Saturday, July 24, 2010

Budapest: Day II

  Day 2 was cooler and blustery, with a bit of rain in the morning.  Jack joined Hayley and I, having been a bit frustrated by the late start of the rest of the group the day before, I think.  We got out maybe 8 AM (?), since garbage trucks didn't wake us up, and since we were so beat from the day before.  We started out with a walking tour of Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube between Buda and Pest.  It's a green space, with some wooded areas and some open parks.  We began in a small Japanese garden that wasn't really that Japanese, but was a nice garden nonetheless:

  Margaret Island is nifty in part because it has some of the oldest buildings still standing in Budapest.  We soon reached a church originally dating to the 12th century:

  A rather blocky, plain edifice, but I always like the thought that a building has been there for so many centuries.  The next stop was almost as old, but in much less good shape: the ruins of a 13th century Dominican monastery:

  St. Margaret, the daughter of a king of Hungary, lived here from the age of nine; that's her sepulchre in the middle photo.  We had trouble locating the next couple of sights on the walking tour, and pretty much just ended up at the south end of the island after a bit of walking through parkland:

  There's a monument there dating from 1973, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the union of Buda, Pest, and Obuda.  It was a very odd monument, worth some photos.  All but the first photo are of the interior of the monument, which is a hollow shell:

  Now we got off the island to the Pest side, had some yummy cake (I demanded this pit stop because my feet were already hurting a lot; turned out I had two very nice blisters going), and went on to walk around the Parliament building:

  Just an amazing building, and an amazing monument to the sense of self-importance that government officials tend to have, as well.  :->  The flag with a hole in it dates to 1956, the end of the era of Soviet rule over Hungary.  Apparently the Soviets had put a crest of some sort on the center of the flag, as a symbol of their dominion.  When that ended, the newly free Hungarians cut the crest out of the center, and this flag still flies by Parliament as a reminder.

  Now we crossed over to the Buda side and walked up the hill to the Citadella, south of the palace complex, which I photographed from a distance the day before.  The Citadella was finished in 1851, intended to guard the city against insurrection against the Habsburgs, but the political climate shifted, and it became obsolete without ever having seen a battle.  Now it has some old artillery guns, and a bunch of tourist stalls, and the Liberty Monument, a monument with a complicated political history, intertwined with the Soviet role in Hungary, that has been reinterpreted as being dedicated to "those who gave up their lives for Hungary's independence, freedom and prosperity."

  At the time, I thought we were at a different monument, commemorating the spot where, in 1046, a bishop was hurled to his death inside a spiked barrel by pagan Hungarians resisting the Church.  Sadly, we were not at that monument after all.

  Now we made our way back down the hill and had lunch at a random restaurant we located by chance.  It seemed like a pretty typical Hungarian neighborhood restaurant; we were pretty much the only people there.  I had a nice meal of beer, fish soup, and fish; not sure why I was craving fish so much:

  I thought my meal was pretty good, but I'm not sure the others were as happy.  It may have just hit the spot because I was utterly exhausted; I was almost so tired and sore that I was no longer having fun, although I wasn't quite to that point.  After lunch, Jack took off on his own to explore southern Buda, I think, and Haley and I rediscovered the meaning of life by spending pretty much spent the rest of the day at Gellert Baths.  Gellert is more upscale that Szechenyi, part of a ritzy hotel, and is decorated in an art nouveau style with lots of stained glass:

  Its main indoor pool is particularly photogenic:

  Photography is not permitted at their other indoor pools, for whatever reason (everybody has suits on), so you will just have to visit Gellert yourself to see them.  They have two thermal mineral pools, and maybe another pool or two somewhere, but it's not nearly as extensive as Szechenyi.  They have an outdoor pool area as well, with a wave generator for added fun, but I didn't spend any time outside this day, since I was already quite sunburned enough:

  Overall, I liked Szechenyi rather more than Gellert.  That one amazing indoor pool at Gellert was just blissfully ornate; as my guidebook says, it feels like swimming in a cathedral.  But overall, Szechenyi had more choices and options, and it felt more "real."  Anyhow, after a good deal of soaking, it was time to go catch our train at the rather palatial train station:

  We caught the right train this time, and there were no breakdowns, and we got back to Vienna quite uneventfully.  And then I worked really hard all week, and am working much of this weekend (I have a presentation on Wednesday for which I'd like to have a particular chunk of work done), so this is the last you're likely to hear from me for a bit!  It feels very odd to actually be home for a weekend, rather than zipping off to some foreign city.  But I can sure use the rest.  We're heading into the home stretch in the YSSP, and there is a whole lot to do: finishing our projects, writing them up, presenting them, working on publications stemming from them, etc.  It's going to be a crazy month!


  1. wow you must walk a lot to get 2 blister. How that happen. Hope your shoes work ok.. I didn't know that there is Buda and Pest...

  2. Yeah, my shoes are fine, it wasn't really a shoe issue. I did walk a lot. :->