Dateline: Budapest, Hungary
And so the trip draws to its close. Up tomorrow early to be driven to the airport and then Budapest > Amsterdam > Atlanta > Birmingham. If everything goes well, it will be about a 20 hour process. If it doesn’t go well, who knows. I’m not looking forward to three flights but it’s the price we pay for convenient international travel. Not too long ago, it would be a several week journey home by rail and sea.
Today, I clambered down off the top of castle hill via the stairs up to the fisherman’s bastion. (325 down to the level of the Danube promenade for those who are counting). Then across the Chain Bridge. It was early enough in the morning that St. Stephen’s basilica wasn’t overly crowded so I went in and took a look. It looks like an ancient baroque structure, but it’s really neo-baroque and was actually constructed mainly in the late 19th century and was finished in 1905. It has a few Art Nouveau touches but mainly is ersatz 17th century. It would have been more interesting if they’d kept going with the Nouveau ideas, the way they did in Barcelona with Sagrada Familia.
Then up Andrassy utca past all the embassies and 19th century villas of the merchant princes to the city park. I was going to go to the Terror museum which was on my way, but as I passed it, I saw the line around the block and decided that will have to wait until another trip. Instead, I kept on going and ended up at the Fine Art museum which was not terribly crowded. Not a bad collection with some good 19th century French and 17th century Flemish pieces. Also far too many gothic madonnas and saints. Those all start looking the same after three or four pieces and I tend to skip those galleries.
I then spent some time in the city park, which reminds me a bit of Central Park, only not as large, as it has a collection of museums, a boating lake (which becomes a skating rink in winter), wandering paths. One thing it has which NYC does not i the largest thermal bath in the city, the Szechenyi baths housed in a large and ostentatious art nouveau building. As the shingles have continued to nag, some warm water soaking seemed to be in order so I checked in for a few hours. It’s larger than the Gellert and feels a bit more honest, like its being run for Budapesters (Budapestians? Budapestites?) rather than a tourist attraction. It was full of families of all shapes and sizes dropping themselves into and out of thermal pools of various temperatures. My favorite was an outdoor pool heated to about 30 degrees C – lukewarm bathwater – where you could just lounge until you pruned. It reminded me a lot of the pools at Kah-Nee-Tah, a resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon that we sometimes went to as a family when I was a boy. They too had huge thermal pools which, as kids, we never wanted to leave.
Late in the afternoon, I took a taxi back to my side of the river. (I didn’t feel like the 3 and a half mile walk back). I hauled everything out to begin the packing process (I’ll finish in the morning) and then took myself out to dinner – chicken paprikash crepes and green pea risotto with a glass of Tokay. Now I’m sitting on the bed where the Hungarian television station is having some sort of Hungarian idol singing competition. For some reason, they’re all singing Christmas songs in Hungarian, even if it’s July. It’s rather trippy, but that might just be the wine. The blond tenor needs to learn about foundation. He’s got very bad skin.
I’ll write something brief tomorrow to let everyone know I have safely returned, then I’ll go back on my home schedule of intermittent long posts when I have something to say. In the next week or so, I’ll move all of the European posts over to the blog site so those who are interested can check out any they might have missed along the way.