In this case, I had never been to Budapest, so why not? I flew United to Brussels on Thursday night, which was a bit stressful because thunderstorms delayed our takeoff quite a bit. But things were efficient at BRU and I had plenty of time to make my connection to Brussels Air. The flight to Budapest got in a bit late for no obvious reason and I had a longer than expected wait for the minibus to the city center. I stayed at the Hotel Casati, which was very well located (about a block from the opera house) and quite stylish.
My tourism endeavors included:
- free walking tour of Jewish quarter. This included 3 synagogues, various monuments, and lots of historical and cultural commentary. The Grand Synagogue is quite huge and elaborate, and is alleged to be the second largest synagogue in the world. There are lots of contradictory sources on this, with contenders in New York and Israel and, possibly Ukraine. It is, at any rate, very large, particularly as the complex includes a museum (built on the site of the birthplace of Theodor Herzl) and a Shoah memorial. Frankly, it is far too ornate for my tastes.
- the better part of a day on Castle Hill (which is on the Buda side of the river. There are more attractions on the Pest side.) With more time, I'd have gone into the National Gallery and the Matthias Church. Admiring them (the former is part of the Royal Palace) from the outside would have to do. The latter (and the nearby Fisherman's Bastion) are particularly jaw-dropping. At any rate, the area was quite pleasing architecturally and well worth meandering around. I did stop in at the Medieval Jewish Chapel, which is a small museum with a few intriguing details. There is, apparently, more archaeological work going on, with more of the historic Jewish sites on that side of the river to open eventually.
- more of central Pest, including Liberty Square, Parliament, the shoes on the Danube (a Shoah memorial, symbolizing the victims of the Arrow Cross militia), Vaci Utca (typical touristy shopping street), and so on.
- a long walk up Andrassy Street, all the way to Heroes' Square. This provided a good mix of architecture and entertainment, in the form of a large street fair, with rock and jazz music playing and crafts and food for sale.
I could have used a few more days, frankly, to go to museums and maybe one of the thermal baths. Overall, it was a good getaway.
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