Monday, May 14, 2012

Heading East for Easter: Budapest - Sights in "Pest"

While "Buda" is lovely, the main action goes down on the "Pest" side of the Danube.  I should've taken more pictures of all of the amazing architecture throughout the city in the Historicist style, which is apparently a blend of multiple styles.  The image that kept coming back to me was the 1920s Great Gatsby era.  I'm not sure if that's even accurate, but it did feel oddly preserved from that time period.  This post is loaded with pictures of the Parliament, churches, monuments and memorials, Hungarian baths, the Great Market Hall, and the oldest subway in Europe.

The Hungarian Parliament was built at the end of the 19th century as part of Hungary's millenium year of 1896.  It strongly resembles London's Houses of Parliament because the architect studied in London.  It's unnecessarily massive, as only a fraction of it (1/3?) is actually used for official business.

While difficult to see, this is a symbolic Hungarian flag with a hole cut out from the center........right where the old communist seal was under Soviet rule.  In 1956 there was a huge uprising in Hungary against the communist regime - the first of its kind.  Now this behavior wasn't tolerated by the Soviets so they sent in a bunch of troops and opened fire on demonstrators outside of the parliament.  Fighting took place for a week or so leaving 2,500 Hungarians and over 700 Soviets killed and at least 20,000 injured Hungarians.  The uprising was unsuccessful, but this was the first clear example to the world that the communist regimes were definitely not a choice of the people.

Hanging with the famous poet Attila Jozsef (1905-1937)

St. Istvan's Basilica (St. Stephen) - named after Hungary's first Christian king and also built for the millenial celebrations of 1896

Inside Istvan's Basilica

Inside Istvan's Basilica

Following the amazing stained glass we saw in Krakow, I also really enjoyed a set of 3-4 stained glass windows in Istvan's Basilica of a few saints

Gresham Palace was the first building in Budapest in the Historicist style, badly damaged during WWII, and restored during 1999 into a swanky hotel.

This Holocaust Monument memorializes the Jews of Budapest that were either sent off to concentration camps or killed right here on the banks of the Danube when the Nazi puppet government - the Arrow Cross - came to power in 1944.

This monument to the communist politician Imre Nagy, the leader of the 1956 Uprising, is strategically placed so that he is able to keep an eye on the Parliament.  He was a trusted insider in the communist regime that had the aim of softening up the communist policies in Hungary.  When the Soviets put down the uprising he was arrested, tried, executed, and buried in an unmarked grave.

Marisa was happy to find a fellow Californian in Budapest.

The Great Market Hall is a fun place to come and wander around and buy souvenirs, produce, sweets, or to grab a snack and people watch.

View from the top floor of the Great Market Hall.

One cannot visit Budapest without partaking in a Hungarian bath.  We went to the Szechenyi Baths, which included several indoor thermal baths at various temperatures, a hot sauna, cold plunge pool, and two large outdoor pools (heated).

The decor of the baths made it seem like we were in a time warp again and the place seems to be a common meeting spot for locals.

After leaving the baths we strolled through City Park and came across Vajdahunyad Castle, which was also built for the 1896 millenial celebration.  We caught a nice glimpse of the place under the moonlight.

The castle, shown here, was meant to be taken down after the celebration but it was so popular with the locals that they decided to keep it.

This man, known only as Anonymous, was the man given credit for recording Hungary's first written history during the Middle Ages.

On Heroes Square, they have a massive monument - the Millenial Monument - yet again, built for the 1896 celebration.  It features these Magyar tribal leaders in the center, representing the original settlers of Hungary, surrounded by the Hungarian War Memorial which features 14 different Hungarian leaders over the centuries.

Hungarian War Memorial - half of it anyways.  Imagine a mirror image of this structure right next to it.

Here we see the entire Heroes Square with both monuments.

As mentioned before, Budapest has the oldest metro system on the continent.  The stations were all very clean and were beautifully decorated with these tile motifs.

There are even more sights to see on the Pest side of Budapest, and we could've spent a few more days there.  I guess you have to leave something to come back to.........


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