Budapest at last, the final stop on our Danube river cruise. I was very excited to see the homeland of my maternal grandparents and walk the streets where my ancestors walked. My grandmother’s father was a judge in Budapest and I was eager to experience it’s history and culture.
One of the most striking sights, cruising in to Budapest, is the incredible Parliament building!
Our first tour was a bus ride trough the city. It was a very interesting overview where we saw memorials, statues, parks, the Turkish baths, famous buildings and more. It wet my appetite to see more. I was so glad we extended our stay in Hungary. We did some shopping near our docking spot and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.
After dressing for dinner, I took in the perspective from our balcony. The Budapest University of Technology and Economics was sparkling on the water. It’s the oldest institute of technology in the world.
Our first night, we were treated to an amazing night cruise on the Danube. Budapest is stunning at night.
The next morning, we said our goodbyes to the crew of the Avalon Expression and checked in to the very chic InterContinental hotel. Within walking distance of our hotel there was a lot to do and see. As I came around a corner to the sight of Saint Steven’s Basilica I was awed by its monumental presence in the distance.
I was drawn in like a magnet for a closer look at this Neo-classical wonder.
My travel companions had no desire to see the inside of another church so I ventured inside alone. It was stunning!
Budapest Jewish District
I enjoyed the walking tours best, especially the Budapest Jewish quarter tour. I recommend it for anybody who wants to get an insight to Jewish Budapest. During the tour, you will also discover the cool party district of Budapest and the “Ruins Bars”.
During the walk I learned about Jewish memorials, fascinating old buildings and experience the unique, special atmosphere of this multicultural district of Budapest. Especially interesting was hearing the history of the Budapest ghetto and the Hungarian holocaust from an expert in Jewish history.
I thought The Great Synagogue or Dohány Street Synagogue was spectacular. My photo only shows a small portion of the exterior so you can see the architectural detail, topped with copper onion domes. The Great Synagogue, in Moorish revival style, is one of the largest Synagogues in the world!
The interior of the Synagogue was also very grand and impressive. It can hold nearly 3,000 people with it’s two levels of seating.
The Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Center
Next to the Great Synagogue is the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Here we saw Jewish religious objects and historical items like the uniforms worn by the Jews in concentration camps. It’s heartbreaking, 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
From there we made our way to the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, named after Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. The park honored Jewish and non-Jewish alike, righteous heroes who sacrificed their lives or put their lives at risk to save victims of the Hungarian Holocaust. It also reminded us of all of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish martyrs and labour-camp inmates who died unknown. The persecution, suffering and murdering claimed over half million Hungarian citizens.
One of the stand-out’s in the park is a large metal sculpture, the “Tree of Life.” Also called the Weeping Willow Tree Memorial. Engraved on each individual leaf is the name of one of 5,000 victims or families. At the front of the Tree is a black double archway memorial with the words – “Is there a bigger pain than mine?”
Experiencing the Synagogue, museum and memorial park was a deeply moving experience. If it wasn’t for the uplifting stories about the many Holocaust heroes, our professional guide told us, it would have been very depressing.
The neo-renaissance Orthodox Synagogue was another landmark we saw. It stood imposing on Kazinczy Street along with the old buildings. We ended our tour experiencing a ruin pub or ‘ruin bar’. That was fun and memorable.
The rickety furnishing, multi colored interiors, and hipster crowd make these ramshackle properties popular.
The legendary Szimpla Kert is the best-known ruin pub in Budapest. It holds a mix of eclectic styles and an a vibe of urban life. The dilapidated edifice also boasts a distinct charm.
Nightlife in Budapest
The ruin pub phenomenon is a big part of Budapest’s unique nightlife. Fine dining and music is also plentiful. What I enjoyed that night was right at our hotel. We had a fantastic location on the Danube.
The InterContinental had a stylish bar and restaurant with a spectacular views of the Buda Palace and Chain Bridge.
In the background, Castle Hill and Saint Matthias looked magical in the shadows of dusk.
The tour of the Buda Castle complex offered wonderful vistas and photo opportunities. The famous Chain Bridge spans the Danube below.
Castle Hill is a great place to pick up souvenirs. The Hungarians do beautiful embroidery work. I bought a lovely table cloth for my mother.
Take a closer look at Saint Matthias gothic architecture!
The day before we left we took a fantastic tour of the inside of Parliament. It was filled with fascinating historical information. I enjoyed the stories about the Hungarian crown jewels being lost or stolen a number of times. For a while they were held in the U.S. in Fort Knox.
The council chambers were laden with gold. The main Hall was magnificent!
Steve and I standing inside the main hall of the Parliament building.
Across from Parliament is the Budapest Museum of Ethnography. It was a beauty with astounding artistic and architectural appointments!
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Shoes on the Danube Memorial on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade.
It was a stark reminder of the cruelty of the Arrow Cross terror where 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube River during World War II.
I highly recommend this European river cruise down the Danube. It unveiled so much beauty and history and Avalon tours was marvelous!
Many blessings, Linda
“I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for He has bee good to me.” – Psalm 13: 5-6
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