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S: Budapest, Hungary

FC: Budapest, Hungary A visit to the motherland

1: A Brief History of Budapest Budapest arose from two military fortresses: Buda, on the right (west) bank of the Danube River, and Pest on the left (east) bank. Hungarians settled the territory and eventually founded the Kingdom of Hungary. Buda and Pest merged to form Budapest in 1873. After various invasions, Budapest became part of the Habsburg Empire, and then part of Austria-Hungary and, finally, after World War I, Hungary declared itself an independent republic until Nazi Germany invaded and ruled Hungary and killed thousands of Budapest Jews. In 1944 the Soviet Union defeated Germany and took control of Hungary. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 almost put an end to communist control but thousands more Hungarians were killed. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarians fled. From 1956 to 1989 Hungary slowly became less communist and more of a democratic republic. The last of the Soviet leadership left Budapest in 1991. Michael Saven, September 2010

2: In memory... Liberty Statue commemorates the "Hungarian liberation" when Soviet forces ended the Nazi occupation during World War II. The statue stands upon a Buda hilltop and can be seen from almost anywhere in Budapest. The "Shoes on the Danube Promenade" honors Jews killed by the Arrow Cross militia (a pro-Nazi party). It depicts the shoes left behind on the riverbank when Jews were thrown into the Danube after having been shot during World War II. The print above the bed in my hotel room was an image of these shoes. Mistakes were made after centuries of success and failure and then, more recently, Hungary's support of Germany in WWII, Hungarians welcomed the Soviet “rescue” from Nazi Germany, and then came to regret it.

4: Buda + Pest = Budapest The Hungarian language is Magyar, which is also a general way of referring to ethnic Hungarians. About 2.5 million Hungarian speakers live outside of present-day Hungary in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the Treaty of Trianon (1920). The largest group lives in Transylvania, the western half of present-day Romania, where there are about 1.4 million Hungarians. There are also large Hungarian communities in Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine.

5: The towns of Buda and Obuda made up the western, hilly regions of the city. The larger, flat plains on the east of the Danube were known as Pest. Today, these three regions are just Budapest.

7: Bridges and Opera Left: Szechenyi Lanchid, or Chain Bridge, was the first permanent bridge connecting Buda and Pest. During World War II, the Germans blew up all of Budapest's bridges. An identical replacement of Chain Bridge was rebuilt in 1963. Bottom Left: Erzsebet Bridge Next page: The baroque-style Hungarian State Opera House, completed in 1884, was, and still is, known throughout Europe as one of the most technically advanced opera houses. The stage—with elevators, turntables, treadmill-style movers, and trap doors—is actually much larger than the small auditorium. Each seat in the auditorium has a vent located below, which once received cool air from huge blocks of ice that were stored in the cellar... an early form of air conditioning. Even today, acoustic engineering tests rate the Hungarian Opera House as having the third best acoustics of any opera house in Europe.

10: The Hotel Gellert is a well known hotel on Gellert Hill in Buda. It sits atop some of the city's natural hot springs and has one of the best thermal spring public baths in Budapest. | The Boscolo New York Palace Hotel is one of the most ornate five-star hotels in the city. It was built in 1894 for the New York Insurance Company with an Italian Renesance design. I was lucky to have had lunch in the Palace Cafe.

11: Buda Castle is the site where Budapest has been governed since the 1400s. Buda Funicular rail was built in 1870 to provide transportation to Castle Hill workers and it still shuttles visitors up and down between the top of Castle Hill and the foot of Chain Bridge.

12: Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion are both atop Castle Hill in Buda.

13: View to the Parliament from Buda Hill. A view from the Danube up to Matthias Church.

15: Parliament Building

16: House of Terror Terror Haza, or House of Terror, was an elegant apartment building on Andrássy Boulevard before it became the site of imprisonment, interrogations, torture, and killing. First the Nazis pursued Budapest's Jews and when Germany was defeated in 1944, Soviet Communists took up residence. The Soviet secret police took over the interrogation, torture and killing of anyone suspected of disloyalty. The building is now a memorial to the victims of this very recent history. I've never been so affected by a museum” as this one, seeing offices stuck in time, artifacts and photos of people who thought and acted in this way just over twenty years ago. Arrow Cross members killed Jews one-by-one in the streets, and were known to tie groups of victims together, shoot one, and then throw him or her into the freezing Danube, dragging the others under in the river. They executed hundreds of people in the cellar of this building. The dark and dank basement upset me quite a bit, seeing cages and torture devices. I could imagine, and even smell, the experiences of the people held and killed here.

20: Catholics and Jews St. Stephen's Basilica is the largest Catholic church in Budapest and is named for Hungary’s first king. It was completed in 1905 after over 50 years of construction. The dome collapsed in 1868, requiring the builders to start over from the ground up. Once it was completed, St. Stephen's was considered so sturdy that important documents and artworks were stored in it during World War II bombings. The city has the second largest synagogue in Europe, the Great Synagogue on Dohany Street. Jews were both welcomed and hated since the 12th century. Because the Jews supported the Turkish invasion and occupation of Hungary, they were later, after the Turks left, charged a “tolerance tax." During WWII, the Hungarian Arrow Cross party (a Nazi loyalist group) killed tens of thousands, simply because they were Jewish. Toward the end of WWII, Hungarians realized the injustice that had been done and Jews in Budapest became recognized for contributing to the industry and culture of the city.

22: Nagy Vásárcsarnok Otherwise known as Market Hall , it is the largest indoor market in Budapest. The architecture of the building is worth the visit even if you are not a shopper but I am a shopper and so I passed up the hundreds of tourist souvenirs, aside from the scarf I bought, remembering the babushkas that grandma Komives always wore on her head. (actually babushka means grandma in Russian). The strings of red paprika and garlic, Hungarian salamis, sausages, and hams, decorative pastries, and Hungarian wines and pálinka were all delicious, though some of these items caused me a bit of trouble at the airport!

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  • By: Michael S.
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