Friday, 07 December 2012
One week went by so quickly and we had to fly back home tomorrow but I haven’t had the chance to photo explore Budapest in the light. The only time I got up close was the night we arrived – a brief tour of the Christmas market which we enjoyed so much!
Well, good news! I was able to go sightseeing today while H worked from our hotel room all day, and frankly speaking, a most ideal situation as I did a thorough photowalk without conjugal interruption!
Join me in my photo tour:
This is the Kossuth Lajos underground metro station where the sculpture of “Tiresias” by Oláh Mátyás László can be found.
In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of Thebes who was famous for his clairvoyance. As to why he is sitting on a chair, in modern-day pair of trousers and a labrador infront of him is no doubt causing incessant curiosity among metro passengers.
What is impressive about the metro cars is that, they look like one hundred years old and yet, running very efficiently!
Out of the underground, I went to search for one of the most famous landmarks of the city, the Parliament.
The Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. Of Gothic Revival style, it was completed in 1905.
At the Parliament square is found a Hungarian flag with a hole in the center, and written below are the following words:
“This Hungarian flag has a hole in it because on October 23, 1956 the revolutionists, those Hungarian who revolted against the Soviet Union, tore out of it the foreign coat of arms that symbolized the power of the Soviet Union and Communism. Since then this flag has symbolized the freedom of the Hungarian nation.”
Just in front of the Parliament, an open market is going on at the Ministry of Agriculture.
The bust of Fasching Antal, a prominent Surveying Engineer, is just one among 17 bronze busts of brilliant Hungarian men who contributed to the prosperity of agriculture on display under the arcades of the Ministry.
At the front lawn is a statue of a harvester looking at the Parliament building.
It’s nearly lunchtime and the smell of food around me is making my stomach grumble so I bought a small Kürtoskalács at 220Forint or 78 centimes! In Paris, you pay the equivalent of 5 of this chimney cake just to have a cup of coffee!
Back at the Parliament building side, I wound my way towards the Danube and was impressed by the old iron grilled fence that borders the high grounds of Pest from the busy road below . You can see the town of Buda on the other side of the river.
The neo-Gothic Calvinist Church on the Buda side.
I saw this shoe sculpture across the road from the Parliament grounds where I was standing but couldn’t traverse the road that easy because of the busy traffic below so I had to walk a kilometer distance in a U-turn fashion, a zebra crossing near the Chain Bridge enabled me to get to the quai and reach this spot. But it’s all worth it!
“The Shoes on the Danube”
by Gyula Pauer, a Hungarian sculptor, and his friend Can Togay in 2005.
It’s a memorial to the Budapest Jews who were shot by Arrow Cross militiamen between 1944 and 1945. The victims were lined up and shot into the Danube River. They had to take their shoes off, since shoes were valuable belongings at the time.
While in the midst of contemplating on each shoe sculpture – a very moving experience – I got interrupted by a loud noise. A bus floating on the river!
No, it’s not sinking, it’s actually a tourist river bus. You board it on dry land for a city tour of Budapest before driving straight into the Danube for a river cruise where you get a most staggering view of both Buda and Pest!
Now it’s time to take in the famous Chain Bridge.
Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube. Opened in 1849, severely damaged in the 2nd World War bombing, it was repaired and re-opened in 1949. Notice the lions at each of the abutments, they were carved in stone by the sculptor, Marschalko János, and inspired by the famous bronze lions of Trafalgar Square in London.
The only difference is, these lion statues have no tongues! Legend has it that the sculptor could not take this shameful imperfection to his work that he threw himself into the river and drowned!
Moved (again!) by this story of the tongueless lions, I tried to make myself happier by crossing the bridge and spent an awesome moment looking at it from the Buda side, just off the Gellert Hotel.
Gellert Hotel with its iconic turqouise fountain took me back to that wonderful spa experience H and I enjoyed very much four years ago. We actually planned to do a repeat this time, in fact, we even bought our bathing gears with us but H was just too engrossed with work. Oh well, there is always a next time….
I was getting hungry again despite my earlier snacking of the Kürtoskalács so I took the tram to Batthyany Square where my favorite food bar is located. By the way, this is the best place to take a full photo of the Parliament, as you can see in the background.
Almost the whole square is stocked up with Christmas trees! Don’t worry, this is not deforestation. They have these Christmas tree farms where they are nurtured from seed up to the time they are ready for selling and the whole process takes about four years.
This church of St Anne built between 1740 and 1762 is said to be one of Budapest’s most beautiful baroque buildings and I fully agree!
I went inside but access to the altar was closed so I can only post here a photo I took in 2008 when I went to watch a children’s choir concert held in the church. The pupils were from America on a European singing tour. It was a free concert at lunchtime.
Just next to the church is this statue of Betthyany Lajos to whom the square is named after. He was the first Prime Minister of Hungary , became the leader of the Opposition against the Habsburg Empire and consequently executed by firing squad in 1849.
And finally, I found the reason of my coming here in the first place – to eat at the popular “Grandmother’s Waffles” (Nagyi Palacsintazoja in English). They specialize in delicious Hungarian dishes, fastfood style, and so cheap, the reason for its being queued up all the time!
And the interior has an Art Nouveau flavour!
For a menu of 4 euros, I had for a main dish, a double waffle serving: one of spinach, and the other, of chicken stew
A dessert of double waffle of rasperry sauce and nutella…
– and that includes a drink! Full and satisfied, without digging deep into my bag, now you know why it’s my favorite!
After that delightful meal, I took the tram back to Gellert Hill with the intention of crossing the Liberty bridge to reach the Central Market.
Built between 1894 and 1896, the bridge was originally named after Emperor Franz Joseph but it was renamed Liberty Bridge when the country was liberated from the Nazi by the Soviet army at the end of World War II in 1945.
This bridge is actually my favorite – yes, more than the Chain Bridge! – because of its beautiful green, cast iron Art Nouveau style! I could photograph every square meter of this bridge as it is just so darn fabulous – a masterpiece!
At last, the orange mosaic tiled Central market came into view. Built around 1896, it is the largest indoor market in Budapest and, noticeably, a favorite among tour buses who come to unload their passengers who are mostly Chinese, Japanese and a bit of Americans.
The Art Nouveau style of the Liberty Bridge continues here with its grilled iron gates, stairs and ceilings. With the advent of the cold season, they put on heavy curtains like this one to keep the warmth inside.
Now on to my window shopping for purposes of photography…
I would like to buy those giant sausages on the left but they might laugh at me at the airport..arghhh!
I was nearing the end of my sightseeing but wanted to see the funicular first and perhaps, with my 24-hour ticket I could make a quick tour to the top to see the city from a higher vantage point. This is the Royal mosaic next to the funicular.
Unfortunately, my 24-hour public transport ticket does not include the funicular ride and I was not willing to spend money again at that moment, tightwad me!
I was wondering what this marble sculpture at the left – it is the Zero kilometre stone of Budapest, the basis from which all distances going throughout the country are measured.
To end our day, we had a meal from a nearby pizza place and this was our dessert. Nothing significant but at least I learned a way on how to make my table fork create a gastronomic trace of art!
Saturday, 08 December 2012
The next day – with only a couple of hours to go before we left for the airport, I had a chance to take a quick look of St Stephen’s Basilica which is just a few hundred meters walk from the Deak Ter metro where I was supposed to meet H who was in the area for a business meeting.
The square infront of the Basilica is a scene of a marketplace – yes, an extension of the Christmas market which we saw on our first day. Aside from the stalls selling food and crafts, there is an ice-skating rink for children set up at the base of the giant Christmas tree.
The entrance to the Basilica was practically blocked by throngs of tourists and I had to squeeze my way for a 5-second view of the interior. H would be calling any second now so everything had to be done in fast-forward mode. Above is the cupola from the inside. This neo-classical church was completed in 1905 and named after St Stephen I, the first King of Hungary.
Finally on our way to the airport. There was snow everywhere making the landscape quite “picturesque”!
This is the view of the Danube from the air….
….. and of Hungary in white!