We are currently sitting outside at a table complete with candlelight and beer. We just finished our first meal of Hungarian goulash, and Jen loved it. We are exhausted from our day of sightseeing and sun.
The morning started with a quick subway ride to a more central location in Pest. We strolled the streets until we found a café that served eggs and bacon (We are a little tired of the Austrian fare of cold cuts, butter, and hard rolls everyday with no exception.) Our first method of discovering the city was simply to stroll through the streets and walk toward buildings that looked interesting. This proved to be delightful. We first found the largest cathedral in Budapest, St. Steven’s Basilica. The inside is completely crafted of marble highlighted by gilded everything – gilded candlesticks, chandlers, stairs, orbs, paintings, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, only the left side of the church was open and it was thick with children, scout troops, and the camera toting family. We left after taking pictures in a less than serene setting and moved onto conquer the tower stairs. We walked up as far as we could, only to find ourselves at the top of the dome, but not even starting the tower stairs.
The tower stairs were an endless set of spiraling iron steps. I thought for sure that they were going to pull away from the sides of the stone tower and that we would plummet to the bottom. Fortunately, this was not the case, and I lived to see the breathtaking panoramic view of the city. This is, by far, the largest city we have stopped in yet. Pest is two times the size of Buda, and much more industrial.
We walked on to find the staggeringly huge parliament building. Originally, there was an upper and a lower house of parliament, and thus the building was built completely symmetrically to allow for their hearings and such. Now the parliament is only in the left wing. There are 365 towers all around the building, one for each day of the year.
Eventually, we realized that this was no way to see such a big city. We found an affordable city bus tour with three hours of non-stop info given in a stream of German and English. The tour started by pointing out the two most important buildings on the Pest side, the basilica and the parliament (go us). Each of these buildings are 95 meters tall, and nothing can be built any taller. We then crossed one of the seven bridges over the Danube. All of these bridges were rebuilt after WWII, as they had all been bombed. There is actually a staggering amount of damage left from WWII around the city. We passed the five oldest churches in Buda. Small, interesting, and maybe something for tomorrow.
Our tour guide was a stream of information, as in: Buda is the Slovak word for water, and there are 135 fresh water springs in Buda, and 36 bathhouses. We wrapped our way up castle hill towards a beautiful cathedral covered in glazed tile. Some important people have done some important things here, but I just could not keep up with the rapid stream of information. We walked over behind the cathedral to the old city, beautiful, but no time to stop. Back on the bus, we drove past a huge palace and a medieval retaining wall that once wrapped the city. We stopped at another lookout that provided us with a breathtaking view of the city, all seven bridges, and several beautiful bronze statues. There was just enough time to grab some peach cake and jump back on the bus. We were off to Pest again. We passed the train station, the theater district, two beautiful museums, a plaza complete with towers, archways, and bronze statues of dead white guys who ruled people and armies. We drove on through the poorest district, which was once home to so many mob members it was labeled “the Chicago district.” There are 32 embassies in the former mansions of bank owners that collapsed and the end of communist rule. We passed a tribute to the torture and terror under communist rule, UN buildings, European Union buildings, parks, and equally as fascinating, a plethora of brightly painted, tiled, and molded cows. “Cows?” you say… Yes, the traveling cow exhibit that first premiered in the states in Chicago, has found its way to Budapest.
At last, hot and a bit sunburned, we were finished with the rambling tour. Jen and I jumped on a subway and headed home. After uploading pictures, an endless job I assure you, Jen and I headed out for a delightful meal of goulash. Found a cute restaurant complete with beer and candlelight. Alas, now we have full circle wholeness.