Monday, September 25: As I spent nearly two hours wide awake, tossing and turning from 4:30-6:15 a.m., I have a hard time getting up this morning. By the time I drag myself out of bed, and we eat breakfast, have coffee and shower, we don’t leave the apartment until after 11:00 a.m. This is such a late start for us when we’re on holiday!
We walk out through our shabby chic courtyard.
On Kazinczy utca, we walk past the cheery eateries and ruin bars, including el Rapido Grand Bazar Grill & Deli and Szimpla Kert.
The figs and other fruit at a small market would be awfully tempting if I hadn’t just eaten breakfast and if it weren’t almost lunchtime!
I like how in Budapest most graffiti is transformed into street art.
I love the yellow trams that run through the city. Currently over 30 tram lines run in Budapest. The 47 line, seen here, links Deák Ferenc tér in Pest, the city’s busiest station, with points in southern Buda via the Little Ring Road.
I marvel at the array of architecture found throughout the city, though I don’t know what this building is.
We’re heading to Chain Bridge to cross over the Danube, and on the way, we pass by the Budapest Eye, the mobile Ferris wheel we saw all lit up last night in Erzsébet Square.
It seems everywhere you go these days, couples hang “love locks” to profess their undying devotion.
We continue to make our way to the Danube, admiring the grand buildings and the trams along the way.
Finally we’re on Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the suspension bridge connecting Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest.
We have fabulous views of the Danube this morning. Below Castle Hill, we see St. Anna Church and Batthyany Square.
Looking north, we see Margaret Bridge and Margaret Island. Margaret Bridge is a three-way bridge connecting Buda and Pest across the Danube and linking Margaret Island to both banks. It is the second-northernmost and second-oldest public bridge in Budapest.
On the east bank, in Pest, we have a clear view of the Hungarian Parliament.
On Castle Hill, Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion, where we are heading today, glow in the sunlight.
My legs are so sore from all our walking yesterday that our plan is to take the funicular up to Castle Hill. Sadly, the funicular isn’t running today, but some people in a cart offer us a ride to Matthias Church for 2,240 Forints each (~$8.50).
The cart drops us at the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Matthias Church, which sits beside Fishermen’s Bastion at the heart of Buda’s Castle District. Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, built the first church here in the Romanesque style in 1015. Used as a mosque and ultimately destroyed by the Ottoman Turks in 1241, part of the current building was built in the latter half of the 13th century. In the late 14th century, Gothic elements were uncovered and more were added. In the 17th century, an attempt was made to restore the church in Baroque style.
Originally named after the Virgin Mary, the Church was renamed in the 19th century after Matthias I (1443 – 1490), King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458 to 1490. He “attempted to reconstruct the Hungarian state after decades of feudal anarchy, chiefly by means of financial, military, judiciary, and administrative reforms” (Encyclopedia Britannica: Matthias I). The king’s two royal weddings were held in the church, which later served as the coronation venue for the last two Hungarian Habsburg kings, Franz Joseph in 1867 and Charles IV in 1916.
Matthias Church was used as a camp by the Germans in World War II and the Soviets during the Soviet occupation of Hungary, leaving it in disrepair. The church was largely renovated between 1950 and 1970 with funding from the Hungarian government.
We wait in a long and slow-moving line to buy tickets for Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Of course, I have to complain about the lack of a “system,” as the signs are confusing and every customer who goes to the ticket window has to waste time asking about the ticket prices and what they include. My comments about the lack of systems in various places leads Mike to tease me the rest of our trip: “They need a system! A Cathy system!” he jokes.
We finally get our tickets and climb up to Fishermen’s Bastion. Built from 1895-1902, it is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style which has great views of the Danube and much of Budapest. Its seven turrets represent the seven Magyar tribes who founded the present day country in 895-896. Its name originates from the guild of fishermen who offered protection during the Middle Ages.
The roof of Matthias Church, seen most clearly from Fishermen’s Bastion, showcases the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles. Zsolnay is a Hungarian manufacturer of porcelain, tile and stoneware; the company’s ceramics are noted for the eosin process that was introduced in 1893. The secret eosin (Greek eos, flush of dawn) glaze causes porcelain to appear iridescent metallic. Typical colors include shades of green, red, blue, and purple that change with the angle of reflection. These ceramics were favored by art nouveau artists.
We have a fabulous view south to Elizabeth Bridge from Fishermen’s Bastion.
Across the Danube, we have a clear view of the Hungarian Parliament and a huge construction crane.
Looking north up the Danube, we see Margaret Island and Margaret Bridge.
Some people apparently complain that Fishermen’s Bastion looks a little Disney-esque, but I find it quite attractive.
It takes us a while to get unobstructed pictures of ourselves at Fisherman’s Bastion because of a group of rude Asians who keep pushing into our pictures. I even say with irritation to them, “How rude!” Why is it that when we take pictures, we try to do it as quickly as possible and then move aside while other people stand hogging a picture spot for ages? It seems people these days don’t have any sensitivity to other people.
I love the views from up here.
Streams of sunlight bathe the Hungarian Parliament, offering a gorgeous view; the Parliament is impossible to fit in a photo when you’re up close to it.
We have to pay an extra admission fee to go in the far turret, because it’s part of a restaurant and cafe. Here, I get the message that my camera card is full! I can’t believe it because today I switched bags and forgot to put my extra camera card in my new bag.
After leaving Fishermen’s Bastion, I insist we go to a shop to find a camera card. I cannot fathom taking pictures with my phone the rest of the day. The card costs me 16,500 Forints (nearly $63!). It’s so annoying to have to spend that much when I have a camera card back at our Airbnb apartment. I hate it when I do stupid things that cost me a lot of money.
As we eat our bread, cheese, and Mango Fanta picnic lunch on a bench outside Matthias Church, I put the new camera card in and it doesn’t work! I keep getting a message that the card isn’t formatted, and when I try to format it, nothing happens. There’s another smaller card in the package, but I ignore it, thinking it’s something I don’t need. I’m embarrassed to reveal how technically challenged I am, but when I’m unable to get it to work, I take the receipt and the opened card package and go back into the shop to tell the saleswoman the card doesn’t work. She asks for my camera, takes the card out, and inserts the small card from the package into what I now know is the adapter for the microdisk. I’ve always just bought a single camera card, and I thought the smaller disk was for a phone or something. Anyway, after inserting the microdisk into that slot in the adapter card, voila! The camera works. I snap my first photo in the shop.
Paprika, made from ground dried chilies, is found in many Hungarian dishes, so chili peppers are an iconic Hungarian sight.
After lunch and my camera card debacle, we head back to Matthias Church to go inside.
The inside of the church is stunning. The frescoes on the walls, ceilings and columns are the works of famous Hungarian painters, Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. They also created the magnificent stained glass windows.
The whole interior is mesmerizing, and we climb to an upper gallery for more astounding views.
The most magnificent monument in the church is the double sarcophagus of king Béla III and his wife Anne de Châtillon in the Trinity Chapel.
In the upper gallery, we find a gorgeous stained glass window behind a statue of the famous Sisi, or Elisabeth of Bavaria (1837 – 1898), Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary by marriage to Franz Joseph I. We’ll see more of Sisi on our trip to Vienna, Austria.
We could spend hours in here admiring the interior, one of the most beautiful churches I’ve encountered.
We leave this area and walk along the western wall of Castle Hill toward the Royal Palace, in hopes of visiting the Budapest History Museum.