Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Gray Day in Budapest

A Budapest Bird at Castle Hill
I don't mind a little rain as long as I can keep my camera dry. Water fell out of the sky in one form or another almost constantly on our Budapest day. It rained for our city tour, it was off-the-charts humid at the horse farm, and it misted in the evening as the Viking Prestige sailed past the illuminated buildings. So take a look at the photos I shot while I explain them, and click on the video for some Hungarian-flavored music!

The City Tour took us by air-conditioned coach (AKA bus) to the old part of the city. Did you know that Budapest was originally two cities named Buda and Pest? Now that they are joined by bridges it made sense to combine them and call the two together Budapest, but they still retain some of their former personalities. Buda is the older part and features the Castle District at the top of a hill overlooking the Danube River. We toured Matthias Church (AKA Church of Our Lady) with its colorful ceramic tile roof and impressive interior paint job. This church is known as Hungary's most often rebuilt church, and that is kind of a metaphor for Hungary itself. Over the centuries this country has been taken over repeatedly by nearby countries or tribes, and the Hungarians we met (including our funny guide Otto) made jokes about this history.

The ceramic tile roof of Matthias Church. That black spire is called the Black Falcon.

Back to Matthias Church: the first church here was built in 1015. There were fires, invading Turks, Gothic architects, Romanesque architects, and the last Hungarian King Charles IV and his wife Zita were crowned here in 1916. The most recent rebuild was after World War II because the Germans and Soviets used the church as a stable for their horses and a garage for their tanks. There's no evidence of that episode now.

Interior shot of Matthias Church
Another Matthias Church interior
The site I was most looking forward to from my pre-trip research was the Fishermen's Bastion. The local fishermen's guild in the nineteenth century was responsible for looking after this part of Castle Hill. They built this bastion which looks like a sandcastle between 1895 and 1902. The seven spires represent the seven Hungarian tribe leaders who conquered this land. These days the Fishermen's Bastion is a cool place to visit to get a great view of the Danube River and the Pest part of the city.
Part of the Fishermen's Bastion with the statue of King St. Stephen
View from the Fishermen's Bastion
The marble steps in front of the Fishermen's Bastion
Another part of the Fishermen's Bastion
Budapest's many-spired Parliament Building (from the bus)
Our motor coach took us back over the Danube to the Pest side where the sites were a little bit more modern. We walked along Vaci Street, closed to vehicular traffic and lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Of course I went in there!
One of many interesting restaurants
I was impressed by Budapest's manhole covers.

We walked over to Heroes Square (1896) which functions as a Hungarian history lesson in statues. The tall monument structure is the National Heroes Monument to the Unknown Soldier, and the other statues (between the columns) are important figures in Hungarian history over the centuries. Other statues represent Work, Welfare, War, Peace, Knowledge, and Glory.
Half of Heroes Square
Close-up of horses in Heroes Square because horses are important to the Hungarians.
In the afternoon (yes, all the above was from the morning City Tour), we took a bus ride out to Lazar Equestrian Park to see some Lipizzaner and Nonius horses run around a muddy track. This was a great show! The park is owned by two championship riders who are brothers, Vilmos and Zoltán Lázár. After the show, we got to walk through the Lipizzaner stables and the brothers' trophy room. The show was thrilling, watching the riders and horses perform stunts and just look fantastic. I doubt my photos will do it justice.

He wasn't really using the whip on the horse--the whips make a cracking noise that the horses respond to.

Oxen move slow.
These five moved fast with that rider standing on the back two--one foot on each.

After the horse experience, we were delivered back to our ship for dinner and then our farewell to Budapest from the rainy sundeck. Take a look at these last photos of Parliament all lit up for us!

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