The Buda, the Pest, and the Cowboys

Trip Start Mar 15, 2012
Trip End Apr 11, 2012

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Saturday, April 7, 2012

     After the spectacular entrance into Budapest last night, we spent this morning touring the city. We saw the buildings from the 1896 World's Fair, the monuments to St. Stephen, the founder of Hungary and some of his descendants in Hero's Square, and the Chain Bridge. We also saw the National Opera House and the Parliament building. We visited the Buda castle on the hilly west bank of the Danube.  Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion were also stops. We were cautioned to be very careful and watch for pick-pockets. But the views of Pest were spectacular and the streets were clean and the people were friendly. 
     (from Wikipedia) "The history of Budapest began with Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement that became the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Hungarians arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centers of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohacs and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification (of Buda and Pest). It also became the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a great power that dissolved in 1918, following World War I. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Republic of Councils of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest in 1945, and the Revolution of 1956."
     One of the most moving moments of our cruise came at the Shoes on the Danube Promenade. This is a memorial created by 60 pairs of iron shoes bolted to tiles at the edge of the river. "It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered 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. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank." (Wikipedia)
    After a quick lunch aboard ship, we spent the afternoon at a horse show where Hungarian "cowboys" showed us their skills at the Lázár Equestrian Park near the town of Gödöllő, in the Puszta region. After a traditional Hungarian brandy and a biscuit, we found a place to sit on the long benches by the track -- very close to the action. The riders don't use saddles or stirrups, they control the horses with only bridles and cracking long whips. The Lázár brothers who run the "living history" ranch have won numerous awards and ribbons in buggy-races throughout Europe.  We visited the stables where they have displayed many of their trophies and carriages and wandered around a small farm with sheep and geese, etc. We also took a nice hay-rack ride out into the county. What a nice finish to the cruise portion of our trip!
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