Shoes on the Danube

It was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day last 27 January so I thought of doing my own share of commemorating the genocide victims of World War 2 by visiting one of their memorials in Budapest. This one is set along the Danube not far from the Parliament Building. It truly is a sorrowful moment everytime I see these shoes. They are a poignant reminder of those 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 they were valuable belongings at the time.

“Shoes on the Danube”
by Hungarian Sculptor Gyula Pauer, and his friend Can Togay in 2005.

Loving Budapest – Part 2

Previous:  Loving Budapest

Dr Szabo, our dentist, announced that this session of dental work would take two weeks to complete (we would return again in three months but that is another story) so despite suffering from bouts of tooth discomfort and restricted eating, we decided to make the best out of our “dental” holiday.  There are  myriads of things to do and see in Budapest and the sub-zero temperature won’t deter us  from enjoying what this beautiful city has to offer.

So we started planning our itinerary like  there is no tomorrow!  Here goes –

 

No visit to Budapest is complete without dipping into one of their thermal spring baths. This is our favorite – the pool of the very glamorous Gellert Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Europe renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture.

As the city sits on a network of almost 125 bubbling thermal springs, the Romans worked on channelling these waters into their military baths, bathing for them is not only for cleansing but a form of social and recreational activity.. Then the Turks who occupied the city from the 16th – 17th century developed the Hammam baths as part of their body cleansing ritual before praying.

We watched the ballet adaptation of “Onegin”, a poetic novel of Russian author, Alexander Pushkin, and set to the music of Tchaikovsky. This ballet of 3 acts is one of the finest works of renowned choreographer, John Cranko.

The Galleries of the Opera House.

We were lucky enough to grab center seats for a mere 14euros per person

This is the monumental staircase decorated with enormous Italian marble columns and balusters.

Ceiling above the Grand Staircase

This is the fresco, work of Hungarian-German painter, Károly Lotz, that ornates the ceiling of the concert hall.  Entitled Olympos, it depicts Greek mythological scenes.

Some of the characters of the Olympos fresco.

The cast of Onegin
It is such a magical sight: these porcelain-doll like ballerinas dancing so lithe, putting the viewers into ecstacy with their dainty but languid fluidity, their dance movements telling the story in a more powerful way than that of reading the written word.

I just love this form of art.

As Twyla Tharp once said:
“The ballet needs to tell its own story in such a way it can be received without having to be translated into language. “

While riding Tram #6, this sight at the Margaret Bridge Stop gives a splendid view of the Parliament. It was getting dark and freezing cold, but what the heck, I had to capture this magical scene so we got down and crossed the busy bridge to get a better viewpoint.

It was well worth it.

The Parliament Building is of Gothic Revival style constructed in 1885 and completed in 1904.

Tried the legendary New York Cafe, so named because it was (and still is) part of the New York Palace Hotel which was built by the New York Life Insurance Company as their European Head Office. It opened in 1894, gained popularity among Hungary’s literati, badly damaged during the 2nd World War, converted into a sporting goods shop, later renovated and reopened as “Hungaria Cafe”.  After the fall of Communism, it was left abandoned until an Italian hotel chain bought the whole building and revived the New York Cafe to its former glory.

This is a must not only for coffee lovers but those who want to experience, albeit fleetingly, the life of the rich and famous without necessarily breaking the bank.

Despite the highly tempting cake and hot chocolate infront of  me, I was more engrossed marvelling at every single detail of this architectural masterpiece.   I couldn’t believe my luck!  Not everyone, even the majority of the well-heeled and the lousy rich won’t have the opportunity to sit where I am sitting now.

Two glasses of hot chocolate (one strawberry and the other, roasted almond flavor) and a slice of cottage cheese cake – all at 20euros – is all that we needed to experience the opulent setting of this most beautiful coffee house in the world.

This is the cottage cheese cake that melts in the mouth.  The scoop of ice cream is welcome delight.

The Breakfast Room which we are aiming to attack one day…

Went exploring the little alleys and corners of the City.  The photo above is  not a church entrance. It is a typical passageway/driveway, that leads to a  courtyard buried within a complex of apartments and offices.

Loving Budapest

We first visited Budapest seven years ago and loved it immediately. Because it was making a noise as the dental capital of Europe at that time, H and I decided to come to this city and put all our trust into Dr Szabo and his team to give my dental health a new lease on life. We were not disappointed, seven years later, we are back for another bout of treatment.

It was a blessing in disguise. We not only found a dental health paradise, we also discovered an incredible city and the most kind-hearted people in what probably is one of the most European cities in Europe! Yes, Hungarians are genuinely welcoming, polite and gentle, they make every effort to make your stay in their country as comfortable as can be. Let’s also mention the gastronomical fare, the arts and culture, the amazing architecture that earned its name “Paris of the East” and it’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list for cultural and architectural significance. By the way, it’s just been voted by Conde Nast as the Second Best City in Europe after Florence, Italy.

I have other reasons for loving Budapest and they are not the tourist attractions, it’s the hidden surprises in every corner! Sculpture, eclectic architecture and the old fashioned charm. You feel like you are living in the fifties where old interiors of establishments, old signages and end of the 19th century underground metro stations are still intact. And yet, the infrastructure works well; it’s definitely cleaner than Paris and way, way more charming than London.

I could live in Budapest in a heartbeat!

Hungarian sausages

I always dreamed about living in a very old apartment that survived the Communist era. Well, my wish was granted! Notice the Art Nouveau grills. The wooden elevator (not seen) was probably built in the sixties.

Bullet holes etched into building façades tell some of the tale of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against their Soviet-backed government

Paprika (hanging above) is the national spice of Hungary.

 

Budapest is a city of statues

The facade of most buildings may be crumbling but their glorious past is evident that you cannot help picking your jaw up off the ground!

 

Relief sculpture in the building where we are staying…

Metallic door

Mailbox

The neo-classical St Stephen’s Basilica, named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary, whose right hand is housed in the reliquary.