Monday, 2 September 2019

Pest

"Visit Buda but stay in Pest" is the advice every Budapest visitor is given. We did indeed stay in Pest and had a terrific time exploring that side of the city.
We climbed the 364 steps up to the observation deck of St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest church in Budapest, below. The beautiful, panoramic views of the city made it well worth the effort! The Basilica's dome is 96 metres high, the exact same height as the Budapest Parliament Building. In fact current building regulations stipulate that no other structure in Budapest can be taller than 96 metres. Having the same height as the Parliament also symbolises the balance between church and state in Hungary.
The patron saint of the church is St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary. His mummified right hand is kept in a glass case in the chapel to the left of the main altar!
The controversial new Memorial to all Victims of the Holocaust in Szabadság Square made us feel uncomfortable. Created for the 70th anniversary of Hungary's Nazi German occupation, it has been heavily criticised for distorting Hungary's role in the Holocaust. The monument, which depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle, appears to absolve the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 565,000 Jewish people to their deaths during the occupation.
Protests around the memorial are still very active. The loudest opponents are Hungary's opposition parties, as well as numerous academic institutions and, of course, the Jewish community. A counter-memorial, with photos and messages from family members who lost someone during this horrific time in history, has been put up to remind people of the true victims. It was well worth a few minutes of reflection.
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. It is situated in Kossuth Square, on the banks of the Danube. It was built in the Gothic Revival style. It has a symmetrical façade and a central dome and was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl. It opened in 1902 and is still the largest building in Hungary. 
We were able to take a guided tour of the Parliament, available when the National Assembly is not in session. The tour covered the main entrance stairs, the hexadecagonal (sixteen-sided) central hall, with huge chambers adjoining it: the Lower House and the Upper House (the modern National Assembly is unicameral and meets in the Lower House, while the Upper House is used as a conference and meeting room), and the Holy Crown of Hungary. The Crown Jewels have been lost and stolen numerous times. After World War II, they were transported to Western Europe and eventually given to the American Army for safekeeping from the Soviet Union. For much of the Cold War, the Crown Jewels were held at the United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox, Kentucky) alongside the bulk of America's gold reserves. They were eventually returned to Hungary under the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1978.
The Shoes on the Danube memorial to the Budapest Jews who were shot by Arrow Cross militiamen between 1944 and 1945, is located along the edge of the Danube, just south of the Hungarian Parliament Building. The victims were lined up and shot into the Danube. They had to take their shoes off, since shoes were valuable belongings at the time.
The simple yet chilling memorial was conceptualised by movie director Can Togay and created by the Hungarian sculptor Gyula Pauer in 2005. It contains 60 pairs of iron shoes, forming a row along the Danube. Each pair of shoes - a man's work boot, a business man's loafer, a woman's pair of heels and even the tiny shoes of a child - was modelled after an original 1940s pair. They were chosen specifically to illustrate how no one, regardless of age, gender, or occupation was spared. Placed in a casual fashion, as if the people just stepped out of them, these little statues are a grim reminder of the souls who once occupied them. Next to the shoes visitors have lit memorial candles, left flowers and some have even left stones inside them, as is the custom when visiting a Jewish grave.
At three points along the memorial are cast iron signs with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: "To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005." Sadly the signs lie flat in the ground and were hard to spot. Nor did they mention that the majority of the victims were Jews, another example of the whitewashing by the Hungarian government of the role of the Hungarian Arrow Cross in the Jewish genocide of World War II.
Why don't the signs say who these victims were?
On a happier note, our visit to The Great Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest, was a lot of fun! Built for the Hungarian Millennium of 1896 with beautiful tiled roofs and a colourful facade of patterned orange bricks, the market offers a large variety of stalls on three floors. The ground floor is devoted to food items. Pastries, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, wine and liquor, and other Hungarian foodstuffs can be purchased here. The range of products is almost overwhelming! The second mezzanine floor has eateries and tourist souvenirs. The basement contains fish mongers, picked vegetables stalls and a few specialised butcher shops.
We picked up some paprika, then went upstairs to try out lángos, the traditional Hungarian dish, at a super crowded stall. It was tasty.
Heroes' Square, above, is one of the major squares in Budapest, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heroes. The square lies at the end of Andrássy Avenue, next to the City Park. It hosts the Museum of Fine Arts and the The Budapest Hall of Art, though once again I need to go back to explore these museums. The square has played an important part in contemporary Hungarian history and has been a host to many political events.
Széchenyi thermal baths, below, the largest medicinal bath in Europe, is located in the City Park. The spring waters of the baths were discovered in the 1880s and by 1913 millions were enjoying the fun aqua therapeutical powers of the baths. Of course I would have liked to have tried these baths as well as the Gellért Baths in Buda, but sadly there wasn't time for everything! The main building of the Széchenyi Baths is truly impressive. The front facade, dominated by three large domed pavilions, is more reminiscent of a palace than a bathhouse. The roof of the central hall is decorated with bronze statues of galloping horses and the entrances are flanked by massive Corinthian columns. It was worth popping in just to see it.
One more place worth mentioning is the House of Terror, a museum located on the lovely, tree-lined Andrássy Avenue. The museum contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building.
The building was used by the Arrow Cross Party and ÁVH and the museum was set up in order to recall these two bloody periods of Hungarian history. Whilst it incredibly harrowing, sad and upsetting, once again we felt that the museum portrays Hungary too much as the victim of foreign occupiers and does not recognise enough the contribution that Hungarians themselves made to the regimes in question as well.
A portion of the Berlin Wall is located on an little strip outside the museum, along with an Iron Curtain Memorial, a chain sculpture reminding visitors of the city's dark history during Soviet rule.
As I left the museum and stepped back out into the bright daylight and onto Andrássy Avenue, my mind was still trying to process the evil that humans can do to one another. There was plenty to think about.

24 comments:

VeggieMummy said...

Those shoes are heartbreaking. Thank you for the tour - I shall definitely remember the advice to visit Buda but stay in Pest if I'm ever lucky enough to go. xx

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Your photos are beautiful. Visiting Buda and Pest with you is a great way to start the week. #MMBC

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Heartbreaking sadness and great beauty in one city ... you saw much more than we did on our brief overview.

EricaSta said...

Indeed, my friend says the same words. Its a wonderful City.

NCSue said...

Great photos. Nice to "travel" along with you!
Thanks for joining this week's linkup at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/09/a-strange-sight.html

Catherine Lanser said...

Wow, what an incredible trip and very thoughtful post.

A Bit of the Blarney said...

What wonderful photos!! Your post is remarkable in its handling of the Holocaust and the sadness it evokes. We must never forget!!! Thank you!

Lady Fi said...

Gorgeous shots.

Veronica Lee said...

Love your photos. Sounds like an amazing trip. I hope to visit Budapest someday.

Tom said...

...wow, what a trip through the treasure of Budapest. Something as simple as shoes can be have an impact. Thanks for sharing, I hope that you are having a wonderful week.

Lisa notes... said...

That's a lot of steps to climb, but I'm glad it was worth it. We climbed a lot of steps last week when we visited Mount Rushmore, but I don't think it was that many. :)

Michelle said...

Wow! What a mixed bag. The architecture is astounding. That Gothic style is both impressive and harsh in appearance. The monuments to the holocaust are at once horrifying and yet perhaps necessary given the rise of fascism globally. It is interesting that Hungary is trying to distance itself from any culpability, but I can understand the desire to do so.

Your photos are absolutely lovely! Thank you for taking us on this tour.

judee said...

Thank you for all these wonderful photos and your insight and comments regarding the photos. So much of it is sad

mireille said...

So much beauty and history!
www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

Mother of 3 said...

Beautiful photos of your trip!

betty-NZ said...

Wow. Your trip is full of beautiful scenery and heartbreaking history. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
I'm happy to see your link on 'My Corner of the World' this week! Thanks for linking up!


My Corner of the World

Unknown said...

I was in Budapest later winter and I loved it. I loved the beautiful bridges and the many historic buildings. #FarawayFiles

Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World said...

I have yet to visit Buda OR Pest, such incredibly beautiful architecture. I'm also a big fan of seeking out what's for sale at the local market and would love to take home some of those peppers. The memorial of the shoes along the Danube is truly moving. Thank you for sharing your personal tour of the city with #FarawayFiles.

Sharon Wagner said...

The shoe memorial is so moving. And on a lighter note, the rooftop photos are uplifting!

Gluten Free Alchemist said...

I too have recently returned from Budapest. So strange looking at someone else's photos of the same place. It was a beautiful city and one I shall definitely return to.... but boy... the steps up the Basilica were a killer!!! x #FarawayFiles

Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields said...

Wow this post really took me back. I had forgotten how much we enjoyed Budapest when we were there. I remember so many of the things you mention - the tour of the Parliament building, the shoes along the Danube and all those steps.

Allison said...

Sounds like a fascinating trip. Pest looks beautiful. The shoes on the Danube memorial is heartbreaking and yet beautiful in a way, as well. It assures that those people and the tragic way they died will never be forgotten.

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) said...

What a fascinating place Pest in Hungary is through your post. You took some great photos especially of the sad and heartwrenching shoes on the Danube. The Great Market Hill indoor market in Budapest looks like fun. I would love to just wander around there. Thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

Sharon said...

Your post brought back so many memories of my visit to Budapest a year ago. The shoes on the Danube and the House of Terror museum were 2 of the most memorable places for me. I would like to see the Hungary 70th anniversary memorial. It sounds interesting. I found the city fascinating partly because it has such varied approaches to history. A literal iron curtain is on display, the Hospital in the Rock criticizes the dropping of the atomic bomb -- so many different viewpoints of history. I loved Budapest and hope to go back someday!

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