Day11: Budapest beginnings

The first question asked is, “Which is Buda and which is Pest?” Budapest is one city, but once there was a separate Buda from Pest (sounds like a limerick is about to begin, but no). It is quickly established that one side of the Danube, which the Hungary maps label Duna, is Buda, the other Pest. How is one to remember?

The dominant landmark of Budapest is the magnificent Parliament Building on the east river bank. At all times it is easy to discern if you are on that side. So our memory mnemonic uses that very name, Parliament, to remember that ‘P’ also stands for Pest. Parliament side is Pest side; it’s as simple as that.

Before Budapest sites are in our sight, the captain navigates downstream from Bratislava, Slovakia, through the night, through a major lock that lowers us more than 60 feet, and through the morning hours.

One epicenter of Hungarian history is observed in the morning light, the Esztergom Cathedral in the city home to Hungary’s first king, Stephen, who took the throne at the start of the millennium. Of course it was not Y2K, but Y1K! We won’t be done with King Stephen references, later to become Saint Stephen, for as long as we are in Hungary. Despite the gloom of this morning, the third largest cathedral in all of Europe merits a snapshot or two.

Esztergom Cathedral, seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary. The name may look complex, but in Hungarian the ‘sz’ combination is simply pronounced as an ‘s’. That’s right, the ‘z’ is silent; I believe I can relate to that!
Esztergom, Hungary, from the Danube

Esztergom Cathedral, Hungary

Esztergom, Hungary, from the Danube

Esztergom Cathedral, Hungary.

Budapest begins to exSITE! To float into this city is to be surrounded on all sides by sites you want to visit. The grand Gothic parliament looms on the Pest bank. In the far distance, a towering sculpture dangles on the precipice of a hill.

Continuing to spin our cameras clockwise, the castle complex rises atop the Buda hillside, first with the dome-centered Royal Palace and museums, then the spire of Matyas (Matthias) church. I see faintly at the right edge of the church photo what looks to be a miniature castle. Let’s stop here and get moving up that hill.

Budapest Parliament from the north Danube

Budapest Parliament from the north Danube.

Budapest Parliament on the Danube

Budapest Parliament on the Danube.

Facing south on the Danube

puts Parliament on your left

Liberty statue ahead downstream

Palace at a 1-o’clock position

St. Matyas Church on your right.

Liberty statue of Budapest

Liberty statue of Budapest.

Domed Royal Palace and Museums, Budapest

Domed Royal Palace and Museum.

Lion on Chain Bridge, Budapest

Chain Bridge lion protects palace.

St. Matyas Church spire, Budapest

St. Matyas Church spire, Budapest.

St. Matyas Church, Budapest

Church of St. Matyas, Castle hill.

Driving up into the Castle complex by bus, we seek out the smallest of the structures there, a mini-castle on the edge of the hillside. It is perhaps a lookout tower, but if I were home in North Carolina at the beach, it would be a good model for a grand sandcastle.
Small watch tower of Budapest Castle

Watch tower of Budapest Castle resembles a sandcastle.

Matyas Cathedral, Budapest

Spire of Matyas Cathedral stretches to the cloudy skies of Budapest.

We explore the outside of the St. Matthias Church (English spelling), noting its ornate roof and also the signature black raven of this Hungarian King and Saint on a smaller spire appropriately positioned at the treetop. We wonder if that bird’s color is the inspiration for the black tower as well.
Roofline and signature Raven atop a spire

Budapest’s Matthias Cathedral (English spelling) features an ornate rooftop and an unusual black tower, while the signature raven of this King and Saint to the country of Hungary is perched on the smaller spire over the treetop.

From edge of the Buda-side hill one is treated to views of the Budapest Parliament, beyond which the Pest side of the city stretches without any undulation, in contrast to the hills featured on the Buda side. The Danube River splits them, with our blue and white MS River Rhapsody moored just blocks from the Parliament.
Budapest Parliament from castle hilltop

Budapest Parliament on a cloudy afternoon.

MS River Rhapsody in Budapest

At right, our blue/white MS River Rhapsody, dwarfed by a grand city.

Before leaving the hilltop, our last shutter capture is becoming a familiar name. St. Stephen sits astride a horse outside Matyas Cathedral with Pest stretching out behind him. The beard, halo, and duo-cross identify him, as well as a crown with cross atop that is not discernible from this distance. Can we get a better look at the number 1 King and number 1 Saint of Y1K? Yes, just below as we continue to another stop on our Budapest afternoon tour.
St. Stephen on a horse, Budapest

St. Stephen faces St. Matyas Cathedral at the Budapest Castle, with Pest stretching out behind him. The beard, halo, and duo-cross identify him, as well as a crown with cross atop that is not discernible from this distance. Can we get a better look at the number 1 King and number 1 Saint of Y1K? Yes, at another stop on our Budapest tour afternoon.

Our tour of Budapest included the special historical site of Heroes Square. There to greet us was a statue of heroic King and Saint, Stephen.
St. Stephen statue, Heroes Square, Budapest

St. Stephen statue in Heroes Square, Pest side of Budapest, reached via Andrassy street.

Heroes of Hungarian history stand at Heroes Square, Budapest.
Hungary history heroes

Statues of leaders and heroes who came after St. Stephen.

Centerpiece of Heroes Square, Budapest

Wide-open space of Heroes Square is anchored by statues of horsemen around a column.

Tall column oversees Heroes Square, Budapest

Column high above the open square.

Heroic horsemen of Hungarian history

The fence guards Hungary’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and leads to seven horsemen around the central column of Heroes Square.

A fierce lot, statues at the base of the column characterize the earliest adventurers to take command of the area. They are perhaps the Christopher Columbuses of the Carpathian Basin. The horses themselves cast a look of determination, and I felt the one on the right was staring me down with every step I took in any direction.
Earliest adventures to command present-day Hungary

A fearless look in these early settlers of present-day Hungary, perhaps their equivalent of Christopher Columbus. The horses themselves cast a look of determination, and I felt the one on the right was staring me down with every step I took in any direction.

There was indeed a strong sense of pride in the Hungarian people. It is enlightening to hear stories of retaining the very existence of Hungary through time, as we did from guides. The sense of country, if not actual borders, survived through ancient domination by Mongols, Turks, Romans, and Hapsburg rulers, plus 20th-century occupation by Germany and then Russia that spanned 50 unbroken years. The United States lacks even remote comparisons.

While respecting their pride of country, I felt them likely to stretch their vision at times. We heard that the Budapest Opera was better “on the inside” than the Vienna Opera. We lacked the time to make a comparison. Easier to assess was the characterization of Andrassy Ut (Avenue) as the “Champs-Elysees” of Budapest. We rode that path by bus to reach Heroes Square, from which we had the view below. It just doesn’t reach that level of characterization for me, but I offer a photo for your assessment.

Andrassy Utca from Heroes Square, Budapest

Andrassy Ut, whose characterization as the “Champs-Elysees” of Budapest seemed a bit overblown.

Hungarian history isn’t shared only to extol the accomplishments of warriors, kings, saints, and ordinary people. It is also to remember events more somber, such as this simple, gripping memorial on the wall of the Danube River mere meters from our ship’s dock.

These bronze-cast shoes represent hundreds of Jews brought to this spot to perish during the events of World War II. They were asked to remove their shoes so they could be reused; they were lined up, shot, and dumped into the river. Throughout our travels there were mentions, monuments, and memorials to the tyranny over the Jewish people of Eastern Europe. This display was simple, poignant, and allowed your mind to create a memory.

Memorial to the Jews on the Danube

Bronze-cast shoes fixed to the wall on the bank of the Danube as a memorial to the just some of the Jews who died here in the events surrounding WWII.

Memorial to the Jews on the Danube

Plaque identifying the Jewish memorial on the Danube in Budapest.

As has become my custom, this daily summary ends aboard ship, just as we daily drifted back to the decks. Tonight was the crew’s time to show their energy and a bit of talent by entertaining the passengers. Captured here is the director of hospitality taking on the Tom Jones persona. Being at least 6ft 6inches tall, Dragan was already larger any life aboard, but now he took it to a new level.

To all my new friends in the crew of the MS River Rhapsody I say, “Keep your day/night/day/night endless hours job, which you did so very well for us. P.S. THANK YOU!”

Hospitality Director performs as Tom Jones

During an entertaining show by the crew of MS River Rhapsody, the ship’s Director of Hospitality performs as Tom Jones to the delight of most ship passengers.

One more day and one lucky night is all we have remaining in Budapest and on this entire excursion. We look forward to every moment.

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