Our hotel is located on the Pest side of the river, and so we spent the day walking the hill for which it is noted. We took a bus to the top and were amazed with the great transformation of the area since we were here about twelve years ago. Refurbishment had made everything appealing and clean. When we came to spend a week here years ago, Hungary was just being discovered again after years under the communist shadow. It has now definitely been discovered.
We spent major time around St. Matthias Church, the historic church of Budapest. Founded by King Saint Stephen in 1015, it has seen much destruction and renewal as the Mongolian hordes destroyed the city in the 1200s and later, in the 1500s, when the Turkish invasion turned the church into a mosque. The Muslims whitewashed the walls and destroyed most imagery, but walled up the Madonna statue, the Virgin Mary. It was forgotten until the Christian forces assaulted the hill in an effort to retake the city in 1686. As the Muslim leadership assembled in prayer, a powder arsenal accidentally exploded and shook the mosque so hard the wall crumbled, exposing the Madonna to the astonished praying Muslim Turks. That night, the hill fell back into Hungarian hands and the church reclaimed its heritage. Later, the church was badly damaged in both world wars, and then the Soviets turned it into a military vehicle storage facility and stable. The target of a terrorist bomb attack in the late 1990s by unknown assailants damaged some of the priceless stained glass windows. In spite of all these trials, today the church is a marvel of Art Nouveau style. It houses many treasures of the Hungarian heritage and is a testament to the Hungarian spirit.
We walked to the Fishermen’s Bastion with its white stone buildings and beautiful monuments. The scenes from its terrace over the Danube give unforgettable views of the Hungarian Parliament building with its iconic red tiled roof and majestic spires standing out in regal beauty on the Buda side of the river. Then, we walked to the massive palace that gives the hill its name, “Castle Hill.” It has impressive statues and flower plantings.
After some shopping, we got on the bus for the trip back down the hill where we spent a long relaxing meal time in a “cave” room with vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows of a great restaurant near our hotel. WEG – September 30, 2015