Budapest

Trip Start May 31, 2008
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Trip End Jun 01, 2009


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Friday, April 24, 2009

We took the train from Sarajevo to Budapest, which involved getting up at 5:40am, which is quite a few hours earlier than our normal wake-up time.  We slept, played cards, finished our books, making the long train ride not too bad.

We stayed at a hostel in a very weird apartment complex building before my parents came to join us.  It's one of the old Communist style block apartments, and has gates and security fences everywhere.  Stupid internet booking makes all the good places fill up fast!  Where is the free for all of Southeast Asia and India?

The TourInform in Budapest is excellent.  After visiting it, we were armed with a long list of places to see and performances to attend.  We found out what concerts, ballets, and operas are playing at the hundreds of venues scattered throughout the city.  We definitely will not be bored here.

We went to the Statue Park (Momento Park) to see old Communist-era statues.  The citizens of Budapest decided to make a museum to showcase the propoganda via large blocks of concrete method of indoctornation.  The park had an attached museum which had a display on the 1956 revolution, and videos used to train Secret Service officers on interrogations, spying, etc.  Quite entertaining.

The Youth Orchestra concert that evening in the Palace of Arts was superb.  The whole Palace of Arts complex is quite the sight - huge, with a concert hall, theatre, and contempory art museum.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, and Calvin kept himself amused by observing things like the violin player who lost her chin cushion and had to discreetly pick it up, the number of times the harpist got to play (supposedly only a few), and how often the symbols were used (more than usual).  Oh, Calvin.

We stopped by a rocking Turkish place for dinner, and loved how busy the city is at night.  It really comes alive with people everywhere.

The Contempory Arts Museum in Heros Square had a good mix of weird but interesting exhibits.  The one I enjoyed the most was a Mother montage where the artist took clips and sound bites from movies - Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts from Stepmom, Meryl Streep and the Terms of Endearment mom.

We walked through the gorgeous Varosliget park before spending hours at the thermal baths in Szechenyi Furdo.  We loved it - it was like a spa day.  We went from hot pool to hot pool to sauna, and even braved the freezing 20C pool for a few bone chilling moments.  The pools are pretty unreal, and you can imagine what all those bath houses were like in their day.  The outdoor swimming pool was set inside a courtyard with gorgeous yellow buildings all around.  Wow. 

We didn't have time to make it back to the hostel before the ballet, so we went to the opera house fresh from the thermal baths looking less than stellar.  We saw Swan Lake, and I have to say I loved my first ballet performance.  The dancing is an amazing technical feat, and the music phenomenal.  I recognized a lot of the score, and we were sitting in the first row, so we had a good look at the orchestra. 

My parents arrived the next day, and we were very pleasantly surprised with the furnished aparment we booked in central Budapest.  There was a washer and dryer - do I need to say more?

Buda Hill, with a gorgeous castle, is the big tourist draw here.  We also stopped by the War History Museum to learn more about the 1956 uprising.  My dad was feeling the jet lag by this time, and we decided to get the "kids" back to our room for some rest before seeing the opera that night.  Fidelio, a Beethoven opera was a great first opera for my parents.  Might as well start big, right?

One of the Budapest highlights was taking a boat cruise and seeing the skyline at night.  We heard the stories behind all the buildings, and just thinking of the geniuses who have performed at the theatres and concert halls is inspiring.

The Jewish Synagogue and Museum gave us an opportunity to learn about the Jewish community in Budapest leading up to and during WWII.  The synagogue is the second largest in the world (the largest is in New York), and can hold up to 3000 people.  The whole area around the synagogue had been turned into a ghetto by the Nazis, and conditions were awful.  The Jews were forced to burry their dead behind the synagogue, which is not customary.  The memorial behind the synogogue was poignant: The Tree of Life, a weeping willow tree made of stainless steel with names engraved on the leaves.

The Spy Musuem was very cool.  It is housed in the building of the old secret police, and it showed us how the secret police operated and the effect they had on the citizens of Hungary.

Before leaving Budapest, we stopped by the Parliament Building.  Unfortunately the English tour was full, but we did get a chance to see this gorgeous building up close.  There was also a memorial for the protesters killed in the 1956 uprising against the Soviets.  

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