Dear friends and family,
For those who were not sure, that was not Don practicing for a new vocation upon a move to Venice; that last photo was produced through the amazing Photoshop skills of our friend, the mysterious Ms. Deborah O.
We agree with everyone who has been here and told us about it; Budapest is a great city. We feel that we barely had enough time to dip our big toe into it. There are fantastic buildings, beautiful bridges, great food, plentiful cafes, great museums, lots and lots to see. It reminds us of exploring Paris and London for the first time in the late 'sixties (in and just out of high school - we're not that ancient yet), before these cities were totally cleaned up and pristine, when they were still sooty and a bit crumbling, when the streets were not yet packed with tourists, and when prices were a lot less.
There was some serious money here at one time. Luxurious, highly decorated buildings in varying stages of entropy. Luxurious, completely renovated palaces side-by-side with bullet-ridden buildings.
Spent the good part of a day at the mammoth Budapest Fine Arts Museum. They have some wonderful Velasquez and many other works. There was literally almost no one there (see below).
Our apartment, which continues to be a joy and refuge to us, is in a small court with an old church and many trees, at the foot of a narrow (almost) walking street filled with great cafes. At the end of the street and a bit to the left is the also mammoth Central Market Hall, half French covered market and half Oriental bazarre. From the outside it looks very Hungarian, I guess. I do not yet have any expertise in Hungarian architecture.
Central Market Hall, Budapest. It's huge, but looks mammoth in this photo
(outside of market)
We ate at a restaurant which specializes in good Hungarian wine from its many wine-producing regions.
Era looking quite pleased that she's about to chow down on some salmon with porcini and gnocchi. Don has a duck breast in a Hollandaise sauce with a dish made of layers of pastry and vegetables. No dieting here.
Waundering the little streets, we went into an art gallery and met a very nice Finnish man (Ari) who dealt in antiques and was also showing works of prize-winning Hungarian art students. He sponsors students in the visual arts and music by providing scholarships. He is working on opening an art center with teaching facilities outside Budapest with some Finnish backers. Apparently, the Finns cannot understand Hungarian without studying it, but the grammar is similar. The next day we ran into Ari with some Finnish friends on the Liberty Bridge.
Era on Liberty Bridge
Climbed to the top of the citadel, one of the high hills on the Buda side of the Danube. According to one of my guide books, Budapest was once located on the great Hungarian plains, but after being attacked one too many times by Tartars, Turks and other invaders, the city was relocated to its present site on a high protected hill. The views at the top were stunning, but we didn't have long to enjoy them as the clouds rolled in, the heavens got active and we had a thunder and lightning storm. Just that morning, we had gone back to the apartment to get my sunglasses as the day was so bright. After huddling under the stone gate of the old citadel, we decided to brave the rain with our smallish umbrella, which Don hurriedly purchased for $5. We ended up getting hopelessly lost and almost completely drenched. We somehow managed to come down the wrong side of the hill, lose sight of the huge Danube River and wander into some residential and uninteresting business areas. By the time we got back to our apartment, Don was feeling a little chilled, so we decided to get warm and take it easy.
It's not all smooth, dry sailing on the road.
Era and Don