Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Budapest, Hungary II

Budapest is actually two cities combined, Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. The Buda side is where Castle Hill is located, which has spectacular scenery. We spent the better part of the day here, walking down streets and looking at all the buildings, each one a different color and design. The buildings here look like they have lived a good long life-- we admired old-fashioned mail boxes labeled "Post", heavy wooden doors with character, and the paint peeling off most of the walls, exposing different shades underneath.  

We stopped at Matthias Church which has a beautiful multicolored roof made of pyro granite tiles that are arranged in geometric patterns. The roof of the church was designed to look like a Turkish rug to remember when it was once a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. Religious tradition has it that the church was founded by St. Stephen in 1015. 

From there we headed to the Fisherman's Bastion which is a castle-like terrace overlooking the Danube River and Pest on the other side. The name comes from a guild of fishermen that guarded this stretch of river during the Middle Ages. Along the river, you can see several bridges in either direction and you can't miss the Hungarian Parliament building, the 3rd largest in the world. 

Hungarians love their first king, Stephen I, who later became known as Saint Stephen, and the Father of Hungary. The original Hungarians were nomad pagan tribes from central Asia. In the year 896, they settled in what is present-day Hungary. Stephan became their first king and led everyone to Christianity so Europe would accept them as a nation. Budapest has Stephen's statue in multiple places around the city. Next to the Fisherman's Bastion, there is a beautiful bronze statue of Saint King Stephen on a horse... with a halo around his head. Inside Saint Stephen's Basilica (which you saw in the previous post), the main statue in the middle is not Jesus, not even Mary, not any one of the twelve apostles, but Steven himself. This is also where you can see the famous relic, Saint Stephen's right hand, for a dollar.  

We had a great time exploring even though the cold made it impossible to stay outside for too long.