As I sit down to write, the bells of Matthias Church, which is right next door, are ringing. I don’t know if it’s a Monday thing or if it is because today is All Saints Day. Either way, it is lovely. The church is one of the three most famous houses of worship in the city and a stunner. The interior has a beautiful tile floor laid out in a floral pattern; dark, ornately painted walls and columns; and lots of stained glass windows. In a place of honor are the remains of the only king, out of 51, for whom remains have been located. He is laid to rest next to his queen. A death mask is in one special nave with the skull of the deceased inside. All of this to say that my favorite part of the church is outside: the roof. It is covered in colorful Zsolnay tiles which are laid out in a geometric pattern and are stunning against the backdrop of the sandstone building and blue sky. We were told that it took 150,000 tiles to get the job done. A few other old buildings in the city have these eye catching tiled roofs. They are made of a special type of ceramic that is acid and frost resistant. Before we left we lit a candle for Aunt Jerry.
Our guided city tour today gave us a very nice overview of both the Buda side, which has a third of the population, and the Pest side, where most of the action is. We drove past lots of old mansions and palaces that have been restored and converted into lovely hotels, embassies, schools, apartment buildings, and so forth. We drove down EmbassyRow; Andrassy Road which is their Champs Elysees; the house where Houdini was born; a statue of none other than George Washington; ornate, expansive baths fed by some of the 100 natural hot water springs in the city; the Museum of Sweets and Selfies, and the New York Coffee House, voted the most beautiful coffee house in the world. (I can attest to that having gone when I was here before.) We drove past the opera house, which is eye catching from the outside but eye poppingly gorgeous inside (I can attest… blah blah), and the second largest synagogue in Europe which seats 3,000 with standing room for 2,000 more. Fun fact: it was fully restored after WWII by the U.S.’s own Tony Curtis in honor of his Hungarian grandfather who died in a concentration camp. We also saw the first artificial skating rink in Europe, still used for that purpose; entrances to Europe’s first subway system; and the Parliament building, fashioned after London’s and supported by 70,000 wooden pylons imported from Lebanon. After a stop at Hero’s Square, home to their Unknown Soldier, we were taken back across the bridge to Buda and dropped at Fisherman’s Bastion where we were turned loose for the rest of the day.
Hard to believe we could do and see and listen to so much before noon, but we did. After a quick stop in our room Dan and I headed off to find lunch, visit a small church built into a cave, and have a coffee and treat of some sort. We headed in the direction of the cave and floundered our way into a fun lunch spot where we settled on goulash soup and spongy, crusty bread. Then on to the church a mile or so further down the river. Gellért Hill Cave is at the top of a rise and well worth the visit. The tiny church and home to monks belongs to the Paulist monastic order. After our brief audio tour we strolled across the bridge into Pest determined to find a treat…and we did. We shared a large, sweet langosh. I say a sweet one because they come sweet or savory. Marry a doughnut, beaver tail, and funnel cake and you have yourself a langosh. Then top it with whipped cream and jam mixed with mascarpone. We dove in sorry we did not each get our own.
By the time we sipped the last of our decaf cappuccinos and scraped the plate it was dark and we decided to head back. It was a cool, beautiful night, so we made our way across the bridge and walked slowly along the water. We made a final stop to see a huge, more-than-lifesize lion made of legos. Really. Our only challenge after a long day was climbing dozens and dozens of stairs to get from the river’s edge back to the top of hill where our hotel is located.
Speaking of the hotel. It was built here because Zsa Zsa Gabor, an Hungarian, was married to Conrad Hilton at the time and convinced him to build the first Hilton behind the Iron Curtain. It incorporates the ruins of a 13th century Abby and cloister and a 16th century facade of a Jesuit college. We have a view of the ancient cloister walls from our room. Thank you Zsa Zsa.
One day out and I have already chosen a souvenir: a seated ceramic lady made by an Hungarian artist. Dan has two mini-boxes made of Herend porcelain to add to his collection and some groceries. Dan and his international grocery habit. 😉 We were free until time to transfer to the ship, Viking’s Ullur, at noon, so we were strolling the narrow streets of the Castle District when the shops opened. It was not difficult to hit them all since the main shopping districts are on the Pest side. Treasures in hand, we strolled around what was a castle but is now a large, impressive museum. It sits on a promontory overlooking the river and afforded us great views. The sun was out for the first time which was a nice, much appreciated, touch for sure.
We got to the ship around 1:00, made a beeline for lunch, and then went to our room to settle in. I say room, but it is really a small, well appointed two-room suite. We will be happy here, I guarantee it. Dan and I passed on cheese and wine at 3:30, so he could hit the market and shops on this side of the river and I could relax and catch up on my writing. We did rally for cocktails at 5:00, the welcome brief at 6:15, and dinner at 7:00.
We pushed off around 8:00 and enjoyed the lights on both sides of the vessel.
Our two days here have given us a head start on jet lag and have us excited to see what else lies along this end of the Danube.
… Trivia …
Budapest became a city in 1873 when three neighboring cities united: Obuda, Pest, and Buda.
No building in the city can be taller than 315 feet.
Houdini’s former home is now a magic school. I would not kid about a thing like that.
Just a reminder, Ullur, stepson of Thor, is the god of the hunt.
Hungary is very proud of its Herend porcelain founded almost 200 years ago.
The currency here is the Hungarian forint.
$1.00 = 415 forint
One thought on “Budapest, Hungary (November 1-2, 2022)”
Loving all the pictures, and the interesting facts! Thank you!
Tony Curtis, Conrad Hilton, Zsa Zsa….
The dozens of steps sounded daunting!