Sunday, 23 December 2007

Heroes Square

Heroes Square was built to celebrate 1000 years of Hungarian nation. It has statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that joined together and statues of kings. We were already familiar with the stories of some of the kings, thanks to our host who pointed to them on the forint notes and told their stories the night before.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


After a short tour on the Pest side with Amy and Paul who flew in on Friday night, we headed for Buda to visit St Matthais Church.

With each bend in the path up to the castle, en route to the curch, the views of Pest became more amazing. From the castle grounds we stepped into the past of cobbled streets and old buildings. The markets and shops sold a wide range of handcrafts. I enjoyed the embroidery in traditional patterns.

When Gyorgyi and Bence met us we all explored the church and surrounding area.

Then it was down to Moscow Square for a hot meal, through an area that has been rebuilt since the seige during WWII. My delicious Guylas Soup was served in a kettle. Believe me, it held a lot.

Now it was dark we walked up Gellert Hill, pausing to see the statue of St Gellert, and capturing photos of the Danube by night, with the castle on the Buda side and St Istvan's Basilica in Pest.

The Freedom Statue at the top of Gellert Hill was originally a Russian monument. Now the plaque has been changed to honour all those who fought for the freedom of Hungary. How unusual, but how sensible.

Statue Park

Unlike other countries that came out from Russian domination around 1989, the Hungarians have not erased all signs of Russian presence. Statues have been gathered and an open air monument to that period in history has been established a few miles from Budapest.

Whereas other statues I have seen record events or great men (sorry ladies) of history, the features on many of these statues were of young people and clearly were used to foster hope and expectancy in the young of the nation under the new regime.

Indoors was extensive coverage of 1956 revolution and a film show.

Now this was no ordinary film show - it was a genuine training film of the secret police. How to break into and examine a house leaving no trace, including a detailed sequence on how to get copies of the keys; how to conduct a search when accompanied by suspects or witnesses, and how to recruit a new member to secret police using blackmail.

It was like a 60's TV programme because it was filmed in that period - perhaps a bit like Maxwell Smart and 99 - but it was real. Unbelievable and scary!!!

Oh, and something really important. It snowed!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Danube

We moved to Györgyi's house as planned, managed the tube by ourselves and spent the afternoon down by the river.

We came across sets of shoes in bronze, all sizes and shapes. A moving and sobering memorial to the men women and children who were massacred as they tried to cross the Danube in 1944.

The Parliament buildings are well known for their size and architectral style, and were just as pretty as the pictures.

We walked to Margrit Island, place of palaces, harems, monastries, and convents with genuine Roman ruins. It was three oclock and no heat in the sun which was a watery orange in the haze behind the trees. Very pretty, eerie, and very, very cold. We managed to get to the right stop and went by tram into town.

St István Basilica - amazing statues, frescoes, candelabra's with candles as big as your arms. We heard the beginning of the mass and the music was beautiful.

By this time we had developed what I call the Meer Cat syndrome. Remember the Telecom advertisement in the early 199o's where the Meer cat popped up, looked around and disappeared again? This was us at the metro stations - this exit- no this one - no wrong side of street - try again.

Bence passed the exam he sat that day. A time to celebrate.


The train was comfortable and the coffee very good. As we passed through the high country on the border we saw the first real snow. Later in the hills between Györ and Budapest there was a blanket of snow, some fallen overnight - but in Budapest none.

Györgyi took us to our hostel. It was situated three floors up, in a courtyard, which we are finding is quite typical in this part of the world. It a little wierd but clean and had all the facilities we needed. Our host, Adam, was doing renovations and was anxious to make us at home, and to help us with discovering the city. His advice was to walk rather than take the tube, so by the time I got back from changing money and purchasing a few groceries I was reasonably familiar with city plan.

Shopping was almost successful. Delia made scrambled eggs with the sour cream I purchased thinking it was milk. They both begin with tej.....

I discovered the local cake shop, yummy Döbös Torte!!

Schöbrunn Palace.

We had a slow start to help overcome our colds then headed off out of town to Schöbrunn Palace.

The grounds and gardens are massive, with trees laid out in wide avenues and fountains and statues eveywhere. The Roman ruins fascinated us - until we found that a collection of ruins and statues had been recreated on the spot. Still the pieces were authentic.

It turned cold as snow clouds gathered - time to go inside for an amazing history lesson. As we walked from room to room we learned about the various kings and emporers and about Marie-Therese who ruled fo a long time. She had 11 daughters whom she married off wisely (or not wisely, if you were Marie Antoinette and ended up under the guillotine). Austria does not make war - she makes marriages".

Each room had it own style and use. Of particular interest was the ballroom. One end was bombed during the war and had been restored to original, including redoing the frescoes. It was also the room where Kennedy met Kruschev.

Outside it was warmer, and snowing for a short while - just lightly, but enough to justify a hot drink, (not alcoholic this time) followed by soup served in bread, at the Christmas market set up in the palace grounds. Delia spoke a little German with the couple sharing our table, and was encouraged by them to keep on trying.


This time it is the words first, and I will add photos as soon as possible.

It was an early start from London on Monday 26th, but we were still anxious to go exploring as soon as we had deposited our bags at the hostel.

After just a few steps we were walking in light snow, so what better way to celebrate (cope) than to have a mug of hot wine at the Christmas market under the statue of Hayden.

By the time we got to The Ring - a circle road in the centre of Vienna - it was getting quite miserable. I had been warned about the wind which increased the chill factor. We found the state Opera Theatre, and we approached to purchase tickets to a concert that night (this was not a concert in the Opera House). The concert was the one I had selected to go to, so we bought tickets. What a lucky break. We had planned to go to on Tuesday night, but the performance was not on then.

We plodded back up the street to fill in two and a half hours, and finally found a restaurant. It was quite up-market and we looked like derelicts from outer-nowhere, but they were gracious, the food was good and we had a view of the street - and we made dinner last a long while.

The concert presented in a salon with pieces by Mozart with musicians in period dress, some opera, music by Strauss and sequences of ballet and folk dances.