Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trip to Budapest, Hungary (June 2016)...

Budapest is quite similar to Vienna, Austria because of their constitutional union for the Austro-Hungarian Empire that existed from 1867 to 1918. During this half a century, this empire was one of the world's strongest powers. When the Archduke of Austria, the heir-apparent for the Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, the World War I broke out and after their defeat the Empire broke up. But the cultures and architectures of two cities (Vienna and Budapest) remain quite similar.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, now a republic, with a population of approximately 2 million people. But its metropolitan area has a larger population of approximately 3.5 million. Budapest was created as a result of combining two cities (Buda and Pest... surprised?) facing each other over the Danube River. The hilly Buda and the flat Pest form this beautiful and historically rich city.

One and a half day was definitely insufficient for fully exploring this city, but we had a taste of the city. We visited the Market Hall that was quite big and had a lot of merchants on two floors. It was crowded with tourists from early morning.

We then strolled along the Danube River, expecting to see the "Blue Danube." Disappointingly, however, we were unsuccessful. The Danube River we found was pretty muddy. Yikes...

We walked over Szecheny Bridge that connects the Buda and Pest parts of the city. There was a story behind lions that did not have tongues. When a boy found out about the lions without tongues, the sculptor felt so ashamed and killed himself. Wow...

We walked up to the Fisherman's Bastion where we could look over the flat Pest part, particularly the magnificent Parliament building and St. Stevens Basilica. The name Fisherman's Bastion is a misnomer. I learned that fisherman had nothing to do with the bastion, but it was just added to the name because in the neighborhood many fishermen lived. Oh well... Behind the bastion was St. Mattias Church that was grand and beautiful.

We walked over to see St. Stevens Basilica and Jewish Synagogue, known to be one of the largest ones in the world. Quite magnificent they were!

We stopped over at Opera House and visited the Hero's Square that has a monument on top of which Archangel Gabriel's statue is placed overlooking the city for protection. There are statues of warriors of Hungary on horses symbolizing their guarding and protection of the city. Two museums face each other located across the square. One is National Museum, which is closed for two years for renovation, and the other is Museum of Contemporary Arts, which we visited briefly. The scale and beauty of the Square and museums nearby were fabulously beautiful under the sun.

We visited Vajdakunyad Castle that was created to celebrate the bi-centennial anniversary of the city temporarily but decided to keep it permanently. The castle shows all different architectural types around the building. It is now used for agricultural museum. We climbed up to the Apostle's Tower to see the panoramic view of the city and the park. I found one sculpture named "Anonymous."

At the park, we found a small epitaph that showed a Korean composer, namely Ahn, Ik-tae. Apparently he conducted the Hungarian Symphony. What a pleasant surprise!

Hungary is well known for its thermal spas and thermal baths. Budapest alone is known to have 118 thermal springs pouring out 70 million liters of how water a day. No wonder Budapest is called "the City of Spas" since 1934. We chose to experience the most famous one: Szecheny Spa, We had a high expectation for dipping our weary body into soothing hot water. Alas... expectation led to disappointment. Quite a big one. The water was lukewarm at best and it was crowded with people. Noisy and annoying. Luckily, we found a hot steam spa where we were able to sweat out the disappointment. So, I remain unconvinced of the reputation of Budapest as the City of Spas.

Our journey was made through public transportation and Budapest's subway has a reputation of running pretty deep underground. A very long escalator was an evidence.

What else would be more proper than delicious food after a long walking day? We sat down at one of the most famous restaurant in the city park, called Robinson located across the famous Gundel. Thanks to our reservation, we were seated by the water and the food was excellent! What a long day we had! Stopped over at Gundel Restaurant which was the site for a movie "Gloomy Sunday"

We had to leave Budapest without fuller understanding and appreciation of the city, but we tasted the city enough to consider returning to explore and experience more. Lord's willing. - Jeffrey

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