25 February 2008

Day Two in Budapest

Sunday's weather was even more beautiful than Saturday's. Less wind, more sun, and it feels like April. We walked along the Danube to see the House of Parliament, a neo-Gothic giant that was built about a hundred years ago.

Near the building (which is heavily guarded and closed to tourists) was this statue of one of Hungary's many prolific writers. He looks very morose, but I thought it was charming that somebody had slipped a flower into his hand!

We went to Mass at the basilica, which isn't really technically a basilica. According to my guidebook, it's one of the the seats of the archbishop, so it's a cathedral. Plus, the French book says, "it looks nothing like a basilica looks." Coming from the country of white domed churches on hills as the only form of "basilica," I agree! The exterior of the church is domed and lovely, but shaped more like St. Paul's cathedral in London.

The interior is spectacularly decorated with colored marble and gilt artwork. Europe's churches used to be painted and decorated inside, but the paint of course didn't last many centuries. More recent cathedrals and basilicas have colored stone and mosaics, which will last much longer.

While we were waiting for Mass to start, Kristen noticed that the angel over the altar cast a unique shadow:

After Mass, we walked across the bridge to go see the citadel, which where Budapest's Statue of Liberty stands. On top of an approximately 800-foot tall hill, which we climbed up. Here's a view of the statue from the bridge.

And here's Budapest, seen from the other side of the bridge. The red dome you see on the right side of the river is the Parliament building.

Here's a statue next to the Statue of Liberty. I like taking pictures of statues blocking the sun.

And here's the Statue of Liberty. It used to have a Communist star under the description, since it was built right after Hungary was taken by the Soviets in World War Two... my guidebook wonders "Liberated from free economics? From democracy?"

This is one of the lions guarding the Chain Bridge, Budapest's oldest bridge. It was built only about a hundred fifty years ago, to link the two cities of Buda and Pest. (We're staying in Pest, and have spent most of our time there. The hill we climbed, and the castle, are in Buda. The Danube is called the Duna in Hungarian.)

We walked back across the Chain Bridge, and searched for an open restaurant to get a very late lunch. The first thing we found was a Chinese fast food restaurant, which was about the same quality and choice as American Chinese fast food. Not too authentic, but it still tasted good. Then we walked back toward the hostel so that Judit could pick up the stuff she'd left in my locker, before getting a train back to her university. On the way to the hostel we saw this statue (Parliament in the background). The whole thing, bridge included, is the statue, not just the man on top:

We walked on to the bridge to take one final picture of the three of us.

After Judit left, Kristen and I went to a supermarket to get an eclectic dinner: mysterious refrigerated cakes (which turned out to be potato-based like the ones I loved in Russia), dehydrated mushroom chips (Chirpy brand), and flavored milk. Kristen and I frequently have this conversation:
"What's that?"
"I have no idea."
"It looks interesting."
"Let's buy it."

I love traveling with her :)

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