Saturday, March 24, 2007

Travel - Budapest One


On our first day in Budapest, we explored the neighborhood – full of photo-worthy building after photo-worthy building. The Delibab Hotel is across the street from Hero’s square (built to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Hungary), two art museums (one with a Van Gough exhibit) and a huge park (with a spring time status of the skating rink now melted and the canoe pond drained).

The Delibab was originally constructed for orphaned Jewish girls and each little room has a little bathroom and two closets and two cupboards. The ceilings are tall and the banister is a narrow metal affair with a regular series of bumps which we guess were to discourage unlady-like sliding.

We saved the nearby museums for a possible rainy day and walked around the park where we found what Rick thought was a huge pocket watch. He was almost right. It’s a sculpture called Time Wheel, the world’s largest hour glass. So large in fact that it takes not an hour to transfer its sand from one side to the other but rather a year. On the last day of the year, pulleys and cranes work to roll Time Wheel on its base so it can start again.

St. Augustine is quoted on the dedication plaque, “What is time then? If nobody asks me, I know; if I have to explain it, I do not.”

We rode the subway into the center city and looked at the Danube in the moonlight. The castle was shining on the opposite bank while a ferry chugged gently in the water.

We also searched for the pater-noster, a lift that carries people only upward, never stopping but letting passengers hop on or off as it slowly makes its way up the building. It drops in darkness to the basement and starts up again. Named for the similarity to a chain of rosary beads, it is an outdated conveyance and is now so outdated that, apparently, the last buildings that had it are gone and shiny new structures are growing behind scaffolding.

We ate at a picnic table in the center of “downtown” and listed to a soprano sax at the corner.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The rain started just in time for our morning excursion so we went to one of the art museums. My favorite piece was by Franz von Lenback . Titled “Triumphal Arch of Titus, Rome” it was more like photo than painting. Everything was in perfect proportion, the shadows were just as they might be seen, the clothing was detailed, the backgrounds were what we took photos of on Wednesday.

There was a gypsy family walking under the arch with a donkey while two little boys rolled in the dirt at the edge of the road and goats watched them. It was nice to see something other than Jesus, Mary and Joseph surrounded by saints and angles and speaking of saints it appears that Barthomew was flayed. He looked at first as if he was standing in his red union suit with a white scarf but that scarf had hands and feet and his right hand held a knife. He had quite the serene look for someone standing skinless and one might wonder what he did to deserve such treatment.

In the afternoon we went to The Great Market Hall. It had stalls full of garlic, peppers, veggies, beef, fish, and the aroma of superior sauerkraut. We took photos and looked at crafts. The local crafts include very expensive and colorful tablecloths and blouses as well as very colorful porcelain and very colorful painted eggs and toys. Color was big on the list. It was nicely done work but just too colorful.

We took the metro to the train station to see what Emilie and Josh said was the most beautiful McDonalds ever. It certainly was gorgeous. It seemed that the old train station was larger than needed for train business so there were stores and clubs and a huge McDonalds. A McDonalds of majesty built in the remnants of the old train station restaurant.

We walked some dark and empty streets to see Parliament at night. There were lots of cars but not many walkers. We went back to the hotel with plans to make it out there again,

Back at the hotel we checked the weather on the internet to learn of continuing rain that will give way to four days of sun by evening. Yippee,


At about 3:30 people moved into the room next to ours though it sounded as if they were in our our two little closet moving refrigerators, stomping and yelling. It went on for about 20 minutes – TV, talking, music, clomping, banging. It didn't seem there was enough stuff in the room to make that much noise.

We had breakfast and took off for the Saturday flea market – a place that like supermarkets often shows tremendous variety and unexpected sights. If we were into Smurfs or Star Wars we would have thought we’d gone to shopper’s heaven. In addition to those toys we found CDs, Playstation games, toys, sundries, food, and lots of geodes and crystals too. We bought nothing. Actually we didn’t buy anything but food here until Saturday afternoon.

We walked to the Amusement park to see the carousel, now a national treasure. It’s in a glass building at the road side so we didn't have to enter the park. It has horses on platforms that seemed to be positioned to lift and rock but though the park had been supposedly open for an hour nobody was there to ride. This was perfectly reasonable since it was so cold and damp.

We took photos of the museums in the area and of the Anonymous Monk. Aspiring writers touch his quill for inspiration. The monk wrote the history of the area but I guess he never signed his name.

We strolled around the bathhouse and tried to understand what it offers and what it costs. It seemed we should try this famous and popular Hungarian activity but getting wet on such a cold damp day does not sound inviting. The building is beautiful – ornate, yellow, large, clean, holding lots more people than the Amusement Park.

The bathhouse offers massages and carbolic acid baths as well as mud wraps and steam baths.
Em and Josh though about going inside when they came here last year but they didn't actually bathe.

We did find our way into a grocery store where we found lots of sliced meats. It was interesting how many processed, sliced meats there were. The raw meats too were stacked tall and shiny in the cooler. In the great market we found smoked meats – hams, bacon, sausages – salt-crusted and dark brown hanging on hooks above the clerks. Some of the hams and cheeses looked as if they would need a forklift to get them down.

We went downtown and chanced upon a peasant dancing troupe with a band consisting of hammered dulcimer, two violins and a bass and then went to the Opera House in time to miss the 3 o’clock tour so we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica and rode the elevator to the dome. Well, part way to the dome after which we labored up winding staircases to the top where we could walk around the dome on the outside and see the whole city while being whipped by vicious winds.

The Basilica took 50+ years to build and made its way through three architects in the process. It is loaded with gold leaf and has the desiccated right hand of St. Stephen near the main altar. It also has the largest organ in Hungary. I’ll bet Laurel Buckwalter could play it and wonder what Where Sheep Safely Graze would sound like there.

We traveled back on the subway to the center of town and actually bought two things: a soprano recorder (almond wood) and a spoon (apple wood). The flute maker was a flute player and he could really rock on anything –shepherd’s flute, double flute, recorder, ocarina.

We found the chain bridge and the funicular railroad but tomorrow is supposed to be 15 degrees warmer and much drier so we are waiting for that before we cross the river. The Danube, by the by, is not blue in this city though it may be elsewhere.

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