So, for the 2nd time in my life I have taken off to a foreign land all by myself. This trip to Hungary was not a scary as the original trip to Sweden, but I still had some anxious moments beforehand. I certainly don’t speak Hungarian, and I am very new to traveling abroad, however – Budapest is an amazing place! Two days is not enough time to take in all of the history and culture this city has to offer.
Highlights of the trip:
Buda Castle – It’s enormous, and feels like something out of a movie (to this American anyway). It houses three museums and a tour of the labyrinth below it supposedly reveals an interesting connection to Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). Didn’t get to take that tour, but it’s on my list for next time.
Matthias Church – The castle church, officially known as The Church of Our Lady is named after the king who had it built and then married there. It is bordered by the Fisherman’s Bastion which offers some of the very best views of the city.
Dohány Street Synagogue – the largest synagogue in the world (seating capacity), it stands between the Hungarian Jewish Museum and the Jewish community center. The sense of peace and beauty inside the synagogue is matched, but not diminished, by the sense of sadness inspired by a walk through the garden just outside. Transformed in 1945 to a mass grave for 2000 souls lost from the surrounding ghetto, the names of those who could be identified are etched into black stones lining the lush ivy and manicured lawn and trees. There is hope and love also, in the wall listing the names of those who aided Jews during the war and in the 27 original books of the Torah that were hidden from the Nazis, preserved, and returned to the congregation by 2 unknown Catholic priests. Combined with the present day Jewish neighborhood filled with shops, cafes, other synagogues and historical buildings and sites, I would call this a “must see” for those visiting Budapest.
Other great sites I was able to see were Parliament, The Citadel, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hero’s Square, Vajdahunyad Castle/Anonymous statue, Chain Bridge/Margaret Bridge/Elizabeth Bridge, and of course the Danube itself. Words can’t describe how great it was to watch the fireworks bringing in the New Year from my hotel window like so many colored sparklers over the lighted monuments and river below. I hope to return someday, but for now I am waiting for my flight back to Sweden!