(This is the 21st post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Tuesday, July 1
Yep. Today is the day to get into the Parliament Building–the building that dominates much of the skyline on the Pest side of the river. We worked through the concierge in our hotel, and they were able to get us in, for a small donation of 4,000 florints (approximately 18 US dollars). But our time was later on, so we walked along this side of the Danube.First monument is Attila Jozsef, a statue of a “brooding young poet,” whose most famous poem is about seeing a watermelon float by in the Danube, from probably that very spot. This monument of empty shoes is one of the more poignant of our trip. “While many Jews were sent to concentration camps, the Arrow Cross [the Nazi puppet government at the time] massacred some of them right here, shooting them and letting their bodies fall into the Danube” (Rick Steves). This one is filled with pebbles, a sign of remembrance. While we’ve seen many war dead memorials and many also dedicated to the slain Jews in the Holocaust, the personal nature of these shoes brought home the idea that it was father, mother, sisters, friends who were slain in that most atrocious of regimes. It also made me think of continuing slaughter going on around the world–and how the cycle of evil and horror now continues in places I’ll never visit, and who will never have memorials like this one.
We amble back toward the Parliament.This show of five soldiers is going on. We have video of them moving in precision, but couldn’t quite figure out why people were laughing–was it a parody? But they seemed so serious. Finally we are in, herded through their new visitor center which apparently just opened. It was evident they were still getting the kinks out. It took 10 minutes to get the crowd through security.Up some stairs, down some halls. We snap photos on the run, for we were always moving. Finally we stopped at one spot for five minutes, where the guide — in English, for we had specified an English-speaking tour — spoke to us. Then she flipped into Hungarian and repeated herself. We had a double tour, a double crush of tourists.We finally stop in this hall: the Reception Hall, where many wooden statues surround the columns, apparently the way that the “common man” was represented in these lofty halls of grandeur. I snap photos of the different figurines, but it’s difficult to get a good shot.This is the Assembly Hall of the House of Representatives. Gorgeous. That was another quick stop. Then we went past the Hungarian Crown, where no photos were allowed. This explains why everyone was snapping photos of the replica over in the church in Buda.
This is one I grabbed from the web. Those chains radiating out from the crown are most interesting, as is the tilted cross: “The cross was knocked crooked in the 17th century when the crown was damaged, possibly by the top of the iron chest housing the insignia being hastily closed without the crown having been placed in it properly. The cross has since been left in this slanted position, and is now always depicted as such” (Wikipedia).We were ushered to the top of these steps–where heads of state enter to meet Hungary’s officials, most notably a President and/or the Prime Minister. Then it was over. Thirty minutes of “seeing” and we were ushered out. Quickly now. Right now. Come on now, you tourists need to leave, because I’m a big guy holding a gun. So we did, feeling a bit like we had been had, Hungarian Tourist Office-style. My advice if you ever go there: put your camera on quick shoot mode and take a million photos wherever you are, for you don’t get to linger or compose your shots. Back out, we go past a building that has metal spheres where the bullets riddled the facade in 1956–a year of uprising against the Communist Regime in power.Imre Nagy, the bronze statue on this bridge, was a pre-eminant politician during a difficult time, thought to be on the wrong side of history and was executed by the Soviets. His reputation has since been revised, rehabilitated and his statue now keeps watch on the Parliament across the way. I like the handsome man next to him.
A few minutes earlier, we’d been recruited by four young medical school graduate students to take photos of them together on this bridge. In talking to them, two of them were American, who’d come to Hungary to medical school. I’m sure there was more to this interesting story, but they were off to celebrate as they had just graduated and were all departing for different places.Just up the street is this statue of Ronald Reagan. While it’s interesting to have this here, it was erected in 2011 “to deflect attention from a brewing scandal” (Steves). Dave refused to hold his hand:We walked around the streets in the Leopold Area, noticing this small market–lunch, anyone?–but not much was there.This beautiful building is the Postal Savings Bank, designed in the late 19th century, with beehives along the roofline. Art Nouveau buildings are all around, but the finest was this example (above), the Bedo-Haz building.Don’t mind if we do.This ginger-ale with a slice of orange was a welcome revelation. How come I’ve never thought to put ORANGE in my ginger-ale? I’m so trying this when I get home. It was delicious. We shared a lunch under this umbrella-ed sidewalk restaurant, enjoying the break from the tourist action, recovering from our too-brief tour of the Parliament building. I moaned to Dave that I still had NO souvenirs, none. Zip, unless you count the Croatian T-shirt in the red/white check. Which I didn’t. This was our last day, our last afternoon, and we still have a couple of more things to see. So after paying the bill, we walk on towards St. Istvan’s Basilica.
Next post: Will she get a souvenir? and other sundry events