Saturday, May 5th, we had an early alarm because we were cruising into Budapest at 7:15AM and the view was spectacular. It is the mot beautiful city we have seen, with it beautiful churches with tiled roofs, its castle sitting above the city and it own “Statue of Liberty”. Budapest is divided into two cities by the Danube River, Buda and Pest. It is said that there are two kinds of people in Budapest, the ones who live in Buda and the ones who want to!! We had our usual delicious breakfast and departed for a 3 hour bus tour of Budapest. As with most of our tour guides, Bridgett was excellent, giving us details about all the buildings we passed on our way to Matthias Church in Buda on the high hill overlooking the Danube and Pest. It was a magnificent structure and very beautiful inside with many frescos on the walls and ceiling. The roof is a colorful Zsolnay-tile one and very different from any others we have seen. Fisherman’s Bastion, a viewing platform behind the church offers the best views of Budapest. Our tour continued and we saw the Opera House, the Royal Palace, Thermal baths, Hero’s Square and Margaret’s Park. What an awesome city!! Our tour concluded at the boat, we had lunch and walked to the Nagycsarnok Market, the granddaddy of all the markets. It is a 2 story 19th century hall with rows of dangling cured meats, stalls of vegetables and fruits, and lots of souvenirs. Unfortunately for us it closed 30 minutes after our arrival. I see another trip here on monday. We meandered through the narrow streets filled with outdoor restaurants and shops back to the Maria Theresa for a reception with Captain Tom and a wonderful farewell dinner. We packed suitcases and sadly prepared to leave this wonderful boat tomorrow.
Well, all good things must come to and end and today this Enchanting Danube cruise comes to an end. I would highly recommend Uniworld Cruises to anyone as the service was top-notch — the off boat excursions were organized, well-planned with great guides, the food, and drinks were wonderful and plentiful, and the staterooms were beautiful with beautiful views. It has been a wonderful week. Our luggage had to be outside our door at 8:30AM. Our wonderful group had our last breakfast served by our favorite waiter, Miklos. The ladies settled in on the top deck in the lounge chairs for a relaxing morning and the guys took the Uniworld bikes for a 2 hour ride to see the “Shoes on the Danube”. This is a monument to the Hungarian Jews shot and thrown into the Danube by the fascist. Arrow Cross Party in 1944. It is a poignant display of 60 pairs of old-style boots and shoes in cast iron, tossed in pairs on the banks of the river.
The guys bicycled across the Chain Bridge, through Margaret Park and back to the boat. We ate lunch, grabbed luggage and took off for the apartment we rented that will be out home until Tuesday. I want to thank Robbie Hunter for finding us this AirBnB 4 bedroom, 4 bath apartment which is located within walking distance of everything. We meet the free walking tour at the Lion Fountain and did the Jewish District Tour learning about the plight of the Jewish people in Budapest. We saw the beautiful Great Synagogue in Dohany Street is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. During the inter-war years, anti-Semitism grew quickly in Hungary. A series of anti-Jewish policies were passed, and fascist groups like the Arrow Cross Party started to attract more followers. Hungary became an ally of Germany and the Arrow Cross Party damaged the Synagogue in 1939. During World War II, the Great Synagogue served as a stable and as a radio communication center for the Germans. Today, the compound serves as the main center for the Jewish community. We ended our tour at one of the Ruin Bars, Szimpla Kert. The ruin pub phenomenon has taken over Budapest’s nightlife a couple years ago to establish a far-reaching success formula. However, it’s not only the rickety furnishing, the psychedelic interiors, and the hipster crowd that make these ramshackle properties popular, but the dilapidated edifices also boast a distinct charm. After a 2 hour walking tour, we were just glad to sit and have some refreshments. We stopped on the way back to our place at an outdoor cafe for delicious pizza.
Monday morning was a relaxing time in the apartment and then off to The Great Market Hall for some final shopping. The Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) built in 1897 is the most beautiful of all Budapest market halls (yes, there are more historical market halls in Budapest!). And the market is not only ‘Great’ in its size, but is also great in other aspects. Most importantly the market is also central, no wonder it is also called the Central Market Hall, for both of its location (5 min walk from the city center), and the volume of trade taking place here on a daily basis. The Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) built in 1897 is the most beautiful of all Budapest market halls (yes, there are more historical market halls in Budapest!). You can get all sorts of goods on the 3 floors of the Great Market Hall of Budapest: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fantastic salamis, pickles, fresh fish, Hungarian paprika, Tokaj wines, various souvenirs, and even home style meals, or Hungarian snacks like Langos at the upper floor food stands and eateries. We had great fun buying souvenirs, looking at leather bags, and people watching. Walking back, we stopped for a gyro cut from a huge hunk of chicken on a spit. It was delicious!! Returning to our "home in Budapest" we packed, weighted our luggage,(I think we will be paying for extra weight), and enjoyed our friends with some local cheese, wine and fruit.