From Buda to Pest

Trip Start Oct 02, 2011
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10
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Trip End Oct 27, 2011


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Monday, October 10, 2011

Over breakfast our B&B hosts asked us why we were in Budapest. We told them it was a stop on the way to find the tiny village of grandpa Klein, which was part of the Hungarian empire and is now in Western Ukraine. This was the entree to a long discussion about the position of the Jews in the Austro-Hungarian empire. 

Our hosts told us that in the days of emperor Franz Joseph Jews in his lands didn't have "proper" last names.  Instead they were called something like "Aaron ben David," Aaron, son of David.  He wanted his Jewish subjects to have "permanent" last names like everyone else.  So his agents rounded up the Jews and assigned them names according to their most obvious characteristic: Klein, Gross, Weiss, Schwartz, (small, big, white, black), etc.  At this point, that's almost all I know about the tiny Klein clan!

We packed up for our move to the apartment we'd rented on the other side of the Danube.  As we did so we pondered the pillows on our B&B beds.  As you can see from the photo, each of our pillows had a pillow.  This is one of the joys of traveling--to make sense of the unfamiliar:  Is this the way Hungarians normally sleep--with a little pillow stacked on a bigger one?  Or is it an anomaly of this particular B&B?  Perhaps it was a special gesture of lavish Hungarian hospitality.  Or was it simply that their pillows were unusually flat and needed reinforcement?  There was of course no gracious way to ask our hosts, "Excuse me, but why did we have a stack of two pillows on our bed?"  So we will probably never know. But we'll undoubtedly remember this little experience.  It may come in handy some day, say, for example, if there's a lull in the conversation at a cocktail party:  'Um, did you know that in Hungary they sleep on two pillows?'  Quite an icebreaker, eh?

Anyway, before crossing the river to our new digs we walked up Castle Hill to see the sights--the boring castle and the much more interesting Mattias Church.  Below you can see some photos we took outside and inside the church.  Mattias was the most beloved King of Hungary.  His symbol was a raven with a ring in its beak (see if you can find it in the photos--by the way, if you click on a photo it will become bigger and easier to see).  Inside the church is a gorgeous and interesting stained glass window of the lamb of God, sitting on what seems to be a book with seven book marks oozing out of it. The symbolism was mostly lost on us, but later Carole perspicaciously suggested that the book marks were the seven seals mentioned in Revelation.

The only other item from the Buda side of things I wanted to mention is St Istvan (St Stephen to you).  You can see him in two of the photographs--riding on his magnificent steed, and a closeup of his head in marble at the base of the steed statue.  In the year 1000 King Istvan saw which way the wind was blowing and converted to Christianity to placate his more powerful neighbors, who were all Christian Kings.  He figured the more zeal he showed for his new-found faith the more secure his rule would be.  So he sliced his uncle, who refused to convert, into four quarters.  Then he sent each quarter to a different part of his kingdom as a graphic demonstration of the pitfalls of refusing to convert. For this holy act, the good King Istvan was rewarded with sainthood a mere thirty years after his death.  You can see from the marble sculpture what a happy man he must have been.  By the way, see the entry from October 13th for a description of the Saint's holy hand, which sits in desiccated repose in a church on the Pest side of the river.

After crossing the Danube we went to our apartment in Vaci Utca (Vaci street), a long walking street right in the thick of things.  The apartment is spacious and extremely comfortable.  The decor is very interesting, in particular the shiny silver skull of a big horned cow. Sort of David Smith meets Georgia O'Keeffe.

Not feeling compelled to narrate the entire rest of the day, I'll just say we walked down Vaci Utca to Gerbeaud Cafe, an ultra-elegant cafe that's about 150 years old.  Very high ceilings, punctilious waiters, luxurious ceilings and over the top furniture.  It was like being at the opera.  You can see Manfred vigorously enjoying his coffee and pastry, and there's a shot of Carole's Sacher torte posing primly on its plate.  And note my order, the cafe's signature pastry, the Gerbeaud cake.  It all went down mighty easy.

By the way, the World's superlative of the day is from Kew Gardens, as I didn't happen to run into a local one today.
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Comments

Carl Cascella on

Hi Ken & Annie, My wife also places small pillows on top of larger ones. She also visited Budapest . Having seen your photos, I am almost certain, now, that her visit there might explain her pillow duplexing.

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