Bonny, of our Oshkosh Fox World Travel location, recently went on a memorable trip to Hungary and the Czech Republic. Hear about part 1 of this event-filled journey here!
After hosting five foreign exchange students (4 past, and 1 currently) all from East/Central Europe it was with great excitement to visit and tour their countries. And with what better tour guides than Adam #2, Julia # 3, Daniel #4, and Dominik #5. (Matej #1 was away in India).
Our arrival into Budapest was seamless and we were exchanging hugs with Julia’s family within twenty minutes. Besides participating in some local fishing, visiting Julia’s father’s bee farm, eating a lot of fish (carp) soup, one of the family rabbits, and trips across the border to Slovenia for ice cream, some of our Hungarian highlights were:
BUDA is the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary and on the west bank of Danube River and is mostly wooded and hilly. Notable landmarks include the Buda Castle and the Citadella. PEST is the eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest that includes the inner city and the Hungarian Parliament. Eight bridges cross the Danube in Budapest, connecting Buda and Pest.
The most famous one is the Chain Bridge. It was the first permanent stone bridge to cross the Danube in Budapest and only the second permanent bridge to cross it on its whole length. The bridge is almost a quarter mile long, and it became the symbol of Budapest. It is often photographed because how beautiful it is especially in the night when it is illuminated by lights on the top and bottom of the pillars.
The shortest of all the bridges is the Liberty Bridge. It was originally named after the emperor Francis Joseph. It was built in 1896, and two years later it was open for tram transportation. Unfortunately, like every other bridge, it was blown up by the retreating Nazi troops on January 16 1945. Soon after the WWII ended, the bridge was reconstructed and renamed to Liberty Bridge.
This bridge was named after the queen Elizabeth, the queen adored by the Hungarians. Unfortunately, on January 18th the bridge was destroyed by the retreating Nazi troops. The bridge remained unreconstructed for a while after the WWII ended until 1960. It was decided to rebuild the whole bridge because of the massive damage it was done to it. To this date, it is the most elegant bridge in Budapest due to its modern architecture and its snow flake color.
The Budapest Parliament was built during the millennial celebrations of 1896. The building was designed by Imre Steindl who was partially inspired by the Palace of Westminster. The outer walls are decorated by statues of Hungarian monarchs and military commanders. The interiors consist of huge halls, over 12,5 miles of corridors, a 96-meter high central dome, and 691 room. The whole building can be toured when the Parliament is not in session, and taking pictures is allowed.
Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) is one of the main squares in the cities. There lie two important buildings, Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. In the middle, stands the Millennium Memorial which was built in 1900 to commemorate the thousand year anniversary of the foundation of the state by St. Stephen I in 896. Városliget (Hungarian: city park) is the biggest park in Budapest and the main entrance from the Heroes’ Square.
The Statue of Liberty on Gellert Hill was erected in 1947 by the communists when Hungary became independent from Nazi regime, but the Hungarians grew to love it so much that they kept it even after Hungary became an independent country in 1989. The only change was to remove the old communist slogan for the new: “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.”
Buda Castle is one of the most visited places in Hungary. The castle was torn down and rebuilt many times in the history. The became a symbol of peace between the Hamsburgs and the Hungarian nation. Unfortunately, it had fallen a victim to the bombings during the World War II when the whole interior burned. The last renovation was done when the Communists came in 1968. The castle used to be where the royal family lived, and its massive walls have defined the panorama of the city for centuries. This is why it is still so popular among the tourists.
The Matthias Church, officially ‘Church of Our Lady’, was built in 1015 at the heart of Buda’s Castle District. It used to be the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of medieval Hungarian Empire. The church also has the Ecclesiastical Art museum inside of it which stretches from medieval crypt to the St. Stephen Chapel. It contains great number of medieval stone carvings, sacred relics, and the replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels.
St. Stephen’s Basilica which is the third tallest building in Hungary. It belongs among the top visited places in Hungary. The basilica has been an important music building ever since its consecration in 1905, and it hosts concerts every Thursday. Every Friday has to offer also “mini” concerts which are about 15 minutes long.
We took a ferry across the “Hungarian Sea”, the people’s name for the 50-mile long lake with silky green-yellow water in the middle of Transdanubia. The color of the lake reminded me of the Caribbean.
Lake Balaton is one of Hungary’s most precious treasures and most frequented resorts. It is also the largest lake in Central Europe.The most common places to stay around the lake are Siófok, Keszthely, and Balatonfüred.
Is a small town that is mostly known due to its monastery which serves today as a history museum of the abbey and Lake Balaton. The building itself has a great value because of its history and architecture. The best view of Balaton is from the monastery. In the past, the town was also famous because of its echo. Many poets had written poems about it, but due to the change in landscape it cannot be heard anymore.
Lenti – Street Market
Its existence so near the Slovenian and Austrian borders, and the cheaper prices in Hungary, meant and still means that many people travel there for shopping, for clothes in particular.
So for a small town you will find an amazing range of shops, many selling clothes, shoes, handbags, but also some selling linen and household goods (and ordinary shops too, of course). Although the Hungarian currency is forints many shops and traders accept euros. I purchased some of the most beautiful handcrafted tablecloths, runners and doilies…for really cheap!
Julia’s hometown of Redic was just a few miles from the Slovenian border. Her home was self sustained with gardens, grape vines, chickens, rabbits, ducks, a fish pond, and raised bees for three types of honey.
Julia’s family was so gracious and hospitable. We met her sisters, grandparents, and many other family members and friends. We toured her boarding school, walked around Lake Velenia where Julia spent time during her summer breaks, fished in her backyard, kept watch of the family ducks, shopped in her local grocery store. One of the most memorable moments was meeting little cousin, Tereza. She was shy at first, but we bonded over drawing and coloring and teaching Tereza, and her older sister, the names of the crayon colors in English. By the end of our stay, I was treated to my own personal performance of Do-Re-Mi /Do-A-Dear, from the Sound of Music. Afterwards, her new name was Gretl and it was very hard to say good-bye.
Our last full day in Hungary Dave and Julia’s father went fishing. Julia, her mother and I went to the Lenti Thermal Spa where Julia’s sister taught water aerobics. This was a very large indoor spa, with swimming, medicinal, and wellness pools. I overheard many languages spoken while soaking in the thermal pool. This was a destination retreat for many Europeans.
Our final evening with Julia’s family we were served the catch of the day – Carp. It was served as soup and as a whole filet complete with tail. So as they say, “When in Rome….”.
The following day Julia’s parents drove us back to Budapest for one last tour of the city and farewells till next time!
Stay tuned for part 2 of Bonny’s trip to be posted next week!
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