Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gorgeous Budapest, Hungary

We have spent the last two days in Budapest, described as the Pearl of the Danube.  The lighting at night on the palace, St. Matthias Church, Parliament and several other buildings does make it one of the most beautiful by night.  I used my I-Pad to take these few photos.  The rest are on my camera and will be included in my photo blog later.


We had a tour in the morning that took us to Heros Square on the Buda side of the city.  All the rulers starting with King Stephen, later to become St. Stephen, were displayed on a curved ballistrade.  Above them were chariots representing war and peace.  It is an area used frequently for patriotic celebrations.  From there we went to the palace area.  The huge complex was stripped by the Russians after WW II of every last furnishing so it does not have tours.  

We visited the church of St. Matthias known as the Coronation Church.  Queen Elizabeth (Sisi) of the Hapsburg family climbed the 100 steps to her coronation as wife of Franz Josef, son of Maria Theresa Hapsburg of Austria.  Marie Antoinette (France) and Maximillan (Mexico) were also two of her 12 children who lived, four died as children. Their mother's plan to unite the world through marriage did not work out.

We visited a Hilton hotel built around ruins of a monastery.  Zha Zha Gabor was instrumental with her Hungarian heritage and her marriage to Conrad Hilton in acquiring permission to build the hotel.  The best thing about American hotels in Europe is the free, clean restrooms!   The Marriott, Intercontinental and Four Seasons were all visited by persons in our group in addition to the Hilton.

We climbed to the top of the balconies above the city for a spectacular view below.  Our guide was very good and pulled no punches that the 45 years after WW II under Russian communism was no better than the years under Hitler.  Of the Russians she said "the bastards forgot to leave" after WW II.  

After lunch we took a walk on our own through the city heading to a tour of the Opera House.  By decree of Franz Josef it is smaller than Vienna's Opera House but is more opulent inside to make up for it.  It was very nice but the "behind the scenes" info given in Vienna made it a more interesting tour for me.  On our way back to the ship we stopped at St. Stephen's Cathedral to visit.  

The next morning we took off on our own again to take the tour of Parliament.  It was a short walk and we stumbled on "the shoes."  Along the seawall are many pairs of bronze shoes laying about as being carelessly removed.  They represent the many Jews who were lined up on the edge of the river and shot, falling to their death in the river.  There are constant reminders in all of these Iron Curtain countries of the atrocities committed against their citizens.

We had some time to walk the area around parliament before our scheduled tour time.  We watched the military ceremony to raise the flag, took photos and tried to find the statue of Ronald Reagan.  The girl who sold us our tickets did not know, an employee in the Parliament building didn't know, a guard didn't know!  Finally the garbage man pointed us in the right direction but it took one more question of a tour guide for us to find the Teddy Roosevelt bronze statue on the bridge and Ronald Reagan.  There is nothing other than his signature to identify him.  I expected his quote "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall" or at least identifying him as a US president!

We returned to the ship for lunch and then took off again to find a store selling cosmetics.  My foundation ran out and I wanted to get some more.   It took a good deal of walking and several inquiries to find a DM store, close to a Walgreen's in items.  The girl was so helpful in trying to match my color and since we are on our sixth currency I have no idea what it cost other than 3999 huf.  I will find out when Bank of America transacts the charge.  

It has been easy to not spend money because most of the time I didn't have the proper currency and many small vendors do not take charge cards.  Marge was unable to buy a blouse because her Discover card did not have a pin.  I ordered "chipped cards" and protective sleeves plus requested a pin for my cards before we left based on the info I had regarding charging in Europe.

Last night was our Captain's Farewell dinner and we turned in early to get our packing done.  Bags needed to be out at 7 am and we left for Prague this morning at 8 am.

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