Showing posts with label Budapest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Budapest. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Budapest Noir ~ House of Terror and other Horrors

On a crisp sunny November morning we set out on Budapest's famed boulevard - Andrassy Avenue -- a stretch of road dating back to 1872. Today's roadway is lined with elaborate facades on the exteriors of Neo-renaissance mansions and townhomes. 

Flower stalls brightened Andrassy Avenue - Budapest

Strolling on its wide sidewalks we passed name-brand designer stores, fancy cafes and restaurants that are the street level occupants of those stately old edifices. Notable addresses along the street include
the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and the State Opera House. 

Trams waiting for pedestrians crossing before them on Andrassy Street

The bustling route -- such an upbeat and pleasant part of the city -- was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2002.

A stop at a bookstore along the way resulted in the purchase of a murder mystery set in the 1930's penned by a Hungarian writer, its title 'Budapest Noir'

Thinking back on it, the title was an appropriate foreshadowing for our destination that morning: 

The House of Terror. . .a place about as 'noir' as you could find.

Not some Hollywood special effects entertainment venue, the building at 60 Andrassy Avenue is both a Museum about one of the darkest times in Budapest's modern history and a memorial to its victims. 

House of Terror, 60 Andrassy Avenue, Budapest
 A sign at the entryway reads:

'A memorial of political terror, where people were detained, tortured and murdered during the Arrow Cross [far-right, Fascists] and Communist dictatorships. From the late 1930's the building was used as a meeting place by the Arrow Cross and later as their party headquarters, dubbed The House of Loyalty. It was taken over by the Communist secret police in 1945 and later served as headquarters for Hungary's Secret Service organization the State Protection Authority.'

Photography isn't allowed inside. Frankly, I am not sure who would want to take photos - you don't need them to remember the horrors depicted in displays and articulated by survivors in the many videos used throughout the memorial.  

One of the most striking photo displays was not of victims, but of the perpetrators.  It took us a bit to realize that the display was of the perpetrators because frankly the men and women looked the same as those who had been victims. 

Regulars here know I am not a fan of those blogs that list the 5, 10 or 12  "Must See" places for their readers. Nor do I like those who tell you what should be visited in a two- or three-day stay somewhere. I prefer to tell you about things we do in the places we visit in hopes you'll get the itch to set forth as well using your own ideas about what should be seen.  Here I am making an exception to my rule: if you are in Budapest, you should visit this tastefully curated but horrifying look at history.

Entry to 60 Andrassy - photos of victims ring the building's exterior

Along the banks of the Danube near the fairytale castle-like building that serves as Parliament, another display created by sculptors, Gyula Pauer and Con Togay, has been drawing tourists since its 2005 installation.

Budapest Parliament Building
"Shoes on the Danube" 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast in iron sit at the water's edge. Behind them signs read, "To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrowcross militiamen in 1944-45."

We didn't make it to the shoes as we simply ran out of time - it will be high on our 'must see' list when we return (and we do plan to return to this amazing city)!

Memorial to victims of German occupation 

Several blocks away from the Parliament Building we did visit another memorial, this one built to honor the victims of the German occupation.  While the memorial is striking with its eagle (representing Nazi Germany) and Archangel Gabriel (representing victims), it was the personal messages, photos and stories that descendants of the victims have left, that grip your heart.  Each one a story of love and loss.

The caption on this photo reads: 
'Budapest 1944. Jewish women being driven to extermination. Passers-by look at the sidewalk.'
The saddest part of the memorial to my way of thinking

I can't visit these memorials without wondering why the human race hasn't learned from history.  It was when I saw the notice in the photograph above that I thought perhaps it never will.  

I use a hashtag, #whywetravel quite often on FB posts because so many ask if we still -- after this many decades of it -- enjoy traveling.  These 'noir' experiences in Budapest certainly qualify as examples of why we travel.  There is so much of the world and its history -- both good and bad -- to learn about and what better way to do it than visiting sites that might make us uncomfortable and be upsetting but that certainly present a story that needs to be told and heard?

How about you? Where has history taken you on your travels? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email.

Next week, I promise a bit more upbeat tale and hope that you will join us then for another adventure.  Thank you for the time you spent with us today. Safe travels to you and yours.

I am adding a post script to this because I need to know if any of you who have 'subscribed' - that is, signed up to receive this as an email in your inbox -- did receive it?  I seem to have been dropped from Feedburner, the distribution engine that brings my words to you.  If you did, could you be so kind as to drop a note and say, "got it"?

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 25, 2019

Ring those Christmas Bells for Europe's Markets ~

 Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling.
                    -- Edna Ferber

Au contraire, Edna! In Europe Christmas IS a season. 

A season of festive markets and merriment as we learned on our recent trip north to Budapest and Vienna.

Far too many from which to choose! Vienna Christmas Market stall

I've always been a fan of Christmas although I admit the years have worn down my enthusiasm for decorating the house, buying and gaily wrapping gifts.  Now that we live in a rural part of Greece -- with a couple of hardware stores and grocery stores as our year-round retail outlets -- we have far less commercial hoopla. The holiday continues to be largely celebrated as it should be, as a family event. 

Dried oranges and cinnamon stick decorations tempted in Budapest

So the celebration for this family of two aging expats and two cats, might best be described as minimalist: enough that the holiday doesn't pass by completely but certainly not a Hallmark Christmas movie in the making. 

Nighttime magic in Budapest

BUT that doesn't mean I didn't jump for joy when I realized that some Christmas Markets would be open in the two cities we were visiting. . .a per-chance occurrence, not pre-planned.

This one a few blocks from the Danube was our first Christmas Market 

Once that fact was determined I began researching European Christmas markets. The articles are endless as are the recommendations, btw:  'most charming' the ones 'not to miss', 'the 10 best. . .', the 10 least. . .' 

The Scout against a Market backdrop - Budaest
And you know what? Now that I've experienced them, I've decided you don't need recommendations or lists from any travel guru - you simply need to experience a Christmas market, any market, to bring out the Christmas spirit. . . especially if your enthusiasm for Christmas is waning and a bit of a re-charge is in order. 

A bit of magic in Budapest at the market

For a week we visited big markets and small markets; some large and touted and others very tiny, appearing on street corners without fanfare. So many markets that I simply mainlined holiday joy!  (Helped a bit by a little mulled wine!)

My first European Christmas Market - but not my last!
The food booths were all absolutely tantalizing, with the exception of Rooster Testicle Stew, to our way of thinking.  

No thanks! We passed on this one in Budapest
One evening we dined on market fare. The truth be told, our choices were heavily salted and only warm (it was cold outside) and the wine just okay. But the setting and the experience made up for all that and it will be a long remembered meal.  

Hearty fare for shoppers in Budapest
So many choices of food that had it not been as rainy as it was often times during our visit (tables and benches weren't covered) we would have tried a second night's fare as well just for the ambiance of dining at the Market.

This fellow was BBQing some tasty looking salmon

Another evening I warmed myself drinking mulled wine, spicy and warm. A drink I normally wouldn't have consumed but there, nothing else seemed better.

Christmas was in the Air in Budapest

The variety of items for sale surprised me.  I had thought everything would be Christmas themed, but many practical items tempted as well:

Too many choices from which to choose

Leather bags in a rainbow of colors

Colorful ceramic ware from cooking pots to flower pots

We learned that opening dates are as varied as the Christmas markets themselves. We lucked out to have as many open as we had during our third week of November trip. Some stay open through the first week of January. 

Budapest after dark

A trip to Budapest is far more than its Markets though and next week we'll take you on a sightseeing trip which made for a time travel trip of sorts through its history.  Hope to have you back with us then and until then, safe travels to you and yours. Thanks for your time today!

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hungary . . .for a little adventure. . .

The rain against the taxi windows blurred our first glimpses of Budapest. We arrived on a very dreary Sunday morning - the sky, the buildings and streets -- even the Danube River - were shades of gray.  A breeze stirred fallen leaves.

A rainy morning added to the ambiance of Budapest

Welcome to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Even with modern vehicles, trams and buses passing our taxi, I still felt like we were characters in one of Alan Furst's novels which are set in a variety of European cities. His plots delve into a shady and suspenseful time surrounding World War II. And this city on that drab morning felt shady and suspenseful!

So many choices and so little time!

We'd arrived here as part of a quick fall getaway: five nights here, to be followed by three in Vienna. We've been landlocked in Greece too long this year. The travel bug, dormant during that 4.5 month wait for our residency cards - our keys to being able to travel outside the country - had definitely gotten restless. You regulars here know one of the reasons we moved was to have a launch pad from which we could explore more of Europe and the Middle East and Africa.  

Euro on the left, Hungarian Forint on the right

We were hungry for an adventure to someplace we'd never been before. Hungary is satiating our appetites! After a flight of one hour, 40 minutes from Athens we are immersed in such a different culture - language, food, currency; everything has just enough foreign feel to it to make this trip most interesting.  

And some things are a bit too foreign for my tastes

With so many layers of history, we are having a hard time absorbing all there is to learn about this once Communist-ruled country.

Buda Castle from our room
It didn't take long to figure out that the five days we gave ourselves here won't be anywhere near enough to visit all the sights within the city of Budapest, let alone to get out and explore the countryside! We've barely had time to sample Hungarian cuisine and sip Hungarian wine.

Free entertainment outside our window

Our room at the Budapest Marriott on the Pest side (pronounced, pesht) overlooks the Danube River and the Castle on the Buda side of the river. We could easily spend our days doing nothing more than watching the never-ending river traffic: tour boats and river cruise boats mingle with barges and other river transport.

Taking a morning stroll across the Danube on Chain Bridge

The November weather has been what one might expect in a Central European country: a bit of sun, quite a few clouds and periodic heavy rain, and chilly for those us basking last week in summer-like temperatures in Greece!  Here we've shivered in temperatures hovering between high 40F and low 50's ( 4-10C).  A morning of sunshine has become a pouring rainstorm by evening.

Street scenes to take your breath away

Aside from the fact I should have followed my instincts and packed our long underwear and heavier clothes, we are enjoying this adventure in Central Europe. . .it reminds us how much of the world there is to see!  Regulars here and FB friends know that Budapest has long been on The Scout's list of 'must see' places. It wasn't as high up on my travel list, that is, before I arrived. Now I am talking about making this annual trip.

I am at a European Christmas Market!
In addition to the multitude of art galleries and museums, the historic sites are many and varied. We've logged more than a dozen miles walking from one to another in just a couple of days and filled most of another day touring by Hop-On, Hop-Off bus and boat tours. 

One of the unexpected treats we have had was the annual Christmas Market. And I do believe there will be another market operating in Vienna when we get there this weekend! I will certainly be telling you about those soon!

Who is this man? What was he playing for us? Stay tuned.
I know some of you were expecting a post on Monemvasia and I pre-empted that with this trip.  We are hopping a train tomorrow to Vienna before returning home to Greece next week. I will get back to it, but I've got a lot of things to tell you about our travels to this amazing part of Europe so hope you'll be back again for the next installment of Travel-n-Write! 

Safe travels to you and yours and thanks for the time you spent with us today.

Linking sometime soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


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