Thursday, 29 August 2019


I normally book our holidays quite far ahead and spend a great deal of time researching and making plans. This summer we wanted to go on a trip with our eldest son before his enlistment but had to wait till quite the last minute to find out his date. Once that was confirmed I went online to check out flights. Hungary was one of the least expensive places for a late summer booking yet, once I had booked those flights, I was delighted to discover that several of our friends had been there and everyone loved it! 
Modern Budapest is the result of a historic amalgamation of the separate cities of Buda and Pest (as well as the smaller and more distant Óbuda), and it is still typical to refer a restaurant on the "Buda side" or "living in Pest". We walked back and forth over the green Liberty Bridge and the imposing Chain Bridge, the first bridge spanning the Danube, many times during out stay. The hilly Buda side of Budapest covers the area west of the Danube including Castle Hill, whilst the busy and buzzing Pest side covers the area east of the Danube. I'll share my photos from Pest in another post. The photos in this post were all taken on the Buda side, where landmarks include Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion and the President of Hungary's residence Sándor Palace.
Matthias Church, top, is located atop the Buda Castle hill and is one of the finest churches in Budapest. It was used as a coronation church by Hungarian kings for centuries, as a mosque for over 150 years by the Ottoman Turks, was once owned by Franciscans and Jesuits, and is now a thriving Catholic church. Its delicate spires and coloured tile roofs are magnificent.
The nearby decorative fortification of Fisherman's Bastion, which looks rather like a Disney castle, was built in the 19th century. There used to be real castle walls where now you can take fantastic photos from, but the present day structure has never served as an actual fortification in Buda. The seven turrets of the bastion represent the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest. The first bridge across the Danube, it was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark and opened in 1849. At the time, its centre span of 202 metres was one of the largest in the world. The pairs of lions at each of the abutments were added in 1852. It is popular culture in Hungary to point out that the lions in fact have no tongues.
Though we chose to walk up the steep hill to Fisherman's Bastion on our first day, we decided to ride the funicular up to Castle Hill a few days later. The funicular has two cars in constant motion up and down the hill and was a short but fun ride!
Arriving at the top of the hill, we saw the Sándor Palace, the official residence of the President of Hungary, and Buda Castle, the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. The castle now houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library. I need to go back again to explore these museums.
Hospital in the Rock is a secret nuclear shelter and wartime hospital built in the caverns under Buda Castle in the 1930s, in preparation for World War II. The hospital was actively used during the war until July 1945 and then during the 1956 Revolution to treat wounded civilians and soldiers. Between 1958 and 1962 it was expanded to withstand potential chemical and nuclear attacks during the Cold War. Our one-hour guided tour of the hospital was both fascinating and moving.
Then it was time for some fun! Budapest has several nicknames, the Paris of East, the Pearl of the Danube, and also the City of Spas. There are so many natural warm spring waters under the city that Budapest has had several great thermal baths for many centuries. We decided to check out the Gellért Baths, though had we had more time in Budapest, we would have tried others as well, since each of the baths has a distinct character.
Part of the famous Hotel Gellért, the Gellért Baths were built between 1912 and 1918 in the Art Nouveau style. They were damaged during World War II but then rebuilt. Besides the outdoor wave pool, which was a big hit with the eldest son, there are 11 other pools of various sizes and temperatures, saunas and steam rooms. Massage treatments are also available. We had a wonderful afternoon at the the Gellért Baths, moving from pool to pool before it was time to start exploring the city once again.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Their Wedding Picture

A new customer asked me to make a special card for her husband for their 25th wedding anniversary, their silver wedding anniversary. She asked me to create a paper reproduction of their wedding picture and to add the number 25, along with flags of the UK and Israel.
Apparently the historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their twenty-fifth anniversary, and a gold wreath on the fiftieth. No wreaths were requested for this card, but I did cut out the number 25 from silver and finished off my design with a small silver heart.
"Just picked up my card!! I love it thanks so much!!" my customer wrote to me.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Giyus Kal

Having made many Good Luck cards for new soldiers over the years, it was recently time for me to make a card for my eldest son. We have known for many years - actually from the day he was born - that his conscription day would come but of course time flies and it came around quickly! He is now a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and will be so for 3 years. We couldn't be prouder!
Every Israeli male and female from the age of 18 who is Jewish, Druze or Circassian (Arab citizens of Israel are not conscripted) is required to serve three and two years, respectively, of compulsory military service. Some exceptions are made on religious, physical, or psychological grounds. The IDF determines a medical profile for each soldier and, according to that profile, decides where to assign the draftees. The highest medical profile draftees serve in the five infantry Brigades, Field/Combat Intelligence units, and Combat engineers. The second highest medical profiles are assigned to serve in the Armoured Corps, Artillery, Military Police, Border Police, and Aman. The lowest acceptable level of medical profiles are drafted into the combat support and combat service support arms, such as the Adjutant Corps, Logistics Corps, and the Ordnance Corps
The Army calls upon a potential soldier in a letter called the Tzav Rishon, or "First Draft Notice". This letter states that the teenager must report to a certain place at a certain time for a day-long examination and interviewing. After careful evaluation of the Tzav Rishon's results the army calls the people to enlist when they turn 18 to begin the army process and basic training.
From time to time a public debate emerges in Israel around the issue of exemption from military service in Israel and indeed whether the country should end conscription in favour of an all-volunteer force. In the meantime there is a need for a large army and there is great pride - and of course some fear - in sending our kids off for their national service.
What else was there to do before my son went in but to make a small celebration for him? The barbecue and beers were of course with his friends but I made him a cake and a special card. The Hebrew greeting on the card says Giyus Kal. Giyus means "recruitment," "enlistment" or "induction" and is most closely associated with the army, as in terms like lishkat giyus, or military induction centre; tzav giyus, or draft notice; and mesibat giyus, the party many Israelis throw just before they join the army for their compulsory service. "Kal" means "easy".
I am hoping and praying that his service will indeed be easy, safe and meaningful to him.

* Edited to add that a young man visiting our home pointed out that soldiers salute with their right hand! All future new soldier cards will be made that way. This card will become a collector's piece 😉

Saturday, 17 August 2019


The rectangular building known as the Kishle (Turkish for "temporary encampment") is situated to the south of the Tower of David, just inside and south of the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Over the years I had heard about the excavations under the building that revealed the foundations of King Herod's Palace and was eager to see them for myself. Mister Handmade in Israel and I were recently able to join a tour of the building which first took us the top of the Jerusalem Citadel (another name for the Tower of David) where we enjoyed the panoramic views of the Old and New City.
We continued through the citadel, examining Hasmonean and Herodian walls along the way, then entered a dry moat surrounding the citadel where we were shown a magnificent stepped pool that was part of King Herod’s Palace. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us that Herod's Palace complex, begun in the last quarter of the first century BCE, comprised a palace with two wings divided by pools and gardens and was protected by three large towers on the northwestern corner of the precinct.
In 1898 the moat in which we had walked was narrowed and blocked up to enable carriages to enter the Old City during the visit of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. Among the enormous changes carried out by the Turks in the Jaffa Gate plaza prior to the emperor's visit, the most significant was the destruction of part of the wall next to the gate, when the moat was filled in with earth. Later the moat was turned into a shuk (market) for Jerusalem traders.
The prison corridor in the days of the British Mandate.

To see the Kishle itself we climbed a circular metal staircase to a fenced roof, before entering the barracks. A long hall of concrete, stone and dirt greeted us. Work beneath the barracks is still very much in progress.
The Kishle was first built in 1834 by Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian ruler of Palestine at the time. The building continued to be used as a military compound when Ottoman rule resumed in the city in 1841, and during the British Mandate it was used as a police station and a prison where some members of the Jewish underground were incarcerated. It stopped being used as a prison after Israel recaptured the Old City during the 1967 Six-Day War, and the nearby headquarters building became an Israeli police station.
Turkish soldiers of the Camel Unit in the Kishle, 1910.
Photo from National Photo Collection of Israel.

Investiture by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, in Barracks Square, 19th March 1918. This image clearly shows the Kishle as a two story building with a tiled roof.
Photo from Israeli Decorations.

Prince Arthur, third son of Queen Victoria, presents medals and honours in Barracks Square. Note the Kishle on the left. 19th March 1918.
Photo from Israeli Decorations.

Our guide showed us photographs from the period of the British Mandate. General Allenby was here and in the stormy years that followed the building was used to hold Irgun fighters struggling to establish a Jewish state. They left their mark on the prison walls, below, with the Irgun emblem - a map which shows both Mandatory Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan, which the Irgun claimed in its entirety for a future Jewish state - as well as the name of the 'artist', Shmuel Matza, a former Irgun fighter and then a lawyer. Detained in autumn 1947, Matza slipped his breakfast fork in his pocket just before the guards accompanied him back to his quarters and when the lights went out and everyone was sleeping, including the police officers, he quietly carved the emblem of the Irgun and his name deep into the prison walls.
The Kishle was slated for renovations in the year 2000. The wrought iron bars of the prison were going to be torn down and replaced with a new multipurpose space for temporary exhibitions and lectures but before any new cement could be added, archaeological digs, led by Amit Re'em from the Israel Antiquities Authority, began in 1999. They lasted two years.
Pulling up the floorboards, archaeologists found layer upon layer of Jerusalem's history. They found an 11th century cloth-dying and leather-tanning factory, demonstrating Jewish life in Jerusalem during the Crusader period, as recorded in the diary of Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Israel in 1172. Around 200 Jews were believed to be living in the vicinity of the citadel. They discovered the foundations of King Herod's Palace, described as the most magnificent dwelling in the entire Roman Empire, lined in marble and decorated in gold. Many believe the palace may have served as the Praetorium, the site of Jesus' trial by Pontius Pilate, along the original route of the Via Dolorosa that Jesus followed to his crucifixion. Next to the palace foundations they found the walls built by the Hasmonean kings at the end of the second century and early first century BCE, and a wall built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BCE.
The Kishle will eventually be transformed into a large visitor site, including a cutting-edge multimedia archaeological centre within the historic structure, alongside a new, two-story entrance and exhibition gallery building with space for lectures and events. I was happy to see it in it's raw state, before the building work really begins.

* This post has been shared on All Seasons, The Good. The Random. The Fun., Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday), Sharon's Souvenir's, Our World Tuesday, Foto Tunes, Travel Tuesday and My Corner of the World.