Jordan Brock

Gilded Churches and Drowning People

Another day, more sore feet.

Up at a very leisurely 9 AM, an average breakfast buffet in the restaurant downstairs and off we went. One of our guidebooks had a walking tour through what is known as the Vizivaros (Waterfront) area of Buda, an old area that used to be full of fishermen and other people who worked on the river. It was apparently razed in the early 1900’s for “sanitary reasons”, so there’s not too many of the old buildings left, but a fair few of them remain.

One of the problems of using guidebooks is that they can be out of date, even if it’s only a year old. A couple of times we climbed innumerable stairs to look at something to find that it had been knocked down, something had been built in front of it or that it was being renovated. But isn’t that all part of the fun?

We had a coffee in a Kafehaz (Coffee House) that is in a building next to a two hundred year old church. Unfortunately, due to the fact that everyone in Budapest seems to do nothing other than smoke nonstop while in restaurants, it was quite difficult to hang around and enjoy the building.

The church is on the banks of the Danube, which is all very pleasant, except for a small note in the guidebook. Apparently, during the last winter of WWII, the Nazis threw large groups of Jews, who had been tied together, into the freezing river. Not the nicest thing to do to someone.

We wandered into Pest (trying every bank along the way to change some travellers cheques … something they don’t seem to be too keen to do), and had some lunch. Our guidebooks mentioned a Statue Park on the outskirts of town where they carted all the old communist statues and we thought that it sounded good. We had to hurry to get to the bus stop, and waited under the sign that said “Bus for Statue Park”. Nothing came. We wandered off, not really knowing what to do and saw another sign around the corner which also said “Bus for Statue Park” with an arrow, pointing away from where we were standing. So, no statue park today.

St Stephens Basilica was just over the road so we popped in for a quick look. A fairly impressive building on the outside, but a truly magnificent one on the inside. Currently being restored, the main areas of the church had been completed and were truly breathtaking. Gilding, paintings, frescoes, statues. Astounding. Of course, quite sickening when you realise how much money went into the construction of it and not towards helping stricken citizens, but I suppose you can’t help that.

We are probably going to go to the parliament building (which puts Westminster to shame) tomorrow, but all of our books have conflicting reports as to when it is actually open. Failing that, it’s off to look at old communist cronies in stone form (and to probably by a CD “The Songs of the Workers”).