Monday, September 25: After leaving Matthias Church, we stroll along the western wall of Castle Hill, where we have views of Óbuda and the Buda Hills.
From the western wall, we can see the pretty yellow Baroque Óbuda Parish Church, built in 1749 and dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.
We pass some ruins near the Royal Palace.
The Hungarian National Gallery traces Hungarian Art from the 11th century to the present, but as it’s closed on Monday, we can’t go inside. I knew there was a reason why my itinerary had us going to Buda on our first day, a Saturday, in Budapest! Many museums in Budapest are closed on Mondays. I should have stuck by my guns when Mike insisted we stay on the Pest side that first day. 🙂
A Segway tour group glides by in front of the Royal Palace.
The Neo-Baroque Matthias Fountain is a popular landmark in Budapest. The bronze figures, representing a hunting party led by Matthias Corvinus, the King of Hungary, stand on a pile of boulders with streams of water running between the cracks. As it resembles a smaller version of the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, it is sometimes called the “Trevi Fountain of Budapest.”
King Matthias stands on the highest rock in hunting attire. He holds a crossbow in his right hand while a dead stag lies at his feet. On the lower rocks a henchman blows his horn and the leader of the hunting group sits on a boulder with his back towards the viewer. Three hounds complete the central group.
Two more bronze figures have their own plinths. On the right is Szép Ilonka (Helen the Fair), heroine of a famous 19th century ballad by Hungarian poet and dramatist Mihály Vörösmarty. According to the ballad, Matthias was hunting incognito when Ilonka fell in love with him. When she found out his true identity, she fretted that it was an impossible love and died of a broken heart. The girl is looking towards the king while protecting her tame fawn from the hunters. On the right is the Italian chronicler, Galeotto Marzio; a dog is resting at his feet and a falcon sits on his arm (Wikipedia: Matthias Fountain).
Over the last seven centuries, successive palaces have occupied this spot where the Royal Palace now sits. In the mid-13th century, Bela IV established a royal residence here, while subsequent kings added to the structure. In the battle to rout the Turks in 1686, the palace was leveled; the Habsburgs rebuilt a smaller version of it later but spent little time here. After being expanded again, the palace was destroyed after serving as the last Nazi stronghold in 1945. Later, it was rebuilt with a Baroque facade, according to Lonely Planet Hungary.
Our ultimate destination is the Budapest History Museum, but it is closed today too. It supposedly puts the last 2,000 years of Budapest’s history into perspective. I’m sorry we miss it.
We are able to walk directly through the Budapest History Museum to the other side for a glimpse of the Castle Garden.
We encounter the statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 – 1736), a general of the Imperial Army. As one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history, he rose to the highest offices of state at the Imperial court in Vienna.
From the ramparts of the Royal Palace, we have a sweeping view of the Danube, Chain Bridge, the Parliament and Margaret Bridge.
We see the river traffic on the Danube and a stoic statue of a man and child.
Further south, we see Elizabeth Bridge and more of the Danube.
Above us, the Habsburg Gate – the entrance to the Royal Palace – looms.
We make our way back to Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion because we plan to walk downhill from here. Near the church, we stop at an outdoor cafe for a mojito lime cake, a chocolate forest cake, and a frothy coffee.
Feeling pleasantly sated after our dessert break, we walk down the steps from Fishermen’s Bastion.
Here we find the Mansfeld Péter memorial. Mansfeld Péter fought as a freedom fighter at the age of 16 in the 1956 Revolution against the Soviets. The memorial depicts the young man at age 17 falling while trying to escape police after stealing and hiding munitions. Though he managed to escape, he broke his hand in the fall. The Secret Police still found his identity and arrested him the next day. He was unjustly executed by hanging at age 18 by the totalitarian regime of Hungary. Today he is remembered as one of the national heroes of Hungary.
We’re on our way to Batthyány tér to see the 18th century Baroque Church of St. Anne. We pass some colorful buildings and pretty flower boxes along the way.
We wander past the Buda Calvinist Church, the first reformed church in Buda, built from 1892 to 1896. The pyramidal roof is covered by multi-colored Zsolnay tiles. During World War II the building suffered severe damage, but, at least from the outside, it looks fine today.
Batthyány Square, named after the first Prime Minister of Hungary, sits on the Buda side of the Danube. From this spot alongside the Danube, we have excellent views of the Parliament.
Batthyány Square is noted for the Church of Saint Anne, a Roman Catholic church built by the Jesuits between 1740 and 1762; it is one of Budapest’s most beautiful Baroque buildings. It also supposedly has a stunning interior, but as it is gated off and dark, we can barely see inside, much less photograph it.
The square is also known for its market hall.
From Batthyány Square, we get on the metro to cross the Danube.
We end up near the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament and walk all around the massive building. Designed by Imre Steindl, it wasn’t completed until 1902, after he died.
I’m not very good at taking normal-looking panorama shots, but they look interesting even if they’re weird.
Most of the Budapest trams are plain yellow, so we’re surprised to see this one all decked out in advertisements.
The Museum of Ethnography once housed the Supreme Court. We don’t go inside, but the museum supposedly displays folk dress and crafts, as well as peasant houses from Western and Southern Transdanubia, traditional regions in Hungary. In addition, there are priceless pieces from Transylvania and items from faraway cultures: Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, according to Lonely Planet Hungary.
Near the Parliament is a statue of István Tisza (1861 – 1918), former Hungarian prime minister. When he was prime minister for the second time, Austria-Hungary entered into the First World War. He was assassinated during the Chrysanthemum Revolution on 31 October 1918 – the same day that Hungary terminated its political union with Austria.
When we go to the side of Parliament that borders the Danube, we can see where we were in Buda earlier today: Fishermen’s Bastion, Matthias church, and the Church of St. Anne.
As we walk south along the riverbank, we can see Matthias Church, Fishermen’s Bastion and the Buda Calvinist Church across the river in Buda.
As we continue along the river, we come upon Shoes on the Danube, a moving monument to 3,500 people, 800 of them Hungarian Jews, who were shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror in late 1944 and early 1945.
The Arrow Cross Party led The Government of National Unity (during Hungary’s occupation by Nazi Germany) under Ferenc Szálasi from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. During its 5 1/2 month rule, ten to fifteen thousand civilians (many of whom were Jews and Roma) were murdered outright, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to various concentration camps in Austria. After the war, Szálasi and other Arrow Cross leaders were tried as war criminals by Hungarian courts.
One story about a famous Jewish Hungarian musician, Miklós Voglhut, who was killed here despite the fact that he adopted a more Hungarian-sounding stage name (Miklós Vig) and married into a Catholic family, tells of how he and so many other Jews 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; although the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg did save many more from this terrible fate” (visitbudapest.travel: One of Budapest’s Most Moving Memorials: Shoes on the Danube).
The memorial consists of sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes cast in iron and attached to the stone embankment. Cast iron signs display the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”
After leaving this poignant memorial, we continue our walk through Pest in search of the former Royal Postal Savings Bank.
We come across this fountain and interesting memorial purely by accident, and it serves to reinforce our understanding of Hungary’s sad history. The 1944 memorial to the victims of the Nazi era sits in Liberty Square in the Lipótváros neighborhood in Budapest.
This controversial memorial, completed in 2014, shows figures of Germany’s imperial eagle swooping down on the archangel Gabriel, which symbolizes Hungary. It seems to suggest Hungary was an innocent victim to Germany’s wartime aggression. According to an article in the Daily Mail: Hungary sets up disputed 1944 memorial: The memorial has been widely criticized by Jewish groups and others who see it as an attempt by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government effort to downplay the Hungarian role in the Holocaust. They object to the depiction of Hungary as a victim of the Nazis given that it was a wartime ally of Germany. The government stresses that both Jews and non-Jews suffered during the war.
In front of the memorial are torn, broken and aged personal effects, documents and pictures of murdered Jews; they have been lovingly displayed by Holocaust survivors in memory of their families.
The misguided “official” monument with the personal effects of the murdered Hungarian Jews in front, serve as a tragic reminder of what happened during the uncomfortable but indisputable historical alliance between Germany and Hungary.
Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.
Between the Shoes on the Danube and this memorial, we feel burdened by history, as well as by the present, especially in light of what we’re living through in America now with our despicable populist government. We wonder, will history repeat itself? It often does, sadly, as it seems humans repeatedly fail to learn from their mistakes.
We finally find the former Royal Postal Savings Bank, a Secessionist extravaganza of colorful tiles and folk motifs, built by architect Ödön Lechner (1845–1914) in 1901. He is often referred to as the “Hungarian Gaudi” because of his importance to the Hungarian Art Nouveau movement and his combination of Hungarian, Indian and Syrian architectural styles (visitbudapest.travel: Hungarian Art Nouveau).
This beautiful building is now part of the National Bank of Hungary. It has a stunning green tiled rooftop which sadly can’t be seen in my photos. We saw it earlier from our first day climb to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
We’ve had a long day today and we’re determined to stop for dinner at Kőleves, a vegetarian restaurant we passed yesterday. We slowly make our way there in the fading light.
Kőleves Restaurant has a varied menu with a number of vegetarian dishes and a nice vintage ambience.
Mike enjoys a lager while I have a wheat beer.
Displays abound of vintage musical instruments, old posters, rotary dial telephones and a Morse Code machine.
We enjoy a fabulous dinner, starting with an Avocado Salad with dried tomato, blueberry almond and blue cheese. I have Zucchini-Chickpea Fritters, Quinoa Salad & Avocado Cream and Mike has Vegetable Gratin with black lentil, walnut & Gruyère cheese.
When we return to our apartment, Mike cooks up a sliced pear in butter and natural sugar and we put the hot mixture over our Macadamia nut ice cream. Yum! A delicious top-off to our busy day.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore more of Pest before heading to Sopron, Hungary on Wednesday.
Steps today: 18,905 (8.01 miles).