We stayed in Budapest for 3 nights starting September 20. We then spend 4 nights in Eastern Hungary in the town of Eger. From there we returned west through Budapest, northwest into Slovakia at Bratislava and on into the Czech Republic.
Brenda has completed her Hungarian diary.
I had a lot of trouble deciding which pictures of Budapest best showed the city, as we saw it. I guess for most people, the view from the big castle on the west side of the Danube (the Pest side of Budapest) looking east toward the Buda side is the most unforgettable. This is a very wide picture. Use your right and left cursor keys, or click the lower scroll bar, to see the entire picture.
This is a picture of a picture of the front steps of the castle in Pest, taken after Hungary was liberated from German occupation at the end of the second world war. The castle was bombed and there was fighting in the various buildings. Worse was yet to come - 40 years of Russian occupation and a Communist state. The communists were not too happy with retaining and conserving symbols of Hungary's Imperial past.
Hungary has a lot of work to do if it want to display a large part of its history.
Its timing is a little unfortunate. With people its main resource, it is trying to recover from a lost 50 years just when other formidable nations are starting to grow - India and China. Hungary will have to make the most of its European connections to build its economy and restore its buildings.
Budapest has beautiful churches too.
This is a shot of the dome in St. Stephen's Basilica.
Lots of beautiful marble walls, altars, paintings, etc.
This picture shows the problems Budapest is having keeping its older buildings in good condition.
While most buildings look to us to be made of stone and marble, in fact they are simply facades that are falling away.
It is not clear where this happens because of the wet conditions here, or if the buildings were improperly maintained the last time around -- presumably during the Communist years. Our house in Victoria had a problem with the stucco coming off like this. The stucco repair man said it was a problem with the original stucco - too little or too much lime. It looks like Budapest has the same problem with many of their buildings.
It is quite a disappointment to discover when you get close to an older building, that looked from a distance to be a stone building, that it is simply a stucco facade on brick tricked out to look like stone. This is true not just in Hungary, of course. This appears to be the standard building practise in most of this part of Europe.
We went to the Opera on our last night in Budapest.
The opera building was built during the reign of Franz Josef on condition that it not be larger than the opera building in Vienna - Budapest tried hard to become the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but never succeeded. Franz, on seeing the building, mused that he should have perhaps insisted that it be no more beautiful than the Vienna Opera either. A true story? Hard to know if this is a true story, but one that I am sure is repeated by every Opera building tour guide.
We had very good seats for a performance of Othello -- performed in Italian with Hungarian super-titles. While this building lacks the subtitle screen at each seat that the Vienna Opera house provides, our seats here cost about 30% of similar seats in Vienna. Not as flashy sets either, but the music is great and the singers terrific.
This picture is slightly wider than an average screen. You will have to use the scroll bar to see it all.
From Budapest we drove a couple of hours east, partly through the rolling hills, to a small town called Eger. This is quite a touristy town, with lots of day trippers. Even this late in the year we were unable to get a room in the hotels in our travel guide - Rick Steves - Central Europe. It has been our experience that any hotel that makes it into a travel guide will be full when you get there.
We found another nice hotel nearby and returned to the small square outside the first hotel. After 3 days of walking all over Budapest, it was nice to spend two nights in this much smaller town. Put Brenda into a sidewalk cafe on a sunny day and you can sit back and relax.
That is Brenda on the left of the picture. The small gazebo on the right has a trio that plays pop tunes, often in English, all afternoon.
You have to watch the beer in these countries - it is a little weaker than in Canada, so you will end up bloated before you get a buzz on.
The main square and the surrounding streets are pedestrian zones. How then do you have a wedding at the church? It turns out that you park nearby, form everyone attending into a small parade, add the 4 piece band, and head off to the church.
We saw several weddings in the smaller towns but no funerals. This is the only one that included a band.