Day 17: Budapest
Well, it may be the time at school where it’s back to school night and Homecoming is in full swing; but on this particular Friday, we woke up in Budapest, Hungary which would have been very different from waking up in Long Beach, New York. Yan has a coach free day today and Todd mentioned that he was going to go out today if any of us wanted to come with him for our free day in Budapest and of course most of us were going to take him up on it as it’s easier to follow him than to find the time to do all we wanted to on our own. So we packed some bathers for the Hungarian baths and headed down to breakfast for a day in Budapest.
The adventure started with a jump on the metro and we wound up first at the Parliament building that was absolutely beautiful and worthy of its many visitors. Then we wound our way around to the back side of the building to the river Danube where there was a Holocaust memorial to those who were shot and thrown into the river. This was quite a unique memorial as it was made up of pairs of shoes and each shoe represented 1,000 people killed during the Holocaust. We then walked around to St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is one of the largest and most beautiful churches in all of Europe and it is said that it holds a relic of St. Stephen’s hand who is the patron saint of Budapest. Mathew and a few of the guys said it looked like a spring roll at a restaurant after they had seen it in the back chapel of the church. I, however, skipped the hand and ran across to the California Coffee company to have a look at the Hungarian bagels and use the facilities.
We finished up at the church and made our way down Vasi U, the major shopping street in Budapest which ends at a market shopping area made up of one square shaped building that has food markets on the bottom and shopping on the top floor. We shopped for awhile and then met everyone at a restaurant for lunch called Fatal and the portions were just that. Chantal and I both had salads that were no joke bigger than our heads and the guys had an incredibly ginormous meat platter that they had to have a shot of something that is supposed to help with digestion after the meal. After lunch we went walkabout on a city tour to the Jewish quarter in Budapest which has an Old Synagogue which has about 3,000 members and is absolutely gorgeous! There was a Jewish museum with a separate Holocaust section and out in the back of the synagogue there is a tree made out of silver or metal and it is in the shape of a weeping willow. On the ends of each branch there are at least 6-10 leaves made out of the same material with the names of families that were murdered during the Holocaust. At the base of the tree is a marble square with names and donations from other families whose members died at the hands of the Nazi regime. The entire back of the temple is known as Raoul Wallenberg park as he is honored in the memorial square. It was really unbelievable to be standing there!
I finished up at the synagogue and Mathew and Adam were waiting for me outside. It took a few minutes as I wanted to buy something at the gift shop as my ancestors on my mother’s side come from Hungary. So, after my purchase we walked and rode the metro to the House of Terror or the Communist Museum. I waited as Mathew and Adam went in just following the rest of the bunch and I’m glad that I didn’t go as it seems it was quite eerie and uncomfortable to see all of the torture rooms and devices and things. After the museum people split up and some of us headed up to the thermal baths with Todd. We took all of our gear, paid our 12 or so Euro to get in to what looked like it was a cross between Hercules the Disney movie and a big public pool club in New York. There was a thermal pool with spa massages, a regular tempered pool, a whirl pool, saunas, ice baths, massages and surprisingly enough shared locker rooms for all. We stayed for a bit which was nice and relaxing and then headed back via a tram to the hotel. Dinner was included tonight with a really nice buffet spread. We walked across the street to the service station to get rid of some of our Hungarian florent (as it is a dying currency) and hung out in the lobby with our water and snacks for a bit. Some of the Aussies were making plans to get up early to watch the Aussie Rules grand final between the Geelong cats and the St. Kilda saints but we (Mathew, Adam, Chantal, Sarah and I) decided that we were not going to participate at 5 something in the morning. So, we were off to the room to repack and reconfigure some luggage, shower and head to bed as tomorrow is a big day….breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Poland…not a bad Saturday now is it?