OK, wrapping up day 1 now. We walked around City Park a bit, which has a small castle of sorts (the moat was drained, sadly), and various monuments and pretty buildings:
Photo 1 is Vajdahunyad Castle. Photos 2 and 3 are of Jak Chapel, apparently a replica of a 13th century church elsewhere. I just loved the statue of the horsemen with big mustaches; the way they have strapped antlers onto the horse's head is amazing. What a style. The next photo, the tall monument, is the Millenary Monument, a rather huge monument to the seven chieftains of ancient Magyar (9th century), as well as various other important movers and shakers.
Now we took the metro back downtown, and visited the Basilica of St. Stephen. It is huge, and ornate beyond belief. I'll start with some detail and interior shots:
We went up to the base of the dome at the top of the building; here's the spiral stairs up, and the inside of the dome, which looks like it is made of wood but has been reinforced in more modern times with metal:
Quite interesting. We walked around the railed walkway on the outside of the dome. Even at the base of the dome, we were way above the city:
The first two photos are zoomed in: a pretty tile roof, and Parliament. The third is an adjacent tower of the basilica. The last is what Budapest actually looks like, zoomed out, in pretty much all directions. It's a very flat jumble. Not only is it built on a very flat plain, but it has very little architectural height differential. It seems to lack a skyscraper-filled downtown, and although there are certainly churches and buildings with towers, it doesn't have the tower-and-dome-filled feel of Prague. It is also very architecturally inconsistent compared to Prague; compare this photo to one of my Prague photos of the endless spread of red-tile roofs. It is not a pretty city from the air.
We descended and moved on; here's a parting view of the basilica from the outside, finally:
We walked on a bit more:
Until we reached the Great Synagogue. This is the largest synagogue in the world outside of New York City, built in 1859. Budapest today houses the largest population of Jews in Europe, I believe I read somewhere. Its architecture has a strong Moorish influence, for reasons I don't understand:
Unfortunately, it being Saturday, the synagogue was closed, and we didn't make it back the next day. Definitely at the top of the list for the next time I'm in Budapest!
And that was just about it for day 1. We covered a lot of ground! We planned to eat at a restaurant near our hostel called Karpatia, which my guidebook led me to believe had authentic live gypsy music. The music may or may not have been authentic (what do I know), but it was very disappointing; saccharine and boring. I thought it would be like the soundtrack to Latcho Drom, a movie which, if you haven't seen it, you ought to run out and watch it. That, to me, is real gypsy music. Anyhow, we regrouped and went instead to Klassz, some 15 or 20 blocks north of our hostel in a very posh restaurant district. It was great, but I decided I was too tired to bring my camera and do the food blog thing — I was just about dead on my feet at this point — so you don't get foodie photos. Funnily enough, I remember that Hayley got a sweet corn risotto that was very tasty but very rich, but I have no recollection of what I ate. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it. Ah well, you can never step in the same river twice.
And then we went back to the hostel and slept very soundly.