Saturday, April 4, 2009

Budapest 2

While my friend was busy with official duties, I traveled around the city by bus, subway and streetcar to do some sightseeing. The public transportation system was wonderful and easy to use despite the language difference. In addition, the city is quite friendly to bicycle riders with lots of bike lanes and even special lights at some intersections.

Among the top sites are Heroes Square with its huge statues and large park beyond. It was too cold and breezy when I was there so I was happy to retreat to the subway and head for the fabulous opera house.

The Opera House is absolutely spectacular. Tours are given in 6 languages each afternoon and even though I was there at a low tourist season, the tours were full. You are allowed to use flash and a tripod, but the tour moves so quickly that good photography is very difficult. The grand staircase is shown at right.

Finally, one of the best things about Budapest is the wonderful view along the Danube. The Parliament building (first photo) dominates the river during the day as well as at night, and the view from Castle Hill is phenomenal. By law, no building can be higher than Parliament, except for St. Stephen (at left in second photo), which is the same height, thus making clear the importance of both the State and the Church.

(Click on photos for larger views)

Friday, April 3, 2009


I had a great time visiting my friend, Her Excellency April H. Foley, the US Ambassador to Hungary. She's the tall one; I'm the short one in the blue suit. Her tour of duty is over now, but we had one last hurrah in March. One of the official events I got to attend was the flag raising ceremony for the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution. Because of the threat of violent protests, crowds were kept very far away from the Parliament building, so it was a bit odd to have such a big ceremony for about 50 observers, a group of diplomats and military representatives from a variety of countries. The Hussars on horseback were cool. (Clicking on the photos will take you to larger ones.)

Taking a tour of the Parliament Building is an absolute must. The entry over the grand staircase is magnificent. Inside you will see the Holy Crown of Hungary, also called the Crown of Saint Stephen. There are a variety of stories about how the cross was knocked crooked.

Back when Parliament was for men only, they were allowed to smoke in the halls but not in the chamber. Cigars last a long time, so the men would place them in a numbered slot of a metal device conveniently located on a window sill, go in to hear a speech, and then return to finish smoking. Havanas were the longest lasting cigar, so a good speech, one that kept the men inside listening, was said to be "worth a Havana."

More later....