Wednesday, June 30, 1993

1993 Hungary: Budapest (6/29-30/1993)

Monday, June 28, 1993
I earned a few dollars this morning, and Kent came home early from work to finish mowing the lawn. After lunch, we closed up the house, and Jim B came before 15:00 to take us to the Bonanza bus terminal. We took the 15:30 bus for Logan Airport in Boston. The driver said Brynne did not need a ticket until she is five-years old, so we saved $11 already on this trip! Windy and pouring rain on the way, with some lightning. Clear and sunny in Boston, but heavy traffic. Arrived at the airport about 17:10, and were second in line at the check-in counter, but it was taking a long time. When we reached the agent, it took one minute. We were carrying on one small suitcase, one overnighter, and one backpack, and I had my waist pack. At the gate we had drinks and bought apples and popcorn. Made a final restroom run, and boarded at 18:45 while a Windham Hill music video played on the screens. We sat five rows back in the middle three seats. Plane left on time at 19:26, and took off at 20:00. Brynne soon fell asleep. Beverage and peanuts at 21:00, and dinner at 22:00. We had ordered special vegetarian meals, with green salad with tomato and dressing, rice and beans, and a dish with bulgur wheat, walnuts and beans with green beans and sautéed zucchini. Also a roll and butter, water, and oatmeal cookies. Plus baked apples with raspberry sauce and burnt caramel ice cream! Woke Brynne to eat, but she had only a bite. She was up the rest of the night! Dozed on and off during the movie that began after the duty-free cart went through.

Tuesday, June 29, 1993
Breakfast was at 1:00; a muffin, yoghurt, banana, and orange juice. We landed at Heathrow Airport at 13:45, which was 6:45 local time in London, UK. It was very bright outside! We had to wait for a gate to open, then unloaded, went through a maze of walkways, moving sidewalks, and waited in a room for a terminal bus. Oh! We drove on the left side of the road, to Terminal 1. A check-in point, then security where the backpack was hand searched. Entered the terminal full of shops and with the flight information on an old fashioned or railroad type sign with flipping letters. We were not able to get Hungarian money here. Sat in a general waiting area until the call to board was announced at 9:10, telling us to go to Gate 46. There we sat until 9:30 and finally boarded the 9:55 flight for Budapest, HU. We slept for the most part, except for lunch of a roll, beans and mushrooms, slice of roast beef, some slivers of pastrami and mayo, then crackers with butter and yellow bleu cheese. Ended with a rolled cake; too sweet. Arrived five minutes early at 13:20 local time, a one hour difference from London. Long lines at passport control. We could not see, but there was a lot of stamping and stapling. Received our passports back without a word spoken. Exited to be met by Dot L and an embassy driver. We went out to the embassy van, without any baggage checks. The airport was out in a flat area. Took a straight-ish highway into Budapest, with hills in the distance. “Old” city sights were pointed out along the way. We were dropped off at the Ls’ apartment, with high ceilings and an incredible view of the Danube right below the balcony! It was sunny and pleasantly warm. After visiting with Dot a while, we went for a walk, taking a right just out the front door and headed downriver. Passed a couple playgrounds and a stark white building with bars over the windows, which we learned was the “White House.” It was once a dreaded power center where Hungary was governed nominally by the Central Committee for the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, specifically by János Kádár for 32 years. There are no more black Mercedes belonging to the only ones who could turn directly off the Margit hid/Margaret Bridge. In the square was a bare pedestal, once the base of a statue of Marx and Engels. We crossed the Margit hid, the second permanent bridge over the Danube, built in 1872-1876 by the French Ernest Goüin. Halfway across, we took the branch of the bridge (1901, and the only part that is still original) to Margit-sziget/Margaret Island.
Margit-sziget/Margaret Island and the Danube River
The island was once a royal hunting preserve and full of rabbits. King Bela IV vowed to send his youngest daughter to a nunnery if he survived the Mongol invasion, and she did live in a Dominican convent on this island that was later named for her. She died at age 28. During the Turkish occupation, the island was a harem. Up to World War II it was privately owned, and a fee was charged for admittance. There were many plane trees. We walked past playgrounds, fountains, swimming pools, a clay tennis court, stadium, rose garden, and a ruin of a church.
Merging of Buda and Pest Centenary
Monument (1873, by István Kiss)
We asked at a snack bar for directions to the zoo, which was very small with a few enclosures with ducks, goats, a donkey, and a variety of birds.
Brynne at the Margit Island Zoo
Margit Island Gardens
Brynne provides Daddy with a hood
Imre Madách statue (1973, by Tibor Vilt
and architect Miklós Hofer)
Girl with a Flute sculpture (1967, by Jenő Kerényi)
at Franciscan Church of St Clare ruins
Graffiti
We then wandered back, stopping to let Brynne play in a playground.
Brynne at playground
Margit Island View upriver with the
Fehér Ház/White House on the left
Margit Island View farther upriver toward Parliament
in Pest on the left, and Buda on the right
(One of the first things you learn about Budapest, is that it is actually in two parts, called Buda on the right/east bank of the Danube, and Pest is on the left/west bank.)
We apparently walked only half the length of the island, and missed the hotels and thermal spas.
Brynne at another playground
Empty pedestal of Communist-era statue
Near the Ls’ apartment, we stopped at another playground until 18:00, then returned to the apartment, using a key in the front door and a code for the gate inside. The small “lift” took us to the third floor (actually the fifth, as we started on 01, and passed 0, 1, and 2! Kent went to nap, and Brynne fell asleep, too. Tom was home after 19:00. Dinner was ham, potatoes au gratin, fresh peas, and nice rolls. Dessert was raspberries that we ate on the balcony to watch the sunset with the lights coming on up Castle Hill. We looked through literature on Budapest, then to bed at 22:30.

Wednesday, June 30, 1993
View from the balcony of Dot's and Tom's apartment (Photo By Brynne)
View from the balcony, panning to the right ...
... panning across Buda ...
... continuing panning to the right ...
... down to the Margit Bridge
We were up at 8:00, and had breakfast of fruit, muffins, toast, and/or cereal. Tom L had exchanged $300 into Hungarian florints for us. We set off for the day at about 10:30, first stopping at a playground (swings with a low “fence” to keep people from walking in front of the swingers) for Brynne.
Brynne and Kent at another playground
Americans walking their dogs ...
We walked around Parliament looking for the Metro station.
Parliament spires
Parliament with the flag of Hungary
Mom with the Parliament lion (PBB)
A lion of Parliament
I was disoriented on the map, but we found the station and had our tickets validated. Hopped on the escalator and whoa! It was steep and deep! There was an exhibit on the walls along the escalator, about the Danube and the need to “save it.”
Metro escalator
Exhibit about the Danube River
We boarded a crowded train towards Déli Pu and got off at the second stop at Moszkva tér/Moscow Square. We walked across the square and tram tracks to climb stairs to a road on the uphill side. Found the stop for the Varbusz/Castle bus with the logo of the castle as our clue. We could not find where to validate the tickets, but off we went. We disembarked at the first stop inside the castle walls and began exploring. First saw the foundation of a 13C Franciscan church, Mária Magdolna Torony/Church of St Mary Magdalene, for those who spoke Hungarian in the Middle Ages. Under Turkish rule, it was the only church allowed to remain Christian, as the others were converted to Islamic mosques. The chancel was Catholic and the nave was Protestant, but eventually it also became a mosque. The chancel was destroyed in WWII with only a stone window rebuilt as a memento.
Mária Magdolna Torony/
Church of St Mary Magdalene remains
On one corner we noted the stone relief of the “Flying Nun” by Miklos Melocco in 1977.
Flying Nun (1977, by Miklos Melocco)
At Országház utca 20 was the Convent of the Order of Poor Clares; later Parliament held sessions here. Now it is the Academy of Sciences. We looked back to where we entered the Várnegyed/Castle District, through the Bécsi kapu/Vienna Gate, which was once a market where non-Jewish merchants traded. We walked along Országház utca, passing #18-20-22, houses that were built in the 14-15C and might show what the district looked like in the Middle Ages.
Országház utca/Street of medieval buildings
These were once occupied by Italians; the name of the street that translates to Italian Street.
We ended up at the square in front of the cathedral, and took a left to Hess András tér, to find the Red Hedgehog House (1390), one of the oldest buildings in Budapest, with a red hedgehog over the main door comes from the coat of arms of its noble owner.
Red Hedgehog House
After the Turks, the building was turned into a tavern where theater performances and balls were held.
We entered the Hilton Hotel, completed in 1976, designed by Béla Pintér, which includes parts of the 13C Dominican cloister and monastery.
Hilton Budapest (1976, by Béla Pintér)
View through the Hilton Budapest
We passed a wall of the cloister, built in Rococo style, facing the square, and went into the hotel lobby and turned left to find windows overlooking the Gothic remains of a Dominican church kept intact by the hotel. Performances are held here in the summer. Glass exterior surfaces reflect the surroundings, and so it is considered to blend in. Immediately next door is Mátyás Templom/Matthias Church, and in front of it is the Halászbástya/Fisherman’s Bastion overlooking the Danube.
MTV! Magyar Televízió/Hungarian TV truck
Halászbástya/Fisherman’s Bastion
View across Buda to Pest from Fisherman's Bastion
Kent and Brynne at Fisherman's Bastion
Kent and Brynne at Fisherman's Bastion
The bastion was basically a fancy lookout terrace with towers, and it is not used for defense. It was built between 1890-1905 on the site of a Middle Ages fish market.
We went to enter the Matthias Church, passing street musicians and dodging photographers.
Church of the Blessed Virgin on Buda
or Matthias Church
The church is really the Church of the Blessed Virgin in Buda. It is known as Matthias because of the legendary Hungarian King Mátyás held both his weddings here. Built in 1400, it was originally the church of German citizens. Its frescoes were whitewashed by the Turks, and afterwards it was restored in Baroque style. In 1873-1896, Frigyes Schulek restored the church to its original 13C design. Walls were repainted based on found fragments, with elaborate designs in repeating patterns. We paid 30 Forints each to go down in the crypt to see the Árpád gravestone, old carvings, family crests, and then upstairs to see small reliquaries, chalices, vestments, etc. including lots of gold. Up again for a view overlooking the nave; a neat view of the church.
Photo op behind Matthias Church
Outside of Matthias Church was the Holy Trinity Column, erected 1710-1713 at the highest point of the hill, to commemorate victims of two plague (1691 and 1709) and in hopes of protecting the people from further plague.
Szentháromság szobor/Trinity Statue (1710-1713)
in front of Pénzügyminisztérium Ministry of Finance
Cater-cornered from it is the Old Town Hall of Buda, where the first session was held in 1710; it is now the Linguistics Institute of the Academy of Sciences. Across the street from Old Town Hall is a modern corner house that was built to blend in. We continued down the street between the latter two buildings, Szentháromság utca, to Ruszwurm’s, a confectioner’s coffee shop, which had only desserts.
Peek into courtyard off Úri utca
We passed a statue (1937, by György Vastagh) of András Hadik, a Hussar commander of the Buda Castle.
András Hadik statue (1937, by György Vastagh)
Touching the horse’s testicles brings luck to engineering students. We looked over the ramparts to look down the hill of Buda. Then back and right on Úri utca to find the Labirintus/Labyrinths and restaurant.
Labirintus/Labyrinths entrance
We paid 150 Forints each for tickets and went down the stairs. It looked more like an old wine cellar. We were on a guided tour with a few New Yorkers. There are 10 km/6 miles of linked underground caves created by the Turks for military purposes, of which we toured about 1.5 km/1 mile. There were gory waxworks to depict Hungarian history up to the 15C. Although it was cool, it was humid and dripping. The waxworks were actually a plastic mixture, but all the clothing was moldy! This was also a WWII hideout. We then had a long wait at the restaurant. We had a wonderful goulash soup that was very picante, and plenty of a heavy bread. Kent had beer, I had mineral water and we had brought a juice for Brynne. We then had a Hortobágyi palacsinta/“pancake” that was more like a crepe filled with a tasty ground meat and covered with a mild paprika and sour cream sauce. Also three fried turkey bites with parsley potatoes, and a salad of thinly sliced cucumbers in a pleasant vinegar with paprika sprinkled on top! We left 1800 Forints, about $20. We were to get a free gift with our tour ticket, but it was a glass of wine. We then used the toilets, for 20 Forints each. After lunch we returned to Ruszwurm’s for dessert for a slice of very fluffy cheesecake with raisins in it, and ice cream for Brynne.
We headed towards the Budavári Palota/Buda Palace, passing the ruins of the Ministry of Defense and the Várszínház/Castle Theater (originally built in 1736 as a church of the Order of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in late Baroque style).
Várszínház/Castle Theater and Sándor Palace
In 1784, Joseph II dissolved the order, and the monastery was turned into a casino, and the church into a theater. Here was where the first play in Hungarian was performed in 1790; previously all was in German. The wooden theater collapsed, and was replaced in 1978 in concrete and marble, but you can still hear sounds from the outside.
The palace was accessed through a wrought-iron gate in a stone arch, and at the corner a gigantic eagle is overlooking the Danube.
Royal Palace Gate (PBB and TMS combined)
Palace gate eagle sculpture
The palace was built over many years, destroyed and rebuilt, and besieged by German troops. It was decided to restore it to its original form, but things were added that were never there before. It now houses the Magyar Nemzeti Galéria/Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapesti Történeti Múzeum Vármúzeum/Budapest History Museum, the Modern History Museum, and the Országos Széchenyi Könyvtár/National Széchenyi Library. The front courtyard had a great view across the river of Pest.
View across the Danube (PBB)
View across the Danube
There is a large imposing bronze statue of Eugene of Savoy (1897, by József Róna, purchased 1900).
Prince Eugene of Savoy Statue (1899,
by József Róna and Rezső Nay architect)
He led the armies that liberated Buda and began the expulsion of the Turks. The statue was originally commissioned by the town of Zenta, but it went bankrupt. The statue was discovered in a studio by Alajos Hauszmann, the final architect of the palace restoration, who placed it temporarily at the present site, as it was meant to be replaced by a statue of Franz Joseph, which never happened.
Palace from Hunyadi udvar/courtyard
Palace Cour d'honneur/Court of Honor Wing
Royal Palace gateway
We found an alley through the palace to the other side to see Mátyás kútja/Matthias Fountain (1904, by Alajos Stróbl in Neo-Baroque style), with a bronze statue of King Matthias as a huntsman and Italian chronicler.
Mátyás kútja/Matthias Well or Fountain (1904,
 by Alajos Stróbl and Alajos Hauszmann)
On the bottom left of this “Trevi Fountain of Budapest” is the beautiful maiden Szép Ilonka, a girl of low birth who fell in love with the king not knowing who he was. Below the palace, archaeological excavations continue.
Brynne and Kent with a roaring lion
We found the grim pair of lions outside, and a roaring pair inside. Next we took the funicular with a 100 m/328’ track and slope of 4.8/10. Tickets were 80 Forints/adult and 60 Forints/child 2-16. Opened in 1870, it originally had a steam engine, but its 1986 successor is run by electricity.
We walked across Széchenyi Lánchíd/Széchenyi Chain Bridge, designed by William Clark and built 1842-1849 by Adam Clark, who was so proud and confident in the bridge that he would drown himself if a flaw was found.
Brynne and Kent on the Széchenyi Lánchíd/Széchenyi Chain Bridge
The Austrian Imperial Army tried unsuccessfully to destroy the bridge, and the Hungarian rebels wanted to destroy the bridge to prevent the Austrians from crossing, but Clark convinced them to dismantle the platform to make it impassable, and he floated the sections on barges to be rebuilt later. But in WWII, the Germans destroyed the middle section of the bridge, leaving the two towers.
View back on the Royal Palace
While crossing the bridge, we encountered several men trying to get us to exchange money. Now that hard currency is not such an issue, it is more likely this was a scam where they give you counterfeit money and a fake policeman confiscates it back, and you are out the US dollars.
Gresham-palota/Palace (1904-1906, by Zsigmond Quittner and Jozsef Vago)
Széchenyi Lánchíd/Széchenyi Chain Bridge
We walked along the Danube to the playground, and back to the Ls’ apartment. Brynne napped (but then was up late that evening!). Dinner was chicken and rice, wax beans, rolls and salad. Brynne loved the wax beans. Dessert of cheese cake.
Next: Esztergom, Etc.