You may wonder why a city break on Paul’s Ramblings? Well we do like a city break and the best way to explore is on foot. On the first day I decided to use the Viewranger app on my phone to see how far we walked, the answer was 10 miles, not including going out in the evening which would have made 12 miles in total.
Firstly a bit of background, Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. Originally two cities Buda to the south bank of the Danube and Pest on the north bank they were combined on 17 November 1873 to form Budapest.
The idea of this post, you may be glad to know, is not to give a blow by blow account of our time in Budapest but to talk about a few interesting things that happened or that we saw and then let the photographs tell the rest of the story.
Right thats got your attention. On our first night we sample a couple of typical Hungarian beers or more accurately lager. Dreher and Soproni. If Fosters was zero on a scale of lager taste and Stella was 100 these Hungarian lagers would score about 40.
The following night we went in search of Hopfantic a microbrewery pub that I had read in about in this excellent blog.From the outside the pub did not look too promising however inside it was certainly different as you will see from the photos.
We both tried the American Pale Ale which was excellent, very refreshing with a citrus hoppy flavour. I also tried the Nohoplimmit “West Coast double IPA”, only a small one as it was 8.4%. What a beer! Full bodied, lots of hops and a sweet caramel flavour.
I have to admit that I had not realised how much death and suffering had taken place in Hungary during World War 2 and under the communist regimes afterwards until I visited The House of Terror Museum. The museum is in a building on Andrassy Boulevard and was the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazi party during WW2 and afterwards the headquarters of the Department of Political Police under the communist regime and later succeeded by the AVO (Allamvedelmi Osztaly), Hungary’s State Security Agency a much hated and much feared secret police.There is a very good review of the museum here.
Between 15 May and 9 July 1944, Hungarian authorities deported 437,402 Jews. All but 15,000 of these Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90% of those were immediately killed. One in three of all Jews killed at Auschwitz were Hungarian citizens.
During the communist regime many people were tortured and killed amidst a climate of fear with neighbours, friends and even family members reporting people for non communist activities. More information can be found here.
The Great Synagogue in Budapest has a mass grave with about 3,500 people buried, the bodies of those who had died during the two months that the Budapest jewish ghetto had been set up around the synagogue. During this time 70,000 people were imprisoned in a small area with no supplies allowed in and nothing allowed out. Many more would have died had it not been for the work of Raoul Wallenberg.
The final memorial marking this period of terror is to be found on the banks of the Danube. The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial by the Danube River. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away.
Two brushes with the “Law”!
Well the first of these occurred during our guided tour of the Hungarian Parliament. We had reached the top of the Grand Staircase. Our guide gave us all the information about the staircase and the surroundings and mentioned that the bust half way down the stairs was of the architect who designed the building. She then invited us to take a closer look, so we set off to do as we were told only after a few seconds to be called back in no uncertain terms by some soldiers. Apparently we were meant to take a closer look from where we were. Clearly something was lost in translation!
Our second brush with the “law” was a little more worrying. We had just got off the metro on the Buda side near the Castle area. We decided first to have a little walk along the Danube. We were approached by a young man who asked me to take his photo with the river and the parliament in the background. After this he asked me to take another photo with him on a bench. Suddenly two large men appeared and announced that they were “Tourist Police” and one of them flashed a badge. They asked for our passports. I said they were in our hotel. You did not need to be Einstein to work out this was a scam…but how to get out of it? They asked us several times about our passports and I just kept saying in a loud, firm voice NO! They then said they were looking for drugs and its for our own protection. I gave the original guy his phone back and backed up. Realising that we were not falling for this scam they asked where we were from and after I said England he said we could go. Phew!!!! The rest of our stay was uneventful. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Now for some photos, enjoy! Click on any to enlarge.