Dateline: Budapest, Hungary.
They made me get off the boat this morning as I had not paid for the next two weeks where the MS Esprit continues down the Danube all the way to the Black Sea. I’m planning on the river cruise down the lower Danube at some point, but doing the two trips back to back would likely be a little much. Two to three weeks is about as much as I can afford to be away at the moment without some sort of major life catastrophe taking a hand and I’ve had quite enough of those lately.
I took a quick cab ride up castle hill to the Castle Hilton Budapest which will be my home for the next three nights, allowing me to do a little more exploring of the city and start taking myself out of River Cruise rhythms before heading back to the usual grind. The hotel is right next door to the cathedral, next to the fisherman’s bastion. It’s built into the remains of an old monastery with a new wing of Soviet brutalistic architecture rather unfortunately facing the river. It’s directly across from the parliament building and, being up on the hill, has one of the best views in town. However, as I am not a gazillionaire and am paying for the stay with Hilton points, I am not in one of the nice rooms with a view. I’m on the opposite side of the building with a lovely view of the taxi stand and the building across the street.
As it was only 9 AM, my room wasn’t ready so I dropped off the luggage and spent some time exploring castle hill. I went to the Buda palace, now the Hungarian art museum and spent a couple of hours with the collection. The permanent collection is mainly 19th century genre painting, often featuring a Hapsburg or two repelling a howling Ottoman horde. This museum is dedicated to Hungarian fine arts. The masters from other countries are in the Fine art museum which I’ll get to later this week. They were having a special exhibition on the origins of Surrealism from 1919-1929 with a number of representative works and some of the experimental films Luis Bunel and Man Ray did during that period. The clip from Un Chien D’Andalou did not include THAT scene. I was rather taken with L’age d’or which I had certainly heard about over the years but had never actually seen footage from.
Then it was down the hill via a cute little turn of the last century funicular and a walk across the Chain Bridge to the Danube promenade. This included a sobering moment with the famous shoe sculpture (a series of bronze shoes in 1940s style, all different as if people had just stepped out of them. It’s a memorial to the Jews and others murdered by the collaborationist Arrow death squads who were shot on the Danube promenade and then thrown into the waters to get rid of the body. This led me to the Parliament building itself, even more impressive close up. Then back through the shopping district to the basilica of St Stephen. At this point, it started to rain so I repaired to a cafe for a while, waiting for it to pass. Eventually it did, so I made my way back up Castle Hill for a nap.
After a snooze, out for some dinner and a little poking through the stores up here on the hill although the selection isn’t much. All the real shopping is on the other side of the river. Per my pedometer, it worked out to about eleven miles today so my legs and feet are a bit sore.With the intermittent thunderstorms all day (very Deep South), the sunset was lovely and I repaired back to the room afterward. I’m busy watching Hollywood Rom Coms dubbed into Hungarian. I don’t know if the language barrier is helping or harming them.