Friday, June 26, 2009

Budapest-June 2009

Budapest at night-Chain Bridge-Danube-Buda-Castle Hill

Heroes' Square

 Sculpture-Danube Promenade-Pest side

St. Stephen-1st King of Hungary

Tomb of Unknown Soldier-Heroes' Square

Bride-Heroes' Square

Market Hall

Hungarian State Opera House-ceiling

Hungarian State Opera House

Hungarian State Opera House

Parliament House-Royal Crown

Parliament-House of Lords

Parliament House

Palace of Arts

Budapest--Major attractions (Click on maps to enlarge)



Eastern Europe


I enjoy foreign cultures, and I have always been curious about Budapest and their culture and the city's many famous monuments. I had a rich, fantastic experience. I met many interesting, wonderful people, including, by chance at breakfast, a well-known dramatic opera singer Linda Watson, who was performing in Wagner's Ring Cycle. I met a couple from Barcelona who had come to Budapest specifically to attend the Wagner performances. I attended the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble in the relatively new Palace of Arts. I also attended Aida, Carmen, I Vespri Siciliani and the ballet Midsummer Night's Dream all at the Hungarian State Opera House, a majestic venue. I toured the Parliament Building (saw the Memorial for the 1956 Uprising, saw the Hungarian flag with the Soviet Red Star cut out, leaving the hole as a reminder), Heroes' Square, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Museum of Fine Arts, Franz Liszt Academy of Music, St. Stephen's Basilica and statue, Castle Hill, Fishermen's Bastion, Matthias Church, Gellért Hill, the Dohany Street Synagogue (the largest active synagogue in Europe today and the second largest in the world, after Temple Emanu-El in NY City), Market Hall. I saw the Liberty Bridge, the Elizabeth Bridge, the Chain Bridge-the first permanent link between Buda and Pest, the Vigado Concert HallShoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial by the sculptor Gyula Pauer and the fimmaker Can Togay, is a simple, quietly heartbreaking permanent installation of 60 pairs of empty shoes, cast in iron on the Pest side of the Danube embankment to honor the Jews who were victims of Hungary's own fascist Arrow Cross of 1944-45. Men, women and children, bereft of their shoes, were lined up and shot dead so that their bodies would fall into the Danube and wash away. 


I did not go to the House of Terror or Memento Park where the Hungarians have "dumped" all the reminders of the Soviet occupation.

Unfortunately, it rained heavily my last two days so I decided to forgo an excursion to the countryside and the Danube Bend to Esztergom (Center of the Catholic Church) and Szentendre. I also did not get to Margaret Island, Budapest's car-free playground that has everything-a sport stadium, numerous tennis courts, outdoor swimming complex, an open air theater-the site of summer concerts and festivals, Japanese and Rose gardens, early medieval ruins, two spa hotels. Perhaps on another visit?

I was overwhelmed by the number of cultural events available each and every night. It was difficult to choose among the many offerings. Prices of tickets were far, far less expensive than here in Boston and a mere pittance compared to prices in New York or Paris.

The Marriott Hotel on the banks of the Pest side of the Danube with every room overlooking the Danube was wonderful, and I could walk along the Danube promenade at night without fear as it was well lighted and there were many people out and about and many restaurants. One morning at breakfast I met Linda Watson, the American well-known Wagnerian soprano, who was in Budapest to perform in the Wagner Festival.  The Marriott maintains a fleet of taxi drivers so it was very reassuring to take one of their taxis at a set fee, and then the driver would return to pick me up after the performance. One time the performance ran overtime and the driver waited almost an hour for me!

The Danube, the second longest river in Europe, (The longest river is the Volga in Russia.) is not blue at all, but a grey, sandy color. I wonder if it was blue when Strauss wrote his beautiful Blue Danube Waltz.

After my initial apprehension of HUF (Hungarian Forint) prices in the thousands, I became quite comfortable. My only regret is that I was not more knowledgeable about the history of Hungary.

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