Day12: Bow, Bow, Budapest

‘Tis our last day in Europe. The people here have been most accommodating; the streets sometimes not so much?

It is a marvel to encounter the English-speaking ability of the folks across Eastern Europe. I had very little reason to learn bits of Czech, Austrian-German, or Hungarian; it wasn’t necessary. How can they master their language and grasp ours so well? English is hard, as this example might demonstrate:

End of the trip; the show is over; take a bow.
Wrap it up; tie a ribbon around it; add a bow.
One more ride; onto the Danube; night scenes over the bow.

Were the streets not accommodating? Actually they were. We walked miles every day, mostly on cobblestone pavement in good repair yet uneven by their very nature. It seemed those bricks and stones might get the better of us, but they simply worked the legs a bit more. We end our tour in Budapest where Utca means “street” in Hungarian. In English UTCA might have meant “Ugh! Those Cobblestones Again.”

Our final day in Budapest featured two major sites explored on our own as the optional ship’s tour visited “The Hospital in the Rock” and we opted out. Passengers taking that tour told us they loved it, particularly two nurses from Colorado.

We ventured inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral and atop it. Previously, our pace in Vienna allowed no time to see the interior of the Austrian city’s St. Stephens, so we carve out a similar opportunity in Budapest. We also strolled ’round shops for souvenirs, then toured the Hungarian Parliament. Questionable weather turned glorious; we missed some sights, but absolutely enjoyed the places we visited.

Zrinyi Utca funnels us toward St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It is a cobblestone street.
Zrinyi Utca to St. Stephen's Cathedral

Zrinyi Utca funnels us toward St. Stephens Cathedral.

Zrinyi Utca to St. Stephen's Cathedral

Zrinyi Utca funnels us toward St. Stephens Cathedral.

Zrinyi Utca to St. Stephen's Cathedral

Zrinyi Utca funnels us toward St. Stephens Cathedral.

Emerging onto the square we gaze at the cathedral. Décor begins with the pavement under our feet, while overhead St. Stephen in white marble peers from the ornate ceiling in the outside portico.
St. Stephen's Church, Budapest

Emerging onto the square to gaze up at St. Stephen’s cathedral in Budapest.

St. Stephen's Square, Budapest

Décor begins at our feet.

St. Stephen's entrance

The image of St. Stephen himself in white marble peers over the ledge below the ornate ceiling of the outside portico.

Every inch of the cathedral dazzles, from the floor, up the walls, to the high domed ceiling and the organ pipes that number nearly 6,000. The rich history of sights and sounds that have emanated from this place can only be imagined this day.
St. Stephen's Sanctuary, Budapest

Graceful arches and gold-gilded columns of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

St. Stephen's glitters in Budapest

Gold and marble dominate St. Stephen’s in Budapest.

Inside St. Stephen's dome

The dome of St. Stephen’s seems ready to beam you up.

The pipes of St. Stephen’s organ number 5,898 according to our guidebook. They are not just audio, but also visual art.
St. Stephen's organ pipes, Budapest

The pipes of St. Stephen’s organ number 5,898 according to our guidebook. They are not just audio, but also visual art.

History is evident in the cathedral. A side altar is draped with a traditional Hungarian cloth that adds a band of brilliant, colorful flowers with its lace edge; we will buy a similar lace cloth to take home to the U.S.A.
A stained window exhibits a central image of the crown worn by kings beginning over 1000 years ago; we will see the well-guarded genuine crown in the Parliament later today.
Side altar in St. Stephens

A side altar in St. Stephen’s has a bold, soft accent with traditional Hungarian lace cloth providing a floral trim at the top.

Stained glass of St. Stephen's, Budapest

Stained window exhibits a central image of the crown worn by kings beginning over 1000 years ago.

A circular staircase winds us toward the rooftop of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where a doorway leads to a viewing platform that encircles the cathedral dome for unlimited views of Budapest.
Circular staircase of St. Stephen's , Budapest

<p class="wp-caption-text" style="font-size:100%;font-weight:bold;padding:2px 0 7px;"Peering through the rails of the circular staircase that winds up at the rooftop for 360-degree views over all Budapest.

Doorway to rooftop views from St. Stephen's , Budapest

A simple doorway beckons one outside the see sunny vi ews of Budapest from the rooftop of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Emerging above the city rooftops of the Pest side, we delight in 360-degree views from atop the church. Our eyes are level with castle hill, Buda side.

We learned, starting in Prague, that a “castle” is not a single building, but a walled area, or complex, that features one or more palaces, one or more churches, governing offices, housing for many craftpersons plus royal attendants, and much more.

Budapest Castle from St. Stephen's Cathedral

Budapest castle complex stretches from the domed palace to the church spire.

Modern sights in Budapest

The Ferris wheel, viewed from St. Stephen’s rooftop, would be another way to see over Budapest. We note also that soaring off the hillside beyond is the Liberation Monument that we see day and night from the river.

Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Abundantly visible from atop St. Stephen’s is a glorious roofline blocks away. We later learn this striking décor belongs, appropriately, to the Museum of Decorative Arts. Had we identified this structure at the time, a visit would have been a new priority. It falls as a missed opportunity and a gorgeous memory.

We leave our perch at St. Stephen’s. The views inside and out filled us with energy that more than offset the effort on the long, winding staircase. Some shopped for lace, someone else for jewelry, and a “Bike Budapest” T-shirt was also in the mix of purchases.

After a medicinal visit to a local pharmacy, regretfully admitting we had to ask for directions, a walk back to the ship for lunch is scrapped. Instead we saunter onto the highly-trafficked Vaci utca, a pedestrians-only street with expensive shops and local fare.

At a local restaurant we choose unique Hungarian dishes, including their goulash stew, and a slab of pork from a farm animal called the Mangalica. This creature looks like a cross between a pig and a sheep, or a “hairy pig” as our guide aboard ship introduced it. All is delicious!

It’s time to visit the Hungarian National Parliament for a tour we booked separate from the ship’s itinerary, but with the kind assistance of our tour director.

Paul Revere signaled to Colonial America, “One if by land, two if by sea.”
Our Parliamentary approaches are: Day 1 by water; Day 2 by land.
The first day was cloudy. This second day we are in bright sunshine on the Pest city side, which is also impressive, softly landscaped, park-like, and a quiet respite from the busy commercial streets through the city. Let’s go inside!
Parliament on a cloudy day, river side

Budapest Parliament impressively dominates the river views.

Parliament on a sunny day, city side

Budapest Parliament is also impressive from the less-heralded city side.

The Grand Staircase is a wonderful way to enter Hungary’s Parliament – – so we assume. We enter another way from the visitor’s center, and are led to this impressive spot. The carpeted stairs are like a movie scene, statues line the walls, and lampposts glow with the pride of being here, while the ceiling above is resplendent.
Grand Staircase of Budapest Parliament

Nothing seems imperfect about the impressive entrance for dignitaries arriving at the Budapest Parliament.

Ceiling over the Grand Staircase, Budapest Parliament

The Grand Staircase ceiling glitters in gold and festive scenes.

As visitors touring the Budapest Parliament, we do not enter via the Grand Staircase, yet are treated to an impressive start, climbing six flights of the beautiful “golden staircase.”
Golden staircase, Budapest Parliament

<p class="wp-caption-text" style="font-size:100%;font-weight:bold;padding:2px 0 7px;"Tour group climbs many flights of marble stairs gilded in gold leaf.

Golden staircase, Budapest Parliament

Tour group climbs many flights of marble stairs gilded in gold leaf.

Our tour is approaching the central dome of Parliament. Security becomes more prevalent, and no photos will be allowed inside the dome. A glass case in the center holds the one and only crown of St. Stephen, dating to year 1000, made of gold, bejeweled, and beloved by the people. At all times, two armed guards stand at attention beside the case, and my photo catches one of them in the distance. Take a closer look via the second image below.

Is that a sword in his right hand being struck with just the perfect beam of light? Or, from a safe distance, have I uncovered the first army to be outfitted with light sabres? I did not alter this photo except to zoom for a better look.

Sometimes, when you take a few thousand photos across 11 days, something appears that is more than met your eye at the time the image was captured.

Approaching the great dome of the Budapest Parliament

The soldier in the distance is at the center of the dome and holding some type of sword in his right hand that merits a closer look.

Armed soldier in the dome of the Budapest Parliament

As a beam of light falls perfectly, this soldier seems to be holding a light sabre!

After a visit under the dome of the Parliament we continue through regal halls and past ornate doorways.
Regal hallway of the Budapest Parliament

<p class="wp-caption-text" style="font-size:100%;font-weight:bold;padding:2px 0 7px;"Regal hallway of the Budapest Parliament.

Doorway featuring King Matthias

This ornate doorway celebrates King and St. Matthias (or the simpler Matyas in Hungarian), with his image on a horse watched over by his signature Raven.

We’re ushered into an elegant but not spacious meeting chamber of the Parliament. Interesting comparisons to the U.S.A. include populations of 10M versus 320M, yet an Assembly of 199 (was 386 until 2014) versus 435 members in the U.S. House. Hungarians have one representative per each 50,000 (was 26,000) of populace, versus one per 735,000 in the U.S.A.
Meeting chambers in the Hungary Parliament

Meeting chambers in the Budapest Parliament are elegant but not spacious.

Symbols of Hungary front the meeting chambers

Members of the Hungarian National Assembly rule under watchful symbols of past kings, including, on these shields left-to-right, lions, flowers, a raven, an eagle, a wolf, and a dragon, all ornately displayed behind the rostrum.

We depart the building having seen it all by visiting just half, because this edifice is said to be perfectly symmetrical.

As we wander away, eyes and shutter lens continually harken back in the direction of the Parliament. That’s “just” a side entrance viewed through the fence. We walk onto a river dock for another angle, and cross a bridge to get a more distant viewpoint.
Side view of Hungarian Parliament

Side view of Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest.

Dock view of Hungarian Parliament

River dock view of Hungarian Parliament in Budapest.

Hungarian Parliament

Chain Bridge view of Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, flags of Hungary stiffening in the breeze.

A view from Chain Bridge shows the ideal location of our ship, MS River Rhapsody, in relation to the most iconic site of Budapest. We docked practically within a shadow’s reach of the grand dome that stands 96 meters high, which is a meaningful number for Hungarians.

The country was formed in year 896, celebrating their millennial in 1896 with the inauguration of the Parliament Building, more than 100 years ago. The steeple of St. Stephens is also 96 meters tall, and that is not a coincidence.

The captain and crew say good-bye to us, and we to them. There seem to be equal amounts of pleasant interaction both ways, but they spruce up better, looking sharp in dress whites.

MS River Rhapsody from Chain Bridge, Budapest

Our ship docked mere blocks from the Budapest Parliament building.

Crewmembers of Rhapsody say good-bye

Is that a special glance between two crew members? She, on the left next to the Captain, and her young friend, a step away, seem to be sharing mutual feelings.

All that remains of our itinerary is to say a final good-night to Budapest. Our Captain knows just how we should do this.

Advertisements