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    Day 14

    September 15 - Wednesday 


    It is hard to believe that we have been gone two weeks and only have another week left.

    We started the morning walking down to the Chain Bridge to catch a “hop on hop off” bus. We had bought 2 days tickets yesterday.  We started walking up Andrassy ut, Budapest’s finest street, to find the bus stop.   Andrassy ut is 1.6 miles long, ending at Heroes’ Square and is the busy street with the Opera House, shops, museums, cafes and nightclubs.  We found the  “hop on, hope off” bus which took us through several of the surrounding streets and then up past the Opera House and shops to Hero’s Square.


    At the northern end of Adnrassy ut (street) is the giant Heroes’ Square so named because it the home of the most important figures in Hungarian history.  It was built in 1896 as part of Hungary’s Millennial Celebrations of the Magyar conquest.  The tall Millennial Monument which is a 118 foot column of the Archangel Gabriel is the first thing that you see.  Gabriel is surrounded by statues of men on horseback who represent the seven legendary chieftains responsible for the conquest.   A stone tablet rests in front of the column marking the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

      Behind the monument is a magnificent semi-circular colonnade depicting the most highly regarded men in the country’s history, ranging from King Stephen I to Lajos Kossuth.  

    On top of the colonnade are symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, and Knowledge and Glory.   Preparations were in progress for some type of fair.  There was a bucket-truck lifting workers to the top of the statue to attach bunting and stringing it to the colonnades. Wooden vendor stands were being assemble around the plaza.  We spent a lot of time looking at all the statues and photographed many of them.

    On the southern side of Heroes’ Square is the Palace of Arts, built at the same time as the Square.  It was renovated in 1995 and now offers the largest exhibition space for contemporary art in the country. 

    On the northern side of Heroes’ Square is the Museum of Fine Arts in a grandiose neoclassical building.   It is Hungary’s premier gallery of non-Hungarian works of art with over 100,000 examples.  Since we still had several places to visit that day, we decided not to go into either museum—next time.

    Across the street on the back side there was a new building.  In front of it they had excavated a large area that will soon to be small lake.

    Further on we came to the Vajdahunyad Castle.   It has been termed an “enclave of buildings” rather than a proper castle.  It, too, was built for the Millennial Celebrations of 1896 to display the variety of architectural styles found in the Hungarian Kingdom.   It was a fascinating building which reveals a combination of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements.  Originally constructed out of cardboard as a temporary exhibit of the celebration, the castle was such a hit that the city decided to turn it into a permanent structure of stone and bricks in 1904.  

      We did not go in but walked around the outside where several vendors had begun selling their wares for the upcoming festival.  In the park surrounding the castle is the famous Statue of Anonymous.  This is a hooded figure of a monk. Little known about him except that he lived in the 12th century and was the notary to King Bela III.   He is also considered to be the author of the Gesta Hungarorum, the first book written on the history of the Hungarians.   Superstition has it that students who touch his writing stylus will receive help in their studies.  My wife and I both touch it as well as had our pictures taken with him.  That is why I am able to write so much about our travels!

    In this area were also the famous baths.  My wife had particularly wanted to swim and had even encouraged me to bring my bath suit.  She told me she realized that a swim would take half of our precious day, so we didn’t swim. O how sad!  I am not a swimmer.

    After spending several hours at Heroes’ Square and Park, we caught another “hop on, hop off” bus to the Dohany Street Synagogue.  Before we went in we ate lunch at an outdoor café, Wallahalla Club, across the street from the synagogue.  My wife had quiche and I had ravioli stuffed with meat. 


    Dohany Street Synagogue, was built in 1859 based on designs by Ludwig Forster. It is built in a neo-Moorish style with additions of Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic elements.  It is Europe’s largest synagogue and the second largest in the world.  It can hold nearly 3,000 people and measures 174 feet long and 87 feet wide with two distinct towers reaching over 140 feet in height. The original synagogue was bombed by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party on February 3,1939.  It was used as a base for German Radio and also as a stable during World War II. The building suffered some severe damage from aerial raids during the Nazi Occupation, especially during the Seige of Budapest.  During the Communist era the damaged structure became again a prayer house for the much-diminished Jewish community. Its restoration started in 1991 and ended in 1998. The restoration was financed by the state and by private donations.

    We took a tour of the interior plus the gardens and memorials.   Next to the synagogue there is a cemetery filled with the graves of the murdered Jews.  In a garden/park behind the synagogue is the Holocaust Memorial erected in 1989. 

      It is in the shape of a weeping willow tree and stands on top of the mass grave of Jews who died during the bitter winter of 1944-1945.  Each of the metallic tree’s leafs bears the name of a victim of that terrible time.

    The entire synagogue experience was very moving.  We stayed a long time.  Photos inside and out were allowed.

    We had tickets for a boat ride which were included in the “hop on, hop off” package.  So we got back on a bus which we thought stopped a block from our apartment and the boat dock across the street, but it didn’t stop but went on over Elizabeth Bridge which is ½ block from our apartment (the bus stops when it goes in the other direction).  The next stop was the funicular and then up to the palace and all around the top of the hill before coming back to our stop. We didn’t want to do this route as we had been there yesterday, so we got off at the funicular which is at the end of the Chain Bridge on the Buda side and took a regular city bus across the bridge.  We had planned on seeing St. Stephen Cathedral after the boat ride so we just reversed our plans. 


    St. Stephens was beautiful and quite large – the largest church in Hungry.  Work was begun in 1851 based on the designs of Jozsef Hild.  Hild died before the church was completed and Miklos Ybl (architect of the opera house) was asked to finish building the church.  Ybl found that the outer walls had huge cracks in them.  A week later the vast dome collapsed.  The entire building was declared unsound.  Ybl redesigned it in neo-Renaissance style.  It was finally opened in 1906.  The exterior of the church is very symmetrical with matching towers with small domes on the two front corners and a huge dome in the center.   There were a number of steps leading up to the front door.   Admission is free and photos were allowed.

    The interior had rich colors on the walls.  The seating in the main nave did not appear to be too spacious.  The main altar had a statue of St. Stephen carved from Carrara marble by Alajos Stróbl,  the archangel Gabriel holds the Holy Crown above the head of the king

    Four pillars hold the massive dome which is beautifully frescoed. A fresco of God the Father dominates the center of the cupola.

    The Patrona Hungariae Altar by Gyula Benczúr depicts St. Stephen offering the Hungarian Crown to the Virgin Mary and asking her to be a patron of Hungary

    We walked back to our apartment for a few minutes and then to the nearby dock for an hour boat ride. We met an American couple about our age, who were lost. They were on a cruise and their boat was scheduled to leave from the other side of the river.  They talked to some of attendants at the dock.  They in turn radioed another boat which stopped and picked them up.  I sure hope they made it back to the boat in time. It was a beautiful day, as all have been since we have been here. The cruise went down the Danube past the Parliament building to Margaret Island and turned around. Since it was the last cruise of the day, we were not allowed to get off and explore the island.  The cruise was also “hop on, hop off” at several stops on the river.  Margaret Island is 1.6 miles long and covers 225 acres.  There a numerous paths for strolling that take you past flower garden, ruins, a small zoo and a large swimming complex.  The entire cruise was very enjoyable.  I would highly recommend it.


    After we got back from our boat ride, we walked back down to the Chain Bridge to have drinks at the Gresham Palace which is the Four Seasons Hotel which is a beautifully build and luxurious hotel .  They had a very attractive bar.  They had Happy Hour specials – 2 for the price of one.  There was a pianist who was playing old favorites.  He asked us for a song and we said “Misty” which is “our song”.  It really was a “swanky” place.  They brought out some nice hors oeuvres

    Then we walked to an outdoor dining room at the Intercontinental Hotel.  As we walked in two guitarists were playing “Misty”.  It was nice to hear it again in such a short span of time. We had dinner in the outdoor café facing the Buda side. I order what turned out to be sort of a beef sandwich.  It was on a focaccia bread with pink thin sliced beef covered with peppers and onions.  I ate all of the meat but the vegetables were too many.  My wife had duck, the third time on this trip (she quacked all the way back to the apartment). We had a warm chocolate cake dessert.  We waited and waited for the check, and finally got up and went to the head waiter and asked for the check.  One of the things that we have noticed on this trip is that people stay in restaurants all evening.  There does not seem to be much “eat and run” or waiters hurrying you up so they can set up a new table. It was 10:45 when we left and many people were just beginning to eat.

    This was our last day in Budapest.  We hate to leave.  It is such a beautiful city.  We are so glad we decided to come here.  We catch the train in the morning for Vienna and another adventure.

    Next Day

    Day 1 - Berlin

    Day 2 - Berlin

    Day 3 - Berlin

    Day 4 - Berlin

    Day 5 - Berlin - Potsdam

    Day 6 - Dresden

    Day 7 - Dresden

    Day 8 - Prague

    Day 9 - Prague - Kutna Hora

    Day 10 - Prague

    Day 11 - Brno

    Day 12 - Budapest

    Day 13 - Budapest

    Day 14 - Budapest

    Day 15 - Vienna

    Day 16 - Vienna

    Day 17 - Vienna - Melk Abbey

    Day 18 - Vienna

    Day 19 - Salzburg

    Day 20 - Salzburg

    Day 21 - Salzburg