Friday, September 5, 2014

Budapest, Day 2

Friday, September 5
Jet lag finally caught up with us and we slept in until 8:30. After a great breakfast at the hotel we headed across the famous Chain Bridge to the Buda side of the River. There are about a half dozen major bridges linking the two sections together, but the Chain is the most famous. It was built in 1848 and accommodates 4 lanes of car traffic as well as two pedestrian/bike lanes on either side. Seeing all these beautiful bridges, it is hard to imagine that all of them were destroyed by the Germans when they retreated during WWII. Only the pillars of the Chain Bridge remained. Our journey today was to the Palace, also a casualty of the war, which has been completely rebuilt since 1950 and now houses the National Gallery of Art.
After crossing the bridge, we boarded the  funicular (photo), a little tram, that took us to Castle Hill.  There we had magnificent views of the Chain Bridge, the Danube, and Pest. We then walked around the Palace, admiring its restoration and grandeur.  We also viewed the ruins of an ancient castle, dating to the late 13th century. We followed the cobbled streets to St. Matthias Church - a tour for tomorrow - and to Fisherman's Bastion, a terrace designed in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style. The latter, built in 1896, is where the fisherman once processed their fish. 
We had lunch across from the church at Arany Hordo, basically Hungarian fish soup and goulash soup and salads. Then returned down on the funicular.
Ed returned for a nap and I visited the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. Although I was not able to see inside (it's Friday), I was able to view the architecturally exquisite exterior, the graveyard, where many of the victims of the Holocaust were buried, and the memorial. The latter is a silver weeping willow tree and each of the 500,000 leaves bears the name of a Jew who perished  under the Nazis -- all in the last year of the war when the Nazis were losing the war and decided to exterminate the Jews living in a country that was supposedly an ally.
Tonight we met our fellow passengers and had a formal dinner at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Beautiful setting and great meal.

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