Beautiful Budapest

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

We had a lovely time in Budapest, our hostel was right by Parliament and the river so everything was nice and close, though the lady running the hostel seemed a little crazy...

Budapest is now a single city but that wasn't always the case. It became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with a unification in 1873 of west-bank "Buda" with east-bank "Pest."

We spend our first afternoon wandering around the area where the hostel was, checking out parliament on the banks of the Danube and visiting the memorial to the Hungarian Jews on the river front. Budapest's Jewish community were ordered by the Arrow Cross militiamen to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The Memorial is a row of shoes cast in iron of all types and sizes and represents the shoes of the victims left behind on the bank. In a disgusting attempt to spare bullets, they even tied scores of people together and shot only one person so he or she would pull the rest of the group into the river where they would eventually drown.

The next day was a big walking day, visiting all the main sights of Budapest including the Buda castle and the hideous hotel that was built in the late 80s on top of a 17th century monastery. Thankfully you can still kind of see the remains if you go up a path past the hotel.

That afternoon we visited the Jewish quarter and the House of Terror which was the SAS headquarters as well as the communist police headquarters during the communist rule that followed WWII.  It's a very good memorial, with english handouts explaining the history of Fascism and Communism in Hungary and includes a reconstruction of the prison cells in the basement.  One cell was so small that a lady wearing a cowboy hat couldn't even fit into it. This cell historically had two lightbulbs at eye level so that its inmate couldn't sleep. Another cell was wider but had such a low roof that even Hana had to duck to fit into it and this cell, in contrast, was pitch black. The Museum left us with the chillingly vivid reminder that extremism on either side of the spectrum leads to atrocities.

To brighten our mood on the way back from the House of Terror, Chris had a strawberry and vanilla soft serve ice cream that he is still dreaming about today. It alone is a good enough reason to revisit Budapest for a weekend escape from London!

The next morning we visited the central market and had some yummy chocolate patisseries, fresh raspberries and green grapes. We also picked up some traditional sweet white wine (Tokaji) and fruit (lemon) brandy. Both were delicious but the Tokaji was particularly different from the wine we are used to in NZ. After our shopping, we wandered aimlessly through the beautiful pedestrian streets.

While in Hungary we had some delicious sausages. These were no ordinary sausages. No, no, they were filled with cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were amazing!

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