Monday, September 8, 2014

Budapest - Day 4

Sunday, September 7
I love exploring a city on my own and Ed teased me about wanting to ride on one of the little yellow trams that run along the Danube. Yesterday I rode one to Parliament for 350 HUFs (about $1.50) and felt, for a moment, like a resident.
Today was our last day in Budapest and we spent it touring the Buda side, which Ed and I had done partly our second day. First we drove to Gellert Hill, once the location of the Hapsburg's sinister citadel because it does tower 460 ft. over Pest. Today it is a park with a fantastic view of the entire city (Buda with the Palace on the left and Pest with Parliament on the right) the Danube and Margaret Island in the far background.
Then we went to Castle Hill and walked around the Palace and the old streets.
Our guide pointed out that very little of what we were seeing -- the Palace, the President's offices and the old homes and businesses -- was left standing after WW II. In fact, much of the restoration has happened only in the last 25 years, since the Communists left.
Then we walked to the Fisherman's Bastion, so-called because the village where the fishermen lived was right below it and they were expected to defend that part of the city.
From here we had more great views of Pest, especially the Parliament Building.
Our last stop was Matyas Church, named after King Matyas and built in the gothic style in the second half of the 14th century.
It was the scene of several coronations, including Franz Joseph I in 1867, the same year that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed, and Charles IV in 1916, the last Hapsburg monarch. Following the capture of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, it became the main mosque, and the walls were whitewashed, covering the frescoes, and the furniture removed. After the Turks left in 1686, efforts were made to restore it but the real renovations did not occur until the 19th century. However, it was damaged during WW II. The Nazis used it to store artillery and they set up a kitchen in the sanctuary. The communists did not treat it much better. Today the church is almost fully restored, thanks to generous support from the European Economic Union which sees the value in art and heritage as well as tourism. The one thing that struck us was the fact that every inch of the walls are covered in what looks like Moorish designs, which is so ironic considering its one-time use as a mosque.
Our group had lunch at The Fortuna Passage Restaurant and then headed for the boat. On the way I spotted these young people preparing for a folk performance.
By 6 pm we were leaving Budapest behind, but taking in some great last minute close-up sites of the Palace, the old Buda buildings and Parliament.

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