#LibkaGirlsTakeEurope | Part 3
We landed in Budapest early on Sunday afternoon and settled into Garden House, a small, affordable hotel near the city center that featured touches of Hungarian folk art throughout our room. We acquainted ourselves with the metro and shopped and explored a bit.
Dietrich Bronner, Bronner’s product development manager, had recommended we visit Szimpla Kert, a ruin pub on Kazinczy Street in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. Ruin pubs make their homes in the ruins of abandoned buildings or lots. Designed for nightlife, Szimpla Kert offers food, drinks, live music, movies, jam sessions and a Sunday-morning farmers market in an eclectic indoor/outdoor setting. We were looking for a late lunch and Szimpla Kert’s second-floor restaurant didn’t open until 5 p.m. so we decided to pick up shawarma at a nearby fast-food restaurant.
As dusk began to settle, we entered the square at St. Stephen’s Basilica, named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038).
Speaking of Christmas, most of Bronner’s exclusive ornaments, including our Hungarian Christmas customs ornament, are made at a glass ornament factory in Hungary from our designs. Look for a tag reading “Made in Hungary” to identify our hundreds of ornaments manufactured in this Central-European country, including this Joy To The World The Lord Has Come nativity ornament.
(Love our hand-painted ornaments, too? You might enjoy reading how Wally Bronner transformed these traditional Christmas ornaments into personalized keepsakes to become Bronner’s signature Gifts With Personal-ity®!)
St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Building are the two tallest buildings in Budapest, both standing at 96 meters or 315 feet. The Parliament Building on the banks of the Danube River is striking at night. So, too, is the view across the Danube from the parliament building to Buda Castle.Created in 2005 by Gyula Pauer, Hungarian sculptor, and friend Can Togay, Shoes on the Danube is a moving memorial to the Hungarian Jews lined up and shot into the Danube River during the final months of World War II. The memorial consists of 60 pairs of iron shoes (styled from the 1940s) lining the stone embankment of the Danube. (Since shoes were valuable, the victims were forced to take their shoes off before they were shot.)
We viewed this memorial at night when lighted candles and flowers spoke of the suffering and loss remembered over 70 years later.
Originally we planned to take a river tour Sunday evening, but ice on the Danube caused the tour’s cancellation.
So we decided to embrace the early Middle Ages with dinner at Sir Lancelot Restaurant. (Hungarians/Magyars took over the land we know as Hungary around 895, and King Stephen I founded the state of Hungary in 1000.) Bring a really big appetite to this restaurant or plan to share a feast or order à la carte.
Beamer the Bronner Star joined us for the evening!
An evening in the Great Hall is filled with good food and entertainment that included musicians and a fire twirler.
Monday morning we visited Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church in the heart of Buda’s Castle District. Built to celebrate Hungary’s 1000th birthday, Fisherman’s Bastion was constructed between 1895 and 1902. Its seven towers mark the seven chieftains whose tribes settled Hungary in 895.
A walk along the Bastion affords you with breathtaking views of the Danube and Matthias Church … and perhaps a little accordion music. (I may have to remember our walk on the bastion with an accordion ornament on our tree this Christmas!)
Christmas displays at Matthias Church featured a beautiful carved wooden Nativity and delicate European lace ornaments, very similar to these …
Budapest is home to the Great Synagogue or Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest synagogue in the world.
The Hungarian Jewish Museum is adjacent to the Great Synagogue and home to history and artifacts.
The Holocaust Memorial onsite is the sculpture of a weeping willow tree. Each leaf is inscribed with the names of Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust.
While in the Jewish quarter, we visited a gift shop and dined at a kosher restaurant. I started out dinner with a bowl of matzo ball soup, which was delicious!
Speaking of soup in Hungary leads me to a very important assignment my friends gave me before we left for Europe. “Help us settle a dispute, please,” they said. “Find out what real Hungarian goulash is! Is it the ground beef, tomato and macaroni dish Americans claim? Or is it similar to the potatoes, beef and gravy we call goulash?” (They are of German origin.)
It’s something else! Seasoned beef (think paprika) and vegetables served over noodles, dumplings or sometimes potatoes. It is also goulash soup – seasoned beef and vegetables in a beef broth.
We wrapped up our day with an evening visit to Szechenyi Baths. It’s estimated that there are 1,000 natural hot springs in Hungary; 118 are in Budapest. I am so glad we decided to pack our swimsuits and experience the thermal baths. We have no pictures, unfortunately, since the air temperature was 27F/-2.8C, causing us to make a beeline from the locker room through the cold air to the bath. For safety and security, we tucked our phones away in our lockers. The water temperature was in the mid-70sF/23.89C. What a delightful mid-winter experience!
Tuesday morning we enjoyed breakfast at Central Cafe, established in 1887.
I Beamer couldn’t get enough cappuccino on this trip! Our meal was delicious and our waiter friendly and engaging.
My girls and I love books so we made an impromptu stop at a university library we walked by on our way to the Hungarian National Gallery.
Splendid treasures like “Picnic in May” by Hungarian painter and art educator Szinyei Merse Pál and “Grape Harvest Near Vác” by Ágost Canzi awaited our viewing at the Hungarian National Gallery.
Dietrich also recommended we stop by For Sale Pub, an eclectic restaurant where guests are welcome to leave advertisements, drawings, notes, etc. pinned to the walls, and peanut shells on the floor with the straw! Just across the street, we shopped the Great Hall Market for souvenirs, gifts, and fresh bread and fruit for breakfast on the train to Vienna the next morning.
After a quick stop for dessert (and more cappuccino) at the ornate New York Café, known as the Most Beautiful Coffee House in the World, we made our way to the Hungarian National Opera House to see the ballet “Onegin.” We splurged with box seating at the theater!
Early the next morning we left the Keleti Train Station bound for Vienna.
*All travel photos in this post were used with permission from Lori Libka & Kristen Dang.