Saturday, September 6, 2014

Budapest - Day 3

Saturday, September 6
We were greeted by a warm, sunny day, perfect for sightseeing. We left at 8:30 for a tour of the Budapest State Opera House, the largest in Hungary and a jewel in the performing arts world. Completed in 1884 with the support of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, the theater seats 1,261 people. Known for its great acoustics, the seats in the upper balcony on the third floor are said to have the same listening quality as those in the front row.  While there, we were treated to a brief performance by 2 of the opera  stars. The photo of the exterior shows a lot of scaffolding in preparation for at outdoor event this evening. Today marks the 25th anniversary of the borders opening between Hungary and West Germany, or, in essence, Hungary's version of the Berlin Wall coming down which happened two months later.
From there we traveled down Andrassy Blvd which was built in 1896 to link the inner city with the City Park. This was the location of the World's Fair that year to commemorate the 1,000 anniversary of the settlement of Hungary by the Magyars, a nomad tribe from the Ural Mountains. Here we visited the Heroes Square statues (past leaders) and drove pass the famous Szechenyi baths. Budapest is located over about 100 hot springs, so it is famous for spas and public baths. 
Then we drove through the Jewish Quarter, the Synagogue, which I saw yesterday and the mammoth Parliament Building. Here is one view today but we'll get another from the other side of the river tomorrow. Today you see the view of Buda from the Parliament Building. Then we ended our morning tour at the covered city market, a smorgasbord of stalls selling meats and sausages, sweets and fruits and vegetables. The third floor contained lots of handcraft kiosks and the basement housed the fishmongers. We chose not to go there.
Free in the afternoon, Ed and I went to The Strudel House for lunch, where we realized that you can have a strudel that is a meal and not a dessert. I had one made of vegetables and Ed had paprika chicken. But of course we had to finish it off with apple strudel.
Then we went to St. Stephen's Basilica, with its 96 meter dome visible from all over Budapest. Since it was Saturday, there were a procession of weddings taking place while visitors roamed the outer chambers of the church.
Then Ed rested and I walked along the Danube, crossing the sturdy Liberty Bridge, and seeing the "Shoe Memorial" along the waterfront to commemorate the Jews who were killed by the Nazis as they stood along water's edge.
Tonight Ed and I ate at Dunacorso, a restaurant along the Danube Esplanade where we had seen the dancing two nights ago. The small combo was still there playing music of all kinds through dinner. Then we went to the Budapest Operetta Show in the recently restored Vigado Concert Hall. The show consisted  of a kind of classical variety show with 10 performers in various costumes singing arias, duos, and classical songs and performing short dance scenes. They were backed by a small orchestra and the combination of talents was outstanding. They drew from the works of Franz Lehar, Emmerich Kalman, and Johann Strauss. Another incredible evening.

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