Fascinated by Budapest
Our grand European tour began in Budapest, Hungary. Fortunately, American Airlines now has direct flights from JFK to Budapest making traveling there very easy with a relatively short 8 hour overnight flight. Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the majestic Danube River. The Pest side is the bustling,
urban center that has great pedestrian avenues filled with swank shops, modern hotels and busy restaurants. The entire city is sprinkled with gorgeous historical Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic buildings.
We began our stay on the Pest side and enjoyed wandering both the grand boulevards and narrow streets and sampling the local cuisine at
many different sidewalk cafes and al fresco restaurants. We especially loved the Goulash and Chicken Paprika, the signature dishes of Hungary.
We had a fabulous private dinner party at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences where we sipped on local wines and munched on many
Hungarian dishes. After dinner, we went to the fabulous Four Seasons Resort at Gresham Palace for cocktails and live jazz. This hotel was one of the most
beautiful we have ever been to and was formerly the formal palace of wealthy aristocrats with much of the original glass detailing, moldings, and iron work
still in place.
Our tour of the Pest side included visiting the National Opera House. Constructed in the 1870’s, this opera house is said to have some of the best acoustics in the world. We enjoyed a wonderful private tour of the building and even enjoyed hearing short performances by local opera singers. From there we visited Hero’s Square, a large square full of beautiful monuments and statues of Hungarian kings and other famous historical
figures. While we were there, the Hungarian army was on full display doing their practice marches for the upcoming Hungarian Independence Day celebrations.
One of the highlights of our time in Pest was our visit to the House of Terror. The Terror Haza is a museum now, but was once truly a house of terror to all those Hungarians who were interrogated and held prisoner or murdered there. It was once the headquarters of the Nazi Party in Hungary where Nazi executioners practiced their craft. After the Nazis fell from power, Hungary ended up under Soviet occupation and the building then became Communist Party headquarters. It remained a place of torture and death for many years. The prisoner interrogation rooms, basement cells and gallows are still there for all to see and serve as a powerful reminder that sacrifices brought in the name
of freedom are never futile. Hungarians have had a brutal past, and only recently (1956) have broken free of the shackles of oppression and terror that plagued them for so long.
As soon as we felt like locals in Pest, it was time to travel across the Danube to Buda. Much quieter and more visually beautiful with rolling hills and ornate palaces, Buda was simply gorgeous. We marveled at the panoramic views from Fisherman’s Bastion terrace on Castle Hill and the amazingly ornate Matthias Church. Our
visit to Buda happened to coincide with Hungarian Independence Day and we had a great time people watching at a make-shift beer garden in the middle of an enormous open lawn surrounded by impressive Gothic buildings. It was a wonderful capper to our fabulous stay in Budapest
Budapest was a captivating city. The culture and history mixed with the gorgeous setting make it a unique place worth visiting again and again. It was not a place that we had every really thought about going to, which made it even more special. It was like finding a hidden treasure-totally unexpected and great fun to discover.