The Pest Side of Things

Budapest is conveniently divided into two main sections called Buda and Pest. I guess if you were combining two towns separated by the Danube River into one, you may as well just take their names and squash them together. Pest is the flatter side of town on the west side of the river. The whole divided-right-down-the-middle thing (along with a good public transportation system) makes Budapest pretty easy to get around in.

Terror Museum Facade, Budapest, Hungary
We started our day with a visit to the well-marked Museum of Terror. In this unassuming house on one of the main boulevards of Pest, the Nazi secret police had their headquarters during the German occupation of the city. When the Soviet secret police came to town after WWII, they found it convenient to just keep using it as their secret police headquarters. It's always easier when someone else's torture equipment has already been moved in.

Terror Museum tank, Budapest, Hungary
Tank in the Terror Museum. This was the only spot where pictures were allowed, but overall it was a powerful museum. They had a lot of information (with lots of English handouts). The Soviets eventually took over a full city block and connected all of the cellars into a large prison/torture complex. Nice.

Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary
Heroes' Square, a monument further up Andrassy Ut (the main boulevard). This monument was erected in 1896 to help celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Hungarian rule over the Carpathian Basin. Not a bad string if you ask me.

Heroes Square self-portrait, Budapest, Hungary
Michele and I in the Square.

Statue  of  Anonymous, Budapest, Hungary
Statue of Anonymous, near Heroes' Square. This statue is supposed to represent the guy who wrote the first history of the Hungarian people. His work survived but his name was lost. Although we do know that he preferred to keep his face hidden deep within a hood.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
The Szechenyi Baths, a opulent, geothermal-fed public bath just past Heroes. Built in the 1800's, it's full of Baroque splendor. We paid a small fee and got into the huge complex of hot baths, steam rooms, and saunas. The highlight is an outdoor heated swimming pool complete with fountains, statues, jets, and even a whirlpool (jets along the outside of circular pool push you all the way around). There's something very relaxing about sitting outside in a heated pool on a cold, windy day.

Church, Onion Domes, and Moon, Budapest, Hungary
A church in Pest with onion domes framing the moon.

Church and Mary, Budapest, Hungary
Another church lit up by the sun (it did come out every now and again while we were there) with a statue of Mary out front. Before the end of this trip we would see more churches than Moses could shake a staff at.

Gerbaud Coffee House, Budapest, Hungary
At one end of Vaci Ut, a main shopping street, you'll find Gerbeaud, a fabled coffee house and pastry shop where you can sit and get some really darn good cakes.

Chain Bridge at Dusk, Budapest, Hungary
The famed Chain Bridge across the Danube. It's like a suspension bridge only with large solid chain links instead of a cable. Finished in 1849, it was the first bridge to link Buda and Pest. This is a somewhat odd picture. When they light the bridge at dusk, the lights shine green only while they are warming up.

Stephensdom at night, Budapest, Hungary Stephensdom in day, Budapest, Hungary
St. Stephen's Basilica at night and during the day. Why were we here twice? When we went in at night, there was a mass going on so we couldn't take pictures or see the one-of-a-kind relic they keep there. Seriously, it's one of a kind.

Inside Stephensdom, Budapest, Hungary
Inside St. Stephen's. The place is absolutely huge and magnificent. It's pretty much awe-inspiring, and no picture can really do it justice. The church is named after Stephen I, the first real king of Hungary. Crowned in the year 1000 by Rome, he brought Christianity (thus respectability in those times) to Hungarians. So how do you honor such a man as this? By keeping his mummified hand in the church, of course.

Ishtavn's Mummified Hand, Budapest, Hungary Close up of Ishtavn's hand, Budapest, Hungary
That's right. In the aptly named Chapel of the Holy Right Hand, you can find the 1000-year-old preserved hand of King Stephen himself. When you get there, you have to pay this little old man 200 Forint (~$1) to turn on the lights in the reliquary. You then get 2 minutes to stare at the hand and take pictures to your heart's content. No flash please!

Building at night, Budapest, Hungary
An old building at night in Pest. Next up, the really old stuff up on Castle Hill on the Buda side of the river.

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