbed steps to board. Kent votes for the British Airways uniforms as the worst. Took off on time at about 14:30. Beverages and a lunch of three-four tortellini, a couple slices of ham, paté and pepperoni, a little coleslaw, an olive and a tomato wedge on lettuce, crackers, huge pat of butter and cream cheese, and a roll. Some creamy cake for dessert. Arrived at London Heathrow just ahead of the scheduled local time of 15:55. Followed the sign to arrivals, on long moving sidewalks, through the passport check, past the baggage reclaim area, and through the nothing-to-declare aisle.
Then we followed signs to the hotel courtesy bus and waited 10 minutes. There were dozens of hotel and car rental buses. The Sheraton Skyline came and went on the winding, looping hotel route, and then our Sheraton Heathrow, which was a low concrete building with red décor in the lobby. Checked in with our reservations, and took the elevator to the 2nd floor, which really was the 2nd floor! The room had a queen bed, with a cot to come later. Nice tiled bath.
Kent and Brynne at the Sheraton Heathrow
We learned a bus was leaving for the center of London at 17:05 and went to check it out. I ended up running back to the room for the last roll of film, and made it back in time to take the courtesy bus into London, a one-hour trip. We hit some traffic, passing small brick duplexes before it became more built up after reaching the highway. Large population from India. In London we passed huge museums. Here we thought Budapest was a large city! London is monstrous, but neat and clean. Drove around Piccadilly Circus and were dropped off at Pall Mall. Walked back and over towards a park with trailers that had actors getting make-up. Ended up in Trafalgar Square!
Trafalgar Square
Went down Whitehall, passed Whitehall where the Horse Guards sans horses stomped out.
Continued to Downing Street, where there was a wrought-iron fence across the street itself where the Prime Minister (John Major) resides. Continued down Whitehall for a view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben Tower.
Houses of Parliament
Tower of Big Ben
Kent and Brynne at a telephone booth
Brynne was pointing out all the big black taxis and the red double deck buses. Crossed over to the front of Westminster Abbey, being cautious about which way to look for oncoming traffic.
Westminster Abbey
Through some side streets to St James Park. Brynne found a playground for a bit of a respite.
St James Park respite for Kent as well?
Went around the lake to Victoria Circle in front of Buckingham Palace.
Victoria Circle
Looked through the wrought-iron gates at the far-away palace guards.
Buckingham Palace Gates
Walked through Green Park, with a few soccer matches in progress, and many improvised softball games, using sports bags as bases. The hitters were awful, and the pitchers were funny, mimicking cricket. We don’t know the rules they were following, but they would run on strikes, and score runs in the middle of someone’s at-bat. Brynne picked mini-daisies off the lawn.
Picadilly Circus
Back at Piccadilly Circus, we looked for a place to eat, knowing we were limited by how many English pounds we had. Ended up at Wendy’s where the Super Value menu was the same; 0.99 for each item! We had a chicken sandwich, classic burger, fries, two Cokes, kid’s meal burger, fries, and milk, with two prizes for nearly 8£/about $12-14. After eating we headed to the London Underground, Piccadilly Line. Went to the ticket window for two tickets to Heathrow at 2 pounds 80/adult and Brynne free. The Underground came out of the ground for good stretches, and went very fast for some stretches. Street musicians came into the car to perform. Brynne was falling asleep. We got off at the last stop at Heathrow Airport, and followed signs to Terminal 2. Went to wait for our hotel courtesy bus, and finally back to the hotel. Good showers, a little telly, and to bed.
Bubble bath for Brynne at the Sheraton Heathrow
Really bubbly bath
Bubble bath beard
Brynne fell asleep in the cot at 22:30, which was 23:30 Hungarian time.

Wednesday, July 7, 1993
View from our Sheraton Heathrow room
Up at 7:15 and down to the hotel Garden Restaurant for breakfast. Charged the 14£10 to our hotel bill, plus tip. Brynne had two scrambled eggs, two pork sausages, apple juice and hot chocolate. I had the Continental breakfast (shared with all) of six slices of toast, basket of two croissants, two rolls, two Danish, jams and butter, and tomato juice and hot chocolate. Kent had yoghurt with fruit and coffee. When we checked out, we put a 10£ note towards the bill, and charged the rest to Visa. At 9:05 we took the shuttle bus to the airport and Terminal 3.
Heathrow Airport Beefeater Billboard plus
Short line to check-in for the flight although first there was a security interview. Went out to the gates through x-ray, where the backpack was being searched. At passport control, I remembered I had left my waist pack due to being distracted by the backpack search. Ran back to get it. Then in passport control, Kent’s passport apparently was not stamped upon entry, but they let him out! Did some window shopping and bought Brynne a matchbox London taxi, and a replacement Jurassic Park paperback book, since I had left the other book on the last British Airways plane. Forty-five minutes before flight time, they announced the gate, where they were boarding buses by row number to take us to the plane. We boarded and left on time. Served peanuts and beverages, and then our vegetarian lunches of pasta with marinara sauce on the side, salad, Wasa crackers and cheese, and a roll, with water. Brynne had a regular meal with chicken, corn pancakes, salad, chocolate chip cookies, and water. She ended up eating some of my pasta. Napped. Saw the movie “Untamed Hearts.” Snack of a corn salsa pita, grapes and a dessert. Brynne had a turkey sandwich, but was not hungry. Flight time was 6 hours and 20 minutes, and we arrived just before 13:00 at Logan Airport. On time according to the airlines, but an hour early according to our itinerary! We were off the plane quickly, through passport control, no bags to pick up, nothing to declare and waved through and out to find the Bonanza bus stop. We had plenty of time before the 13:30 bus. It was sweltering hot, in the high 90s and very humid in Boston. Glad for the air-conditioned bus ride to Providence. We arrived at the bus station about 14:30 and got the third and last taxi waiting there. He took the highway route to our house, costing $18.90, and we gave the driver $22. Home at 15:00, and the house was cool inside until we let in the hot air! Unpacked. We put the window air conditioner in Brynne’s room and we all slept in her room that night.
The end.

Monday, July 5, 1993

1993 Hungary: The Rest of Budapest (7/5/1993)

Monday, July 5, 1993
Awoke to a gray day and a cloudburst, but then it began to clear. We decided to try to see the things we had not yet seen from Brynne’s book about the dog in Budapest, a gift from Dot & Tom.
Brynne at another playground
First to swing in the playground, and then we passed Parliament to take the Metro that had the Danube display along the escalator.
Entrance to the Metro
Went one stop to Batthyány tér, and had to orient ourselves with the Felsővízivárosi Szent Anna-plébánia és templom/Parish Church of St Anna, whose twin Baroque towers we can see from the Ls’ apartment.
Felsővízivárosi Szent Anna-plébánia
és templom
/Parish Church of St Anna
Built in fine proportions in 1740-1762, designed by Kristóf Hamon and later Mátyás Nepauer. On the square we saw a building that could have been the former White Cross Inn, sunk below street level, with a ballroom in the center, Baroque ironwork on the left balcony, and Rococo on the right.
Former Fehér Kereszt fogadó/White Cross Inn
Joseph II stayed here, the king who was never crowned.
We walked north on Fő utca, past the imposing Military Tribunal, to Király Gyógyfürdő/Király Bath whose Turkish section was built in 1570, but has Classicist wings added 1717-1727. Owned by the Koenig-Király family.
Király Fürdő/Thermal Bath
Today the bath was open for men only. Next door was the St Florian Chapel, built by a baker in 1760. Due to much flooding, the street has been built up, and the buildings sit below street level. The chapel was lifted 140 cm/55 inches in 1938. It is now the parish church of the Greek Catholics in Budapest. We caught the #86 bus to follow the Danube south to Erzsébet híd/Elizabeth Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1960-1964. We looked up at the Szent Gellért-szobor/St Gerard Monument above a waterfall, with a bronze statue of the saint in a colonnade designed by Gyula Jankovits in 1904.
Bishop Gellért Memorial or
Gerard of Csanád Monument
It is said this is the site where the Bishop of Csanád Gellért was martyred when Hungarian pagan rebels placed him in a barrel pierced with nails and rolled him off this hill in 1046. There are other versions of how he died.
Gellérthegy/Gellért Hill
We crossed Elizabeth Bridge, seeing the statue of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Franz Josef and friend of the Hungarians; she was assassinated in 1898. A previous statue was blown up by communist resistance fighters, as it was right-wing politicians who aligned Hungary with the Nazis. The present bridge was designed by Hungarian Pál Sávoly in 1964 to replace a chain bridge blown up in 1945.
Russian Danube River boats seen from Elizabeth Bridge (PBB)
Gellért Hill and Erzsébet híd/Elizabeth Bridge
We walked past the Baroque Inner City Parish Church, pretty nondescript. Next to it were ruins of Contra-Aquincum, a tiny bit of remains of a Roman fortress.

Contra-Aquincum Roman remains
The Danube was the eastern border of the Roman Empire, so this fortress was only a 3C outpost. Passed a college building to the twin Klotild Palaces (1902, designed by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl in Neo-Baroque style).
Ferences templom Franciscan Church
Continued to the Ferences-templom/Franciscan Church, built in 1743 in honor of St Peter of Alcantara who founded a branch of the Franciscan Order. His statue is in a middle niche. Above the gate is the crest of the order. The church is patterned on medieval Franciscan churches with a separate tower. There is a plaque that commemorates the flood of 1838.
We backtracked and turned right on Váci utca to do some shopping and exchange money. Found a nice Matryoshka (nesting) doll for Brynne. Asked at the American Express office for the Wendy’s because we had seen ads, but it was still under construction. So we had lunch at Dairy Queen; chicken sandwiches, fries, Cokes and ice cream that had nuts in it.
Vörösmarty Mihály szobra/Statue (1908)
Vörösmarty tér/Square with
Gerbeaud Kávéház/Café Gerbeaud
Back in Vörösmarty Square, we stopped in Gerbeaud’s Confectionary, here since 1870, with 19C décor and furnishings; quite elegant. They did not have ice cream, so we bought some at a cart in the square for 20 Forints/scoop.
Brynne enjoying an ice cream cone
Budapest manhole cover
Peeked in the Vigadó concert hall lobby. Made our way to Erzsébet tér/Elizabeth Square with a playground for Brynne.
Brynne at another playground
and the Danubius-kút/Danubius Fountain (1893, designed by Miklós Ybl and sculptures by Leó Feszler), topped by a male figure symbolizing the Danube River, held by three women, the tributaries of Tisza, Drava and Sava.
Danubius-kút/Danubius Fountain
The lower basin is carved out of a single rock weighing about 100 tons. This is a copy as the original was destroyed in WWII. Across the street is the impressive modern Kempinski Hotel.
Andrássy út/Street Metro entrance
From the NE corner of the square we took Andrássy út to the Magyar Állami Operaház/Hungarian State Opera, but it was too early for the 15:00 tour. We took the Metro to Vörösmarty utca and the Liszt Ferenc Múzeum/Franz Liszt Museum on the second floor (first floor here) at #35.
Liszt Ferenc Múzeum/Franz Liszt Museum
Franz Liszt was born in Budapest in 1811. Although he did not speak the language, he considered himself Hungarian. He re-settled here in 1875, and moved into this building in 1879. The copper plate outside announced that he was at home 15:00-16:00 Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Original furniture, portraits, rare musical instruments, three pianos, and a cast of his right hand. Liszt founded the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in his home, and it has since moved and been renamed the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. We walked back towards the Opera, stopping in a shoe store to try on sandals, but did not find Brynne’s size. At Ferenc Liszt tér, we saw the statue of Franz Liszt (1986, designed by László Marton) erected on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death.
Statue of Franz Liszt
 Is there a relief of the bald sculptor on his lapel?
Kent obeys the sign by not
letting Brynne walk ...

Magyar Állami Operaház/Hungarian State Opera House
We returned to the State Opera House and mistakenly went in with an Italian tour group. Got straightened out, but the tickets for the tour were 250 Forints/adult; outrageous for Hungary! Our tour guide spoke English and Spanish. The Opera was very, very impressive, although small because Franz Joseph limited the budget to two million gold Forints. Designed by Miklós Ybl, construction took nine years from -1875-1884. Seats over 1200 people and was entirely decorated and painted by Hungarian artists, except that the chandelier and stage mechanics were from Vienna, Austria. Gustav Mahler was director for three seasons, and after WWII, Otto Klemperer was director. The chandelier weighs 3 tons, and the fresco around it was done by Károly Lotz, depicting Apollo at Mount Olympus with other gods. The stone cornice statues are of Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, then Rossini, Donizetti, Glinka, Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, Bizet, then Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Moniuszko, Smetana. The Muses are Terpsichore, Erato, Thalia and Melpomene. Statues of Franz Liszt and Ferenc Enkel flank the entrance. The Opera was renovated in 1980-1984. There is much faux marble, but occasional salmon-colored Sicilian marble. Lots of ornately carved Sicilian red oak, totally without knots. We were taken first up the grand staircase, then allowed into the boxes; very plush with a mirror in each. They used seven kilos of gold to gild the entire theater. Because of the devastating fire at the Ringtheater in Vienna, this building has an iron curtain as a fireguard. Saw the refreshment area, the smoking area, and went out on a balcony to look across the street at a lovely building that used to be apartments over shops, but now is the home of the Hungarian State Ballet and the National Opera Company.
Home of the State Opera and Ballet Companies
Next we saw the gallery and the lounge for the Royal Box into which we could peek. The Royal Staircase now is a museum of operatic scores, and marble busts. Went into a private room, all original with a fireplace. Downstairs in the theater we looked back up at the Royal Box in the center and all the surrounding boxes. The Royal Box is used for dignitaries, presidents, etc. The Royal Box is flanked by the Prince’s boxes, which have real marble columns. After the tour, we took the Metro back to Váci utca to finish shopping, then a tram to head home.
Metro ticket validation machine
Metro train
Since the first day we have not found a working validating machine for our transit tickets, and this was the one time we did not even bother looking for one! And sure enough, the transit inspectors boarded the bus. When one came for our tickets, he took quietly took them, put a little tear in them, and handed them back. Whew!
Back at the Ls’ apartment to have drinks, as we were hot and thirsty. Tom was home early at 18:00, and at 19:00 we left, taking the picnic we had prepared to drive up to Castle Hill. We went to a Baroque yellow building with stone reliefs and carved plaques of Hungarians.
Marine House
This was the Marine House, where the lucky US Marines who work at the embassy live. An unbelievable compound right in the Castle District. Tom insisted on paying our admission to the benefit concert, but we had to sign ourselves in. Went outside in the back to see a large lawn with old stone buildings on either side.
Rear of the Marine House
Down some steps to another level of lawn where the concert was to be held.
Down the steps behind the Marine House
The wall in the back went straight down to other backyards. There were views of Margit Island in the Danube and Parliament.
View of the Danube River from the Marine House
The concert featured the Aladár Pege Quartet, a jazz group, and Pege himself is a Hungarian gypsy who is one of the top bassists in the world!
Aladár Pege Quartet
Aladár Pege on bass
The concert lasted from 20:00-22:00. We brought liverwurst and ham sandwiches. Pretzels, peanuts, chips, and fruit. The Marines were selling beer, wine and soda. Kent had a Dreher, a Hungarian beer. We had forgotten Brynne’s juice boxes, so Kent ran out to a local shop to buy some.
Local horizontal juice box
It was pleasant jazz music, although I felt like the second half was a repeat of the first half! Not that anyone was paying attention. Americans were conversing throughout the concert and children were running wild. Started to see heat lightning and the intensity increased. Then there was lightning zinging from one cloud to another, backlighting the clouds. All of a sudden there was a downpour, and it being 21:50, we ran to the car to head home. An exciting end to our Hungary trip!
Next: London.

Sunday, July 4, 1993

1993 Hungary: Lake Balaton (7/4/1993)

Sunday, July 4, 1993
Happy Independence Day!
This morning we walked over to the embassy to “steal” the Ls’ car again, leaving about 9:30. We made it to the Margit Bridge without error, then followed signs to Rte-M1, a motorway. Through the hills to Rte-M7 towards Lake Balaton. The lake is 77 km/48 miles long and up to 14 km/9 miles wide with 198 km/123 miles of shoreline full of summer resorts, known as the Hungarian Riviera. The southern shore has flat sandy beaches (underwater) and the north shore is rockier along a chain of eroded extinct volcanoes. Motorboats are forbidden, as it is shallow averaging 3 m/10’ in depth. It is shallower along the southern shore and deeper on the north shore. It is the largest lake in central and western Europe. We left Rte-M7 to follow Rte-71 along the north shore. People were out with signs for rooms to rent and houses to rent. People in bathing suits everywhere. We followed railroad tracks most of the way. Went through the town of Balatonfűzfő with Dow chemical factories and a paper factory. At Balatonalmádi we looked for a beach on the lake side of the train station. We ended up in a parking lot with a ticket you paid when you left. We found an entrance to the beach, or strand, known to be one of the best on the northern shore. Paid the fee of 55 Forints/adult and 30/child. A lady at the gate took our tickets and we entered a grassy area with stairs into the water, the shallowest in the north. We found a spot to sit near the playground, and Kent took Brynne in the water, which came up to her shoulders. Swans floated nearby. Many children were in the nude and many women were topless. I took a turn going in with Brynne, and the bottom was sandy.
Brynne at Balatonalmádi Strand
Brynne's feet could always reach the bottom
Sand castle at Balatonalmádi Strand
View of Balatonalmádi Strand from the water
After about an hour, Brynne spent some time in the playground. We left about 12:30, paying 60 Forints to park. We continued on Rte-71, with vineyards and hills to the right, and the reedy lake of a pale blue-green color to the left. We came to Tihany, a hilly wooded peninsula that juts into the lake. There were supposed to be “acacias,” but we only recognized poplars, plane trees, and willows, and maybe olive trees. The whole peninsula is a National Park and was the first Natural Conservation Zone. Because Kent and Brynne were not interested in touring, we left Rte-71 to drive along the east shore of Tihany to a ferry landing. Here, about a third of the way along the lake, is the narrowest crossing to the southern shore.
Lake Balaton ferry
Lake Balaton at Tihany
We parked and went to the Don Pietro Pizzeria, recommended by the Ls, for lunch. We sat on the patio where we could watch the ferries. The usual beer, mineral water, and orange juice. We started with bruschetta (garlic on toast!), spaghetti carbonara and pasta aglio, olio e pepperoncini (spicy like fra diavolo). Brynne had a pizza picante that had pepperoni, hot peppers and capers. We removed the latter two items, and she was happy.
Kent and Brynne at Don Pietro Pizzeria
We left 1,600 Forints, which included a big tip, I think! Back in the car we drove into the town of Tihany, definitely the most beautiful area we saw around Balaton. Fields of lavender and a little lake. We parked below a twin-spired abbey.
Tihanyi Bencés Apátság/Tihany Benedictine Abbey
Tourist tram at Tihany Abbey (PBB)
King Andrew I, from the 11C, is buried here in an original 1055 crypt. The present church was built 1719-1754. Inside was lots of scaffolding, but we saw the gilded high altar and a ceiling bare of frescoes. The church is known for organ music. Walked behind the church for a view of Lake Balaton, and continued toward Echo Hill to see the House of Folk Art in a farmhouse with stalls of cottage industry products.
View NE from Tihany Abbey
View E from Tihany Abbey
Tihanyi Tájházak/Tihany Open Air Museum
Near the church was an entrance to a cave, apparently where Russian monks carved cells in the rocks below. Back to the car, and somehow missed the parking attendant, so we drove down past vineyards and stone houses built into the hillside to the ferry landing. Paid 200 Forints for the car and 50 Forints/passenger. There were long lines and we did not get on the first ferry. Bought a couple Sprites for 35 Forints each, cheaper than most places in the US! We were crowded into the next ferry, crossed the mile of water, and eight minutes later we were in Szántód on the south shore. We turned left to follow the shore, wanting to go to Zamárdi, which supposedly has pretty peasant homes and the best family beach because the water deepens very gradually, but we missed it completely. We continued to Siófok, the largest resort with the largest strand that is able to accommodate 10,000 people! We crossed the Sió river where there are sluices/locks to control water levels in the lake and river. These date back to Roman times. We found our way to Nagystrand and paid 60 Forints/adult with no charge for Brynne. Here the ticket takers tear a corner off your ticket. We stayed about an hour on a shaded grassy area. Kent took Brynne in first, and then I did. Brynne could kneel in most of the shallow areas. We waded out a half mile (?) to a buoy and the water never got above Brynne’s shoulders, but the depth was very variable.
Lake Balaton from Siófok Strand
Brynne at the buoy; looking back at Siófok Strand
More topless women and even a nude man on a “sailboat.” Finally pulled Brynne out of the water at 16:30 and returned to the car. No parking fee here. Stopped for 1,000 Forints worth of gas, and found Rte-M7 to head back to Budapest past peach orchards and vast sunflower fields. We got mixed up getting from M7 to M1 and ended up in some small town. Back on Rte-M1 to Rte-10/11, crossed the Margit Bridge and to the Ls’ apartment. Dot had gone to meet Tom, and when Kent went to return the car to the embassy, he saw them having a beer. The three of them returned together after Brynne and I had showered. Spaghetti and meatball dinner.
Setting sun over Buda
Going, going ...
Next: The Rest of Budapest.