Our Last Day in Budapest

Day 83, Saturday, November 16, 2019

These fellows on stilts are drinking alcohol which doesn’t seem like the best combination of activities to me.  This is the pedestrian street near our apartment. We visit the Buda side of Budapest today.  First stop is the Matthias Church, located in the Holy Trinity Square in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion.  It has a beautiful tiled roof and a 60 metre tall bell tower.  There are a lot of people here.This is the Fisherman’s Bastion. One theory is that it got its name from the fisherman in the city that was located just below the Bastion. It is also said that the fishermen defended the Bastion in times of war.  The Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1895 and 1902 to celebrate the 1,000th birthday of the Hungarian state.

It is a beautiful panoramic terrace that serves as a lookout point, and also to enhance the beauty of the Matthias Church. One of the many great views from the Bastion.We had to wait a bit to find an arch not filled with other tourists.  It often takes a while before I can get a decent photo, which involves deciding where I can get the best view and waiting until vehicles and other people are not in my picture frame.  Bob is very patient, waiting for me to take photos.  I probably take at least 5 or 6 photos for every one I use in this blog. The Bastion was inspired by the architectural style of the early medieval times. It has many towers and was meant to feel like a fairy tale castle, as it wasn’t built for defence. I am always happy when I find a dragon! These medieval church ruins were built into the modern Hilton Budapest Hotel.The Black Plague caused the death of 30-60% of Europe’s total population in 1691 and 1709.  People believed that erecting a column would protect them from the plague.  The carving on the top of the column represents the Holy Trinity.  Below this the whole column is decorated with smaller statues depicting angels, and saints.  The central sculpture shows King David praying to God to let his people avoid the outbreak of a plague.  Residents believed the Holy Trinity Column did its job, as the plague never returned after 1709. On our walk to the nearby Buda Castle we pass these Medieval ruins.  Beneath some of the ruins there is a wine cellar which offers wine tastings.  It is located below the remains of a 13th century Dominican Cloister, which is part of a huge labyrinth system underneath the Castle Hill.  King Matthias (1457-1458) adopted the crow as his heraldic emblem after catching one of them stealing a ring, and killing it to get his ring back. These gates are topped with a crow with a ring in its mouth.  The gates are very bizarre, almost creepy looking. This is the back side of the Buda Castle… and here is a close up of its fountain.  Too bad the water in all the fountains in Budapest has already been turned off for the winter.The front of the Buda Castle with lots of tourists… and a bride and groom taking their wedding photos.  I wonder if the photographer has to photoshop out all the tourists? We see a large river cruise ship o the Danube. There are walkways high above Medieval walls. We walk down a flight of stairs below a statue of the Madonna and baby Jesus.  When we walk across this bridge we can see these same stairs on the far left side of this photo.It is hard walking on these cobblestones along the river. The sidewalks in Budapest are often uneven, with loose stones and ridges or holes.  It would be easy to twist an ankle if you don’t pay attention.
We are walking to this little bookstore that sells handmade journals.  Bomo Art is a tiny store, less than 2 metres wide!  It didn’t have any larger sketchbooks with good paper for drawing.  Too bad, or maybe it was good.  My suitcase is already pretty heavy with the two sketchbooks I bought in Linz, and the huge Dürer book I got in Vienna. We watched this street performer for a while and wondered how he was able to hold this difficult pose.  We later saw him in a different position but when we walk by again we see a guy lean heavily on him and to our surprise he crumples!  Turns out he is a mechanical man!  People were putting lots of coins into his can, trying to get him to move.  They had no idea they were being tricked into thinking this was a man in costume.  It is quite cool at night but it doesn’t stop people from sitting outside drinking beer.   One last walk down the decorated street towards the Christmas Market.  There are so many more people out on the streets tonight.

We pass a store that has very colourful electric kettles and matching toasters. We stop at one of the stalls and I buy a couple small gifts I have been eyeing every time we walk by.   I also took photos of the food stands.  Pork hocks are a big item here!  We were going to buy a meal here a few days ago but quickly changed our minds when we discovered that one cabbage roll, albeit a big one, would cost us 5,000 Forints, the equivalent of $25 Canadian!  A small plate with a sausage and two small helpings of side dishes was $35.00!  We were rather shocked at how expensive it was.  We saw other tourists change their mind and refuse to purchase what they had ordered when they realized the price. I saw lots of these sparkling balloons and thought they were so pretty.  They were even nicer in person than in the photo.  We spend the rest of the evening tidying the apartment and packing for our drive to Croatia tomorrow.  Oh, and the puppet show we saw ws ‘Coraline’.

The Jewish Quarter and Thermal Baths in Budapest

Day 82, Friday, November 15, 2019

We walk through the Old Jewish Quarter this morning.  These murals are on buildings within a block of our apartment. Many of the buildings in this neighbourhood are old and in need of repair but the murals do brighten up the neighbourhood. Bob tells me to look inside this little blue van… It is set up as a little dining room!   It is kind of cute, except I look in the front seat and it is dirty and cluttered with junk.  Not very appetizing,  There are many shops and workshops tucked into the buildings on narrow streets, sometimes even in the basements, like this bike shop.  I think my bike riding daughter will appreciate the sentiment of the sign above this door.
This is probably one of the most colourful doors I have ever seen.The buildings here have very interesting architectural details.
Seems every city we have ever been in has an Astoria Hotel! Loved the room at the top of this white building.  Imagine living there. The Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial was funded by the late American actor Tony Curtis in memory of his Hungarian-born father. The names of 30,000 Holocaust victims are engraved on the leaves of the metal tree.  The tree resembles an upside down menorah and is located on top of the mass graves of thousands of murdered Jews. The tree is located behind The Dohány Street Synagogue which is also known as the Great Synagogue.  It seats 3,000 people and is the largest synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world.  We didn’t have time to go inside because  we want to go to a thermal bath today.One more interesting building on our way back to our apartment.  The top doesn’t seem to belong to the bottom. The Széchenyi Spa Bath in Budapest is the largest one in Europe, with 15 indoor and 3 large outdoor pools.  Its water is supplied by two thermal springs.  Here is the floorpan of this huge complex.Térkép

 We start out in this pool with a fun whirlpool-like circular ‘river’ that pushes you around it very quickly.   This pools for lane swimming, not for us today. We like this pool as it is warmer than the first one.   Inside there are fifteen more pools.  This is one of the warmer ones and the only one that has comfy lounge chairs, so we stay here for a while.  I sit beside Bob, in the corner and do some drawings of the bathers.  Budapest didn’t have any life drawing classes, or at least none that I could find, so this will do instead.   The building is magnificent but it is starting to show its age here and there.  I think it might need a renovation before too long.  This is a great place for people watching, and we do come in all shapes and sizes! By the time we go back outside it is dark, and the steam is rising from the pools.  We were thinking of taking a boat ride on the Danube tonight but we decide to stay and enjoy more time here.There are more people now than when we first arrived, and most of them are much younger than us.  We see a few other grey-haired ‘oldies’ but we are few and far between.  We spent more than five hours enjoying the baths, and we both feel nice and relaxed.

Danube River Taxi and Puppet Show in Budapest.

Day 81, Thursday, November 14, 2019

We take a river taxi this morning and finally get onto the Danube River.  There are all sorts of boats on the river…
including very long barges… river cruise ships,  and whatever this ship is.
Our taxi is quite nice, with tables and chairs on the top deck and a dining room on the main deck with white table cloths.  Not what we expected for a river taxi.  The ride is only four stops in the winter months so we also ride it back to where we started, just to spend a little more time on the river sight-seeing. There is a great view of the Buda Castle…  and an interesting row of houses on the Buda side of the river. We pass right under the Chain Bridge heading back towards the Parliament Building. The workers washing the sides of this river cruise ship waved to me when they saw I was taking pictures. The river was very calm and the sun was still low in the morning sky.  We could just make out the Liberty Statue we visited yesterday on top of the hill in the distance. We return to our stop near the Parliament Buildings and I get a great shot of this enormous building. The Budapest Parliament building is the third largest Parliament building in the world. It has 691 rooms, 20 kilometres of stairs and at 96 meters.  It is the same height as the St. Stephen’s Basilica.  We decided against visiting the interior in favour of spending our time outside.   This is our water taxi.  We saw several others but none of them looked as nice as this one.  I think we were just lucky and happened to catch the best one! The guards in front of the Parliament stand on opposite sides of this big flag pole and then every once in a while they march together round and round the flag pole.  We both think it must be quite tedious. We catch a bus back towards the Indoor Market.  I forgot to get a photo yesterday. We were looking for the ‘For Sale’ Pub, but when we walked in the waitress told us they weren’t open and refused to let me take a photo.  So here is one off of Trip Advisor.  If you have something for sale you write it on a piece of paper and stick it wherever you can.  This started before there was internet and now people pin whatever they want to the walls. There is straw and peanut shells all over the floor and candles on the tables.  Seems like an accident waiting to happen to me!

We walk from the market area back towards our apartment passing a variety of interesting buildings. Some of them were in need of restoration…
and others were well cared for. We stopped to see the University Library.  It is in an old palace, and we wandered about checking out the rooms.  This was the most interesting one, with its balcony, but I didn’t climb up to it.  The stairs were behind the librarian’s desk and I didn’t want to disturb all the people studying. Take a look at this corner…there are big bean bags for reading, or napping! We see flower boxes still in bloom in the middle of November, lots of these grey and black birds (they are Hooded Crows), interesting art work in shop windows, and this sign which translates to One Psalm.  No idea what that means.There are so many gorgeous buildings in this city…
it is easy to take too many building photos! After lunch and a rest we are back on the streets, looking for a puppet theatre.  We pass several buildings with wooden scaffolding, made with big timbers.  There are a lot of buildings that need work, and we see quite a few that are boarded up along one of Budapest’s main streets.
The puppet show is in Hungarian but we know the story and thought it would be a fun things to see.  The theatre was full of school kids who really enjoyed the show.  We did too.  Here are some fo the cast taking a bow at the end of the play… and some of the displays in the lobby. I did some drawing during the play.  These drawings were done in the dark so I couldn’t see what I had drawn until the lights came on.  Can you figure out what the play was?  There is a pretty big clue in my drawings.

I peek into this book store as we walk home after the play. I love book stores that look like this!These photographs were on the wall outside the House of Terror Museum. According ot Wikipedia “It 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.”   We pass this rather odd couple on our walk home, not far from the House of Terror.

Gellért Hill, Budapest

Day 80, Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Yesterday was a quiet stay at home day.  I didn’t even take one photo!

Today we are going to the Citadella which is the fortification located upon the top of Gellért Hill in Budapest.  On our way there many of the store windows have Christmas displays. I laugh watching these two guys.  They are dressed the same, stand the same and both are smoking and looking at their cellphones.  They even both take a drag on their cigarettes at the same time! Budapest has very pretty manhole covers. Bob tells me we are going to the top of that hill across the Danube River on the Buda side of the city.  I am quite happy to hear there is a bus that will take us most of the way. The metro stations in Budapest are very deep underground.  They were built so that they could be used as bomb shelters.  I wonder what would happen if a bomb fell above a station full of people.  How would they get out…would they be trapped by all the rubble?  Then I decide that they could walk down the tracks and maybe get out at another spot.  Bob says I think too much! We are on top of Gelléert Hill and it was only a short climb from the bus stop.  There are great views of Budapest looking to the East… and the West.

The Statue of Liberty on Gellert Hill was a communist statue erected in 1947 to commemorate the liberation of Budapest and Hungary from the Nazi rule and to celebrate Hungary’s being part of the Soviet Union.  Hungarians liked the statue enough not to remove it in 1989 when Hungary became a democratic country, so they added the inscription to read “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.”  Bob called me over to watch an older man operating a shell game near here. He had a cardboard box and three shells, and people bet on which shell a pea was under after they were shuffled.  We were astounded that he was able to convince people to bet 400 or 500 euros.  Of course once they made such a large bet they always lost!  500 euros is $750!  It was crazy!  Once he made a couple big scores he got up and left.  Not a bad day’s pay!  I can’t believe how gullible and arrogant people are.  Of course they neverstood a chance…they were going to lose their money. It is getting windy so we start down the hill.  We are walking down…
through a park with lots of trees… and a couple playgrounds.  This one takes advantage of the hillside.  We tried this slide too. This cross is about halfway down the hillside and marks the location of the Cave Church directly below it. This statue of St. Stephen is near the entrance to the Cave Church. For more information and photos about this curious church check out this link. A bit further down the hill we peek inside the Gellért Hotel… which houses one of Budapest’s thermal bath houses.  It looks very fancy. Here is a view of the cave entrance from the street below…  and the Liberty Statue at the top of the hill. We walked back across the bridge to the Pest side of the river… and visit the Indoor market. I thought these kohlrabi were huge but the radishes were enormous, about the size of an egg!  I’ve never seen radishes that big!  We have supper here but unfortunately the food wasn’t really all that great.  On our walk back home we pass through the Christmas Market and I notice these teapots.  I would have loved to have bought one but worried about getting it home in one piece.
These necklaces are made with seed beads!  Imagine how long it would take to make each one.

Walking Tour of Budapest

Day 78, Monday November 11, 2019

I posted part of today on Remembrance Day, and now I am adding the rest of our day’s activities.  Here is the rest of our November 11 walking tour.

Bob has organized a walking tour of Budapest today.  As we started our walk I noticed lots of people hanging out on this balcony.
We are staying in the Old Jewish Quarter and the roads are very narrow and crowded.  As we leave this area, the roads widen and there are many pedestrian-only roads and big plazas.  This large ornate building is the first large building I see on the main Street near our apartment. We walk towards the nearby Christmas Markets.  There are lots of small wooden ‘cabins’ filled with beautiful crafts.  I loved these dried fruit ornaments, but I am sure that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring these through Canadian Customs. Too bad, they are lovely and smell wonderful.There are several stands with all sorts of candies… beautiful felted hats, that are priced starting at $150.00 CAD.
This our first Christmas tree of the year. This ‘Little Princess’ is the first of many statues we see on the streets of Budapest. Another ferris wheel, but we decide to pass on riding this one.  St. Stephen’s Basilica is in the centre of Budapest. The inside off the church has lots of gilded ornamentation and a beautiful dome.The main attraction in this church is the thousand year old mummified right hand of King Stephen. If you want to see this relic, deposit a coin and a light comes on to view the hand.
These two borzoi dogs looked like they needed a bath and brushing. There are lots of dogs here and they live their lives on pavement.  I kind of feel sorry for them.
The Fat Policeman Statue represents how hearty the Hungarian foods are, and rubbing his tummy is supposed to bring good luck.  There are many ‘good luck’ statues on the streets of Budapest.The Hungarian government erected the ‘Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation’ statue in the middle of the night in July 2014.

A ‘Living Memorial’ was added in front of the statue as a protest against the government’s message that it was only the Nazi’s who committed crimes of genocide, ignoring the wartime Hungarian governments involvement and responsibility for the Nazi’s occupation.

This ‘Living Memorial is a collection of photos and newspaper clippings about the victims of the war and the Hungarian government’s collaboration with the Nazis.

It is believed that this statue is part of the government attempt to ‘revise’ history.  The war may have ended 74 years ago but it is still very much a part of life here in Eastern Europe. Some seed pods from one of the trees near this statue are interesting. There is a statue of Ronald Reagan in this plaza as well because of his efforts to end the Cold War. There are so many ornate buildings here… like the Parliament Building!  It is so big I can’t get it all into one photo.
 Across the river we can see the Buda Castle. Bob takes a moment to sit with the Hungarian poet Attila József… and then we walk onto the Chain Bridge with its guardian lions for a view of Budapest from the river. This is the Pest side of the river, the side our apartment was on… and this is the Buda side. These two cities were united in November 1873, and the name ‘Budapest’ was given to the new capital. I don’t know what this building is but it had delicate golden trim that sparkled in the late afternoon sun. We find a statue of Roskovics Ignác, a famous Hungarian painter, on our walk along the Danube River. Walking through the Christmas Market on our way home I notice this jar of pickled onions!  They made me laugh!

Remembrance Day in Budapest

Day 78, Monday November 11, 2019

I am still behind on my blogging,  but I wanted to post this today.

We are in Budapest for Remembrance Day, a country which doesn’t celebrate November 11.  Remembering those who have died during war and conflict this year seems more important than ever.  We have seen so much of the death and destruction caused by war on this trip.

Today we walked along the Danube river to visit the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.  It is an incredibly moving memorial that moved me to tears.A quote from this article explains the history of this memorial.

“Walking along its shores, you’ll come to the end of Szechenyi Street, where you’ll find the most moving Holocaust memorial. named the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, placed in an open space and approachable for visitors. The memorial consists of iron-made, rusty shoes set into the concrete of the embankment.

These shoes stand as witnesses to one of Budapest’s most somber moments during World War II, reflecting the war history and its victims of that time. The location and the elements of the memorial offer an insight into the tragic fate of the Jews who in the winter of 1944-1945 were tied together, shot on the banks of the river, and thrown into it by the members of the Arrow Cross Party. The party publicly murdered thousands of Jews all over Budapest. They found it convenient to throw them into the Danube because the river quickly carried the bodies away. The atrocious Arrow Cross murderers usually forced the victims to remove their shoes before shooting them.

At that time of war, shoes were a valuable commodity and the murderers were quite aware of that, so they would trade the shoes on the black market or wear them themselves. The Jewish children stood terrified while the Arrow Cross pulled their shoestrings out, tying the hands of the victims before shooting them. Sometimes, the hands of two or three people were tied together, adults or children, and the atrocity went so far that only one of them would be shot so he or she would instantly pull the helpless others down in the freezing cold water. During these horrible winter days of 1944-1945, the Danube was called “the Jewish Cemetery.””

“Lest We Forget”

Quiet Day in Budapest, Hungary

Day 77, Sunday, November 10, 2019

It is a  grey day, with a high of 9 so it is a good day to spend at home, and that is exactly what we do.  We are both a bit tired after our travels yesterday.  I stay in all day, but Bob gets restless, and goes for a walk to check out the neighbourhood.  When he returns he tells me that I am going to like Budapest!

This is the view from our living room balcony.  We are in a busy part of Budapest, there are lots of bars and pubs and restaurants all around us but our apartment is fairly quiet because we look onto this courtyard.  Some of the buildings are well kept but some of them look quite ramshackled.  I wonder if we will see a lot of that here.

 

Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary

Day 76, Saturday, November 9, 2019

It is a four hour drive from Vienna to Budapest, and it rained a good portion of that time.

When we arrive in Budapest there is no place to park while we check into our apartment. We are right in the central part of the old Jewish Quarter, the roads are narrow, all one way, and there are cars everywhere!  We finally park in a construction area and Bob waits in the car while I go find our apartment.  I’m not sure how I even managed to find it, as I had to turn into a walkway, past several restaurants and pubs.  I finally locate the door, figure out the entrance code and find our apartment.  The cleaning lady is just leaving when I arrive and with the help of Google translate, I ask her if she can show me where the parking garage is.  Success!  We get our car parked in the garage and haul everything up to our very nice apartment for the next eight nights.

Last Day in Vienna

Day 75, Friday, November 8, 2019

We had a leisurely morning and I did a bit of packing in preparation for checking out tomorrow.  Early afternoon we catch the train and then a FlixBus to Bratislava, Slovakia to pickup our last rental car.

This photo taken from the bus window is a bit blurry.  We noticed that one of the windmills had a fire the last time we were here.  Today the big arms have been removed. It must be difficult repairing these, they are so high off the ground. When we get to the airport we are worried because the Budget Car Rental booth is closed!  Turns out the attendants are out in the parking lot so after a short wait we pick up our car and head back to Vienna.  I noticed this big mural last trip and managed to get a photo this time.  It is dark by the time we get back to Vienna and we spend the rest of the evening cleaning our apartment and packing for our drive to Budapest tomorrow.

The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Day 74, Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Leopold Museum has the largest collection of Egon Schiele’s work in Vienna as well as several of Gustav Klimt’s works.

Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter. His work is noted for its intensity and its raw sexuality.  Schiele completed many self portraits, including naked self portraits.  I  am intrigued by Shiele’s drawings and was looking forward to seeing his work.  Unfortunately exhibited works on paper are facsimiles, because the actual drawings and watercolours would be damaged by continual exhibit.  They are very good facsimiles, but not the real thing.  It would be nice to look closely at some of his original drawings and watercolour paintings.  I guess I will have to hope to one day visit a special Schiele exhibit, similar to the Dürer one I saw yesterday, in order to see his original work.
 ‘Chrysanthmemen’ was a painting I hadn’t seen before.
Two of Schiele’s naked self-portraits. the first is an oil and the second gouache and black chalk on paper, so it is a facsimile.  These are both larger than I had thought.  The oil painting is 1.5 m x1.5 m and the gouache 63 x 44 cm.
I have decided that I like Schiele’s figurative watercolours and drawings more than his figurative oils.  
The commentary for ‘Small Tree in Autumn’ says that the trunk and branch on the right look like human legs, while the branches of the treetop resemble arms.  I never saw that before and now it is all I can see!  I even see a head just below the arms.  
These two long narrow oils are not what I think of as typical Schiele paintings but I like both of them.

‘Mother and Child’ is a well known painting.  I do love how expressive Schiele’s hands are. Schiele’s 1912 ‘Self Portrait with Chinese Lanterns’ was painted as a companion piece for the ‘Portrait of Wally Neuzil’ who was his muse and partner from 1911 to 1915.  Both these paintings have a gentleness and sensitivity not found in all his work.  I like these very much. Quite different from this self portrait completed the same year.  Schiele was born in 1890 and died in 1918.  He was only 28 years old when he died, yet he created over 3,000 works on paper and around 300 paintings!  I wonder what he would have accomplished if he had lived longer.  He died during the Spanish Flu Epidemic, just three days after his six month pregnant wife Edith. ‘Reclining Woman’ was bigger than I expected.  Originally the woman’s genitals were exposed but Schiele added the white cloth covering in order to be able to show the work at an exhibition in Vienna in 1918. There are several landscapes, and most of them are quite large. ‘The Small Town IV’… and ‘House With Shingled Roof’ were two that I particularly liked.  Although Schiele only painted for such a short time, his work laid the foundations for the Viennese Expressionist movement as well as inspiring other future movements, such as Abstract Impressionism.

There is a small collection of Gustav Klimt’s work. Klimt (1862-1918), was Schiele’s mentor, so it is nice to see their work exhibited together.  This ‘Head Study of a Girl from Hanā’ is thought to have been completed while Klimt was still a student.

‘The Blind Man’ was first exhibited in 1898. ‘Death and Life’ won the Gold Medal at the 1911 International Art Exhibition in Rome.  This painting and ‘The Kiss’, that I saw at the Belvedere,  are two of Klimt’s most well known paintings. I feel very fortunate to have seen both of them in person, as well as all the other amazing works of art I have seen on this trip. As we are leaving the Leopold I notice this painting, which makes both of us laugh!  It is by Albert Birkle and is titled ‘Man with Fur Cap’, or ‘My Brother the Animal’! Near the metro station Bob notices this crane which has just been erected.  Neither of us have seen one with so many arms before.When I saw this building our first day in Vienna I thought it was the Hundertwasser House but it wasn’t.  Turns out that it was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser!  It is the Spittelau Incinerator which is used to handle Vienna’s garbage.  The environmentally friendly plant produces enough energy to heat more than 60,000 households in Vienna in a year.I have one more life drawing session tonight at Kaffeebar Quentin.  I have attended many life drawing sessions in bars or pubs and the model is always at least partially clothed, so I was quite surprised when our model is completely nude.  We are in the back of the bar, but the model is still in full view of all the other patrons as well as anyone who happens to look in the windows.  Wish I had a scanner, as it would improve the quality of these photos, but I don’t think I can haul one around on holidays!  These are all 5 minute poses. Two ten minute and one twenty minute drawing… and we finished the evening with a twenty-five minute pose.  The people at this session were very friendly and I had met some of them at the other two sessions this week.  I will miss Vienna, they have so many life drawing opportunities.  There is a session almost every day of the week, and lots of them have interesting themes.