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Friday, October 07, 2005

Budapest - Day 3

It's an early start today and first stop is a return visit to the market - armed this time with the Nikon so I can get some better shots of the place.

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It is such an attractive building - this view is from the rear and it should give you an idea on how large it is...

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and this is a view from the mezzanine.
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There's one thing you'll see plenty of here - and that is paprika and it comes in all shapes, colours and sizes....

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oh, and you can also find duck heads!
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Having completed several loops around the market I head across the road for a trip down Váci Utca.

Váci Utca is the pedestrian only street and is the main shopping centre in Budapest. I was particularly taken by the architecture - once again it was hard finding things not to take a picture of.

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My first stop on Váci Utca was at the Church of St Michael (Szent Mihály Templom) - it was built in 1747-1749 on the site of a medieval Dominican Church.

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Then it was back along Váci Utca...

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until I hit Szabadsajtó Utca - which is the road that leads onto Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet Híd)

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Wedged right against this major road is the oldest church in Budapest - Inner City Parish Church

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There had been plans for it's demolition to make way for the bridge, but somehow it was spared. I have to warn you though, it's a bit hairy getting to this church as the footpath is extremely narrow and the cars and trucks are rushing past at great speed as they trundle towards the bridge. There is a benefit in the view that you get from taking this route to the church.

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this is the Royal Palace and you should recognise Fishermen's Bastion and St Mátyás in the shot below

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The exterior of the church is in fairly poor condition but I find it oddly dignified and powerful
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The inside is quite beautiful - it's decorations are quite unusual
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It's here that I meet up with what I've dubbed "arseholis touristica" you'll know them by their sensible sandals, shorts, backpack and the pre-purchased guidebook surgically attached to their hand.

The female of the species trudged around the church, DK in hand, mentally ticking off DK's noted highlights while totally forgetting to observe the church as a whole. The male of the species sat in wait in a pew at the back of the church, ready to depart to the next sight DK has in store for them.

It's what happened next that really ticked me off. When the old church lady approached him about the church's own little information booklet he just totally brushed her off. He didn't want to acknowledge her, he didn't want to look at her, he was trying to brush her away - he just treated her like rubbish.

Now I understood her reaction when she had approached me earlier. Not only did I listen to her and look at her, I actually bought the book and even told her to keep the change. The look of happiness on her face seemed out of proportion but looking at how she had just been treated it made sense.

After this interlude I rejoined the Váci Utca and I probably sound like a broken record, but this city is gorgeous. You just don't know when to stop taking pictures, there's always another door or architectural treatment, statue, roof, tiles to look at. A perspective corrective lens would really come in handy.

I must say I was a bit perplexed about this shop..
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and the website for abOriginal is all in Hungarian so I have no idea of whether it's got anything to do with australia - though they have a lovely photo of the 12 apostles on their website.

A few more nice buildings
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before arriving at my next stop of the day, St Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika)

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This was designed by József Hild in a neo-classical style and based on a Greek cross floor plan. Construction began in 1851 - the original dome collapsed in 1868 and was replaced by a Miklós Ybl designed neo-renaissance styled dome. A third architect Jószef Kauser finally finished the church in 1905.

This is one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen and I might be bold enough to say it's the most stunning I've seen so far. It is in immaculate condition and inside it's inspiring - I don't think photos do it justice.

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The mosaics of the dome were designed by Károly Lotz - the dome itself is 96 meters high!

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There's a sign as you enter that just requests one thing, and that is silence in the church but that's obviously too much for some people, they are yakking away like there's no tomorrow. Unfortunately I have to say that one thing I've taken away from the trip so far is how badly tourists behave in churches. It's not just a destination or a sight to be seen, it's a place where people come to worship and if you can't show them some respect, then I suggest you go and get &*#@^!*@@!!.

I "splurge" on the lift to the dome - it's a whole 500Huf! There's a surprise in that there's now a second lift that takes you right to the top of the dome - so if you choose there's hardly any stairs to walk at all.

You do get a most unique view of the internal structure of the dome

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the second lift ends here and it's just a matter of taking a few steps to go outside

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There are fantastic views of all of Budapest

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this is St Michael's Square (Szent István Tér) and it's right infront of the Basilica - if you look in the distance, to the left is the Royal Palace and to the right is Fishermen's Bastion.

Here's a closer view of the Royal Palace - it is a bit hazy, it would wonderful on a clearer day
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This is another view of Fishermen's Bastion - that building with the reflective windows is the Hilton Hotel I mentioned yesterday. You can probably see why it's a controversial building.

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The building in the centre of this photo is Parliament.

I'm not sure what building this is but I just loved it's roof tiles.
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It's funny but as I exited the lift, two older Poms were coming out of the church and she was asking her mate if they should take the lift. He said that it wasn't worth it! (The ticket costs a little over a pound in their money). More fool them is all I can say. He obviously didn't want any of the moths to escape from his wallet.

I sit for a while at the edge of the square, taking in the sight of the basilica and it's surrounds before returning to the map to work out how to get to my next destination. A gentleman passing by, stops to ask if I need any help with directions. I tell him I've worked it out as I just want to go to Parliament. He then gives me two alternative routes with their respective attractions before bidding me a good day. I really know I'm not in Germany any more! It does make you feel good that someone wanted to help you. Budapest certainly is leaving a good impression upon me.

Following the directions I head down Sas Utca towards Szabadsàg Tér/Liberty Square - and it's a most beautiful and incredibly clean park - it's also surrounded by some dazzling architecture.

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This monument is dedicated to Red Army soldiers who died protecting Budapest during the siege of 1944-1945. It was designed by Károly Antal and sits in the northern end of Liberty Square. There's also another statue of the US General Bandholtz who led the allied forces against Romanian troops who were looting the National Museum.

You have to hand it to Budapest, the lawns in the parks look like they've been tended to with nail clippers. Incredibly lush green lawns - they even have bins for doggie business, something Parisians probably wouldn't understand.

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This is the monument to Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy at Martyrs' Square (Vértanúk tere). It symbolises his defection from Communism to liberalism. The people's revolution was squashed by the Soviet invasion and he was ultimatedly executed after a secret trial. It was only 1989 that his body could be recovered and properly buried. In this monument Imre Nagy is looking towards Parliament.

Having reached Parliament, a quick check of the time shows that I can still make the 2.30 cruise. I catch my first Budapest Tram - a little old lady gets on with me and stands nearby. As the tram moves off, she digs into her cane shopping basket and pulls out her inspector armband. There's no way I'd ever have picked her as a ticket inspector! She just looks like someone's nan who's going home after shopping. It's another first as I get my ticket checked.

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I manage to pick the correct stop that coincides with the ship dock. The cruise is great - it's set up to handle 20+ languages through digital headsets. It's something Germany could look into especially since they will be holding that little thing called the World Cup next year. The ticket gets you 2 drinks - the first one on the way to Margaret Island (choice of beer, wine, softdrink, water) and the second coming back, a non-alcoholic fruit cocktail.

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Just so you don't think all the buildings are nice - there's this hideous thing built right on the banks of the river and next to this building.
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Unfortunately the photos of the Buda side are affected by the haze and sun's position, just too much glare. I do get some good pictures of Parliament.

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During the war, a bomb actually fell through the cupola but failed to explode! It's inspiration is London's Houses of Parliament and from the voice in my headphones, it's the second largest parliament building in Europe. No, I don't know where the biggest one is. Lazy bones, use google!

Here's a few photos of the sights on the river, starting with the Royal Palace
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built by the Hasburgs in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was destroyed during the war and subsequently rebuilt. During reconstruction, they uncovered the remains of a 15th century Gothic Palace. The dome is a neo-classical reconstruction after the original neo-baroque dome was destroyed.

Nowdays the Palace is home to many museums including The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Budapest History Museum, The Hungarian National Gallery and the National Széchényi Library.

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this is Elizabeth Bridge/Erzsébet Híd with the Liberation Monument in the background on top of Gellért Hill. This is a completely new bridge opened in 1964, the original was too badly damaged to be rebuilt.

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this is Liberty Bridge/Szabadság Híd - Tural Birds, a mystical symbol in Hungarian history sit atop the pillars. It was opened in 1896.

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this is the Chain Bridge/Lánchid - the first permanent bridge across the Danube and completed in 1849.

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and finally this is a view of Parliament while going under Margaret Bridge/Margit Híd. This was the second bridge across the Danube and completed in 1876.

A relaxing hour later (you can stop for a walk on Margaret Island if you like and rejoin the next cruise for the return journey) and I'm back on shore. Another tram trip and I'm back at Liberty Bridge before a final walk past the Market as I head back to my apartment.

Having somehow bypassed lunch I decide to treat myself to dinner at a restaurant just a few doors from my place.

Friday night and there's only two other people in the diningroom. I start with a Kir Royal, hideously priced at 450HUF (that's like three dollars!)

I opt for the soup of the day which is a cream of mushroom soup.

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It's a generous serve of soup, piping hot with an incredible depth of flavour from the wild mushrooms - small chunks of mushroom remain adding wonderful texture - it's absolutely delicious and an absolute bargain at 450HUF. There's also some lovely crusty bread served alongside.

For main, I've selected the duck breast - it's served with a Tokay sauce studded with sultanas, potato croquettes and baked pears with berries.
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The duck is thickly sliced and extremely dense - this has got to be wild duck, it has such a strong taste and the sauce is sweet and cuts through the richness of the meat. It's a very good combination. The berries are warmed through and leech their indigo juices into the pear as you cut into them. The potatoes are also excellent and well used as sponges to mop up the sauce.

Unfortunately I just couldn't fit any dessert in though I was tempted by the pancake with chestnuts and chocolate sauce but opted for a cappuccino to finish the meal.

The waiter, once again was very friendly and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and he seemed genuinely happy that I was very appreciative of the meal and the service.

All in all it was an excellent way to close my Budapest experience.

If you'd like to see more photos from today just click on the appropriate link
Budapest Set
Budapest Market Set
St Stephen's Basilica Set

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