We booked Susi, one of the 2 trainees on our bike trip, for a private tour of her home city for this day. As we expected it was wonderful, so it is very difficult for me to choose a few photos from our time with her to put on my blog. Susi, beside speaking 6 languages fluently is an experienced tour guide, having been doing it for 8 years of her young life, and before that accompanied her father from age 6 when he gave tours in Russian.
Susi picked us up in her car and took us to the City Park near Andrassy Ave which contained among other attractions the zoo, Baths, a lake which in the winter is a large ice skating area,
and this fairytale like Vajdahunyad Castle. Not really a castle, it is a reflection of various architectural styles reflecting the history and evolution of architecture in Hungary.
From there we walked to Heroes Square, the site of the horse races the other day.
Among other stops was Liberty Square with this obelisk, a Soviet War Memorial commemorating "Liberation Day", April 4th, 1945 when the Soviets forced the Nazis out of Hungary.
This area was also the site of the 1956 uprising against communist rule, and bullet holes can still be seen in this building.
From there we rode across the Chain Bridge to the Buda part of Budapest to Castle Hill. and the many steps up to the Fishermen's Bastion,
From the Terrace there is a spectacular view of the Danube and the Parliament buildings across the water in Pest.
The conical towers of the Fishermen's Bastion served no defensive purpose but are an allusion to the tribal tents of the early Magyars.
There I spied this sad, hooded falcon and his handler who was there to perch on the arm of older children for a price.
Moving along Castle Hill to the Castle itself we can to the beautiful King Matthias Fountain. The legend goes that when King Matthias while was on a hunting trip he wooed Ilonka, who fell desperately in love with him, not knowing that he was the king. When he left suddenly to return to Buda, Ilonka tracked him down and realized who he was. Realizing his rank meant they could never be together, Ilonka committed suicide.
Passing the Royal Palace, we saw that the Raven's Gate which when closed was a map of Budapest.
Leaving the Royal Palace area we passed again the Lions Gate and the Mythical Turul bird which in folktales led the Magyar tribes to settle in the area now known as Hungary.
Our next stop north of the Castle was the tomb of Gull Baba, a Muslim dervish who died in 1541. He is one of the few Turks respected by the people of Hungary and legend says it is he who introduced roses to Budapest.
Our last big stop was Gellert Hill. When King Istvan converted Hungary to Christianity in the year 1000, he brought in Bishop Gellert, a monk from Vienna to tutor his son. Some Magyars however had other ideas. They put the bishop in a barrel, drove in long nails from the outside and rolled the barrel down the hill, causing his death. Gellert became the patron saint of Budapest and gave his name to the hill that killed him.
The view from the top of Gellert Hill was spectacular, a panorama of the Danube River and both parts of the city.
At the top, past the craft booths was the fortress and the last holdout of the Germans in WWII. The Hills here, and on Castle hill, are laced with limestone caves, making it extremely difficult to oust the enemy. Remaining there were guns left by the German forces.
The hill is crowned by the Liberation Monument, a statue of a woman holding aloft a palm branch (named by locals "the big can opener"), and this one representing the battle with evil.
On the walk back down the hill we passed posters depicting the history of Budapest, including this photo of the destruction of the Chain Bridge done by the Germans to prevent the Allies from reaching them up on Castle and Gellert Hills.
Lastly we visited the Cave Church near the bottom of Gellert Hill. The communists bricked up the church when they came to power, but it again open to the public.
While service was not being held at the time we visited, the organist was practicing and the sound within the cave was beautiful.
Leaving Susi we wandered around Center Pest for a time, had a late lunch and returned tired to out hotel.