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When we came to Budapest years ago, after its freedom from Communism, we saw a beautiful city just awakening from years of neglect. I called it a “faded glory” then. Now, it is completely renewed and simply glorious! We liked the city so much then that we wanted to return; now, we “love” the city and would easily return again.
It is impossible to overstate how wonderful a city Budapest has become. Apt adjectives are fashionable, stately, upbeat, cultural and approachable. The food scene is both traditional and hip. A wonderful blend. Tree-lined streets are filled with interesting stores and outdoor restaurants. Pocket parks are surrounded by beautiful buildings and contain fountains and monuments and flower plantings. Every turn could produce a photograph. The Danube flows through the city and its bridges are unique and attractive. The promenade along the river is stately and easily walkable. Here and there a beautiful church stands between the belle époque buildings. The transportation system is vast and easily navigable. As you can see, Budapest spoke to my heart.
We spent our last day walking Pest, having spent the day before in hilly Buda. We took our time, eating lunch at the famous Gebraud Bistro and Pastry. We sat outdoors under the trees surrounded by a beautiful park in the square and literally watched “the world go by.” We moseyed down Váci Utca, one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares of central Budapest, and ended up at the cavernous Central Market Hall with its orange, yellow and green tiled roof (featuring the same kind of tiles as the impressive Matthias Church). Located near the Liberty Bridge, the Central Market is a fun and interesting place, filled with hundreds of stalls on the bottom floor featuring food stuffs of all kinds, including the famous red paprika. Hungarian wares fill the second floor, and a full grocery store is in the basement. Hungarian food vendors are interspersed throughout. We could not pass by the poppyseed rolls without choosing one blended with cherries. A leisurely long walk back to our hotel on the Buda side brought us over the Chain Bridge. After a small shared meal of Hungarian goulash and cottage cheese curd dumplings (a dessert), we called it a day–our last day. Now it is to Rome and then home. With this, we close the blog for our European Adventures 2015. Thanks for following us on this blog. It has been a pleasure spending time with you. Joy in Jesus, WEG – Friday, October 1, 2015
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
The belle époque architecture that gives Budapest its distinctive feel is enhanced by the blue Danube that runs through the heart of the city, separating it into Buda on the “flat” side and Pest on the “hilly” side. Both sides offer much to see and do. While several bridges span the Danube and tie the city into a whole, the Chain Bridge is the handsome bridge with its huge lions and stone archways and lights that make it gleam in the dark. Kathy and I walked the Chain Bridge twice today–it has an enchanting pull.
Budapest is a magical and majestic city. Landmark buildings, such as the Parliament Building and State Opera, are world renowned. On the opposite side of the river, Castle Hill, with its palace, churches and Fish Bastion, stands powerfully above the Danube. Everywhere, buildings stand out with interesting pediments or ornamental tops. Budapest is simply a beautiful, if not stunning, city. Few can compare.
We were fortunate on our walk to get a flyer about a concert in the St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest. We went to a great restaurant close to the basilica and enjoyed a fine meal in a charming candlelit atmosphere.
The concert was enchanting and the artists excellent. The massive gold, green and red basilica echoed with the voices of a powerful tenor and soprano who, joined by an accomplished violinist and trumpeter, performed well-known spiritual classics by Handel, Gounod, Liszt, Franck, Schubert and Mozart. The grand pipe organ accompanied and also soloed with some Bach and Widor. Kathy and I were enthralled and left thanking God for this hear-warming experience in such a magnificent place. It is such a rare experience that you absorb it into your soul to bring back out when you need times of refreshing.
WEG – September 29, 2015