Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Budapest: Margaret Bridge and Island

A couple posts back I showed you this collage of the Margaret Bridge, seen our second day in Budapest while we were out walking about:

Interestingly, it's the Chain Bridge that most tourists want to see, as seen in my post here.
But our tour guide told us her favorite was the Margaret Bridge, because of the kink in it here.
You can also see it in the top-right image above.

To give some perspective, here are 7 of Budapest's 8 bridges:
(click to enlarge)

In the center is the Chain Bridge, where our Viking boat docked.
Right side of the Danube is Pest.  Left side is Buda.

And see the island?  That's where we spent our Easter Sunday!

But first, we had to get there from our hotel, down south and east outside of this map...which we did via public transportation, as you know from my last post here

Along the way...impressions.  Always something to grab the the top-right Liberty Statue.
Truth is, we had planned to take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus to see her...

...but when we got to those green umbrellas, we were told our travel pass did not include their buses.
Bummer.  So we just got more impressions!

And since we were in the area of the Elizabeth Bridge (south of the Chain Bridge), we had a chance to peek inside the Inner City Parish Church nearby, following their morning service.
It's the oldest church in Pest, founded in 1046.
 And since it was Easter Sunday, after all, I'm glad we had a chance to visit a church!

But our mission for the day was to get to the Margaret Bridge and cross it halfway to get to the island.
It's Budapest's second oldest bridge, from 1876 (the Chain Bridge is from 1849).

Up to this point, it had been raining off and on all morning but stopped the minute we set foot on the island!
Margaret Island is 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long and 500 metres (550 yards) wide, 
in between the Margaret and Arpad bridges.
Our goal was to walk it from one end to the other.
See the mistletoe?  Did we stop and kiss each other?

  The Centennial Memorial from 1973 commemorates the city's hundreth anniversary of unification.

 There is a 5350 metre long, rubber-coated jogging track around the island, marked at 500 metre intervals,
which was nice to see being used.  Other than that, we were alone!
And the farther north we walked, the farther behind the familiar landmarks became.

Margaret Island is a recreational park nowadays, with various sports establishments, like tennis and swimming. However, formerly "the island was dominated by nunneries, churches and cloisters until the 16th century. During the Ottoman wars the monks and nuns fled and the buildings were destroyed."  (Wiki) 

 These are the 13th century ruins of a Franciscan church.

This church is a Premonstratensian chapel with a Romanesque tower from the 12th century.
And yes, we tried to get into no avail.
The water tower, under rennovation/cleaning (?), was built in 1911, at 57 meters high.
To be honest, it felt like the entire island was "shut down" until we got to the hotels at the north end.

But we did pass a tiny zoo with exoctic waterfowl...

...and lots of statues as we neared the thermal spa area of one of the hotels.
The music fountain, bottom-left, was dead as a doornail...but then it WAS still winter.

Once we rounded the thermal spas, we saw the 2 hotels and picked one for our late-afternoon lunch.
Just exactly what the doctor ordered.  (Didn't even take pictures of that, I see!)

And since we were now at the north end of the island, instead of walking all the way back to the Margaret Bridge, we took the nearby Arpad Bridge to catch the metro back to our hotel.

All this on a lazy and Mother-Nature Easter Sunday.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Budapest: Our Hotel and Transportation

So, after walking around the Chain Bridge and Parliament that morning, and then saying good-bye to everyone at Viking Idun (last post), it was time to take a taxi ride some 30 minutes away to our Tulip Inn hotel, far to the east of city center on the Pest side of the Danube.

Too bad we didn't take more pictures but, the thing is, we knew they had a great breakfast and a fast internet!  We've used them before here in the Netherlands and were not disappointed.
You can see what was important to us.  HA!

Over the next days, we collected images on the Tulip Inn street.
The church next door, the lovely steepled building across from the metro, the street signs...
The church, btw, is the Oradea Square Presbyterian Church, from 1935.

 In fact, that very first day, Saturday afternoon, after settling in, we took a walk through the neighborhood.

Magnificent architecture, some with decay, having its own beauty.

Our walk was in the direction of what appeared to be a water tower, seen from afar.
But later we discovered it's the Bible Speaks Church, found via Google Maps.
Don't you wonder!

A couple days later, when the sun was shining, we went back to the domed church nearby.
It's Our Lady of Hungary Church, from 1931, not to be confused with the Matthias Church in city center,
which is the Church of Our Lady (visited the previous Friday here).
The service inside (middle pics) was on the Monday after Easter, with travelers from a bus standing inside.
How we wanted to know more, especially seeing their luggage!

But we did get to enjoy g'ma and g'son playing nearby!
No translation or explanation needed.

Since our hotel was so far out from city center, we relied on the metro and tram lines each day.
Just a couple of blocks from our hotel was our metro station, flanked by the eagle landmark.
It always felt like she was welcoming us, coming and going.

Metro stations are the same everywhere, aren't they!
Get a good map and memorize which ends are which to decide your direction.
Easy peasy.

They really are the same...cultural experiences!

Even down to the buskers inside.

Once closer to city center, we took the trams from here to there.
Totally reliable and...necessary.

And just like what you'd expect anywhere!

So, now you know how we got from one place to another for the posts ahead
...coming up, as we speak....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Budapest, Hungary: the Chain Bridge and Parliament Area

From this point on, Budapest was on our own...starting officially after breakfast on the Saturday before Easter.  I say "officially" because since our hotel wasn't ready for check-in till 2p, Viking encouraged us to stay in the vicinity and eat lunch onboard, which we did.

So in this post, I'm showing what we saw by walking around the vicinity of the Chain Bridge where our boat was docked.

When I say we were docked at the Chain Bridge, I mean it. 
In fact, 3 of these images above were taken while on the bridge...but more on that later.
As we left the boat, we were on another mission....

...while passing the views of the churches on the Buda/opposite side of the Danube river.
You've already seen up-close-and-personal the Matthias Church from my last post.
You'll see some of the other churches in a later post.

Right then we were on this side of the Danube, on a mission to see...

...the most disturbing sight of our entire trip.
The Shoes on the Danube is a 2005 memorial honoring the Jews killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during WWII.  Men, women and children were "forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river; a firing squad then shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away. This was a common practice that occurred during 1944-1945."

I can't think of any war memorial anywhere that has affected me as deeply.
And as you see, it was only meters away from our Chain Bridge docking.

Let our hearts be broken...and lest we forget!

 After composing ourselves...we continued our walk along the promenade past the Parliament building.
It's usually best seen from the other side of the river but, for now, here it is up-close.

We actually walked around it and saw the back side, which was almost as nice.

Once around the Parliament, we headed back to the promenade on the other side of the Chain Bridge.
You know I'm a glutton for these bronze statues, especially when Astrid joins the shot.

The most famous is the Little Princess, from 1989, created by László Marton,
inspired by his eldest daughter from his first marriage.
I love that she looks like an impish tomboy.  HA!

From the promenade we walked inland to Vorosmarty Square for the Easter Fair.
Have you ever had rooster testicles stew (top middle image)???
(And yes, the poor we always have with us!)

This was fun.  Very Hungarian, apparently.
But I started singing "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" when I saw all those fur hats!
(click any collage to enlarge)

And while there, this band was playing...

 ...with these children watching, mesmerized.
I wished like the dickens I could understand Hungarian!

Now, head back with us to the Chain Bridge to close the loop.

This time we walked across the bridge, over the Danube, to the Buda side of Budapest.

To the left of the bridge is the Royal Palace, if you remember it from my last post,
and the Castle Hill Funicular that takes you to the top to see it.
And there's Matthias Church again.  See, you're getting acclimated to this incredible city!

Now, turn around and go back across the bridge to the Pest side.

And that's when you see these fabulous views of the Parliament!
How can you say NO to that!

At this point it was time to eat lunch back on the ship, while new passengers were boarding.
It was our unofficial last Good-Bye to the Viking Grand European Tour we had just experienced
for 2 incredible weeks.

Along the way of that day....impressions.

And more impressions.

We even had a sneak preview of the Margaret Bridge,
which we would cross the next day to Margaret Island.... be continued...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Viking's Grand European River Cruise: Budapest, Hungary

Viking River Cruise, Day 14:  Budapest, Hungary (Facebook collage)
(click any collage to enlarge)

Our very last full day on our very grand European river cruise was spent in Budapest, Hungary, the Good Friday before Easter Sunday.  As you'll shortly see, we awakened to a rainy day...for the duration.  But thankfully for Astrid and me, after disembarking the next day following breakfast, we had four more full days on our own to hope for sun.  But that's getting ahead of myself.

Budapest:  The capital of Hungary, affectionately called "the little Paris of Central Europe" and the "Pearl of the Danube."  With almost 1.7 million people, it's the largest city of the country.

It so happens we were docked right next to the Chain Bridge on the Pest side of the Danube.
The city used to be 3 cities:  Buda and Obuda on the right bank and Pest on the left/East bank.
Now the Danube separates the merged cities, with the Buda and Pest sides of the river.
Across the river from us, on the Buda side, was the Royal Palace (Buda Castle), in plain view (top image).

Like most other days, we hopped on coaches after breakfast to start a city tour.
I wasn't kidding about the rain!

First stop was Heroes' Square, with its Millenium Memorial from 1900, on the Pest side of the city.

It's one of Budapest's major squares because of 2 art museums nearby:  
the Kunsthalle and the Museum of Fine Art.

Back on the bus, we drove to the Buda side of the city...the old-city Buda's Castle District,
and first saw the bullet-damaged former Ministry of War.
Most of the bullet holes are from WWII but some are from the 1956 Soviet Uprising.
The building remains empty as a reminder...?  Lest we forget!

Once out of the bus again, we were on a mission to see 2 major sights/sites,
and, while walking, passed everything Budapest!

In fact, if you don't go to them, they come to you!  
It's a way of life...and we are tourists, their guests, of course.

The Matthias Church was our first main site to visit, originally built in 1015.

Look at those colored roof tiles!  And that short entrance door!
And, oh, yes, we still had snow.

But inside...  O.M.G.  
I call this the "Tattooed Church."  Seriously.

Almost every square inch is painted!

See what I mean?!

Remember, this was Good Friday.
Was this over-flow seating being set up for Easter Sunday?

It so happens the church is in front of the Fisherman's Bastion at the heart of the Buda Castle District..., just a few steps away, we were at our second main site of the day.
Fisherman's Bastion is basically a terrace with towers and staircases, built in 1902.

It's a viewing terrace...with incredible views of the city on both sides of the river.
In later posts I'll be show-n-telling more of these sights.  This is the appetizer...even on a rainy day!

Because it was nearby, Astrid and I walked over to the Royal Palace/Buda Castle, from 1265.
We had already seen the river-front view (bottom image above).  This was the back side.

Impressions.  Impressions.  Impressions.
All before getting on the buses and heading back to the boat for lunch.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And because it was raining, and we knew we had 4 more full days to sight-see, we stayed on the boat for the remainder of the day.  Besides, we needed to rest up before the Hungarian Folkloric Show that evening after dinner, right there on the boat:

And what a show it was!

Lots of talent and humor!

If I counted right, there were 10 of them, all musicians.
Don't you know they must have fun performing for us old geezers!
I wonder what they say afterwards?  HA!

Thus ended the last full, official day of our Viking Grand European River Cruise.  We had breakfast onboard the next morning, Saturday, before heading off on our own.  

Wish me luck, now, as I try to organize those last 4 days in Budapest, on our own schedule. 
See you soon....