Abstract: Here, I will continue my tale of my Hungarian trip.
Things have been pretty busy, but hopefully this post will cover the yet undocumented travels and the next summary post will be enough to bring my story back to speed. The problem is, once I am behind in writing, I look with dread at all that needs to be covered over the last three months and end up putting it off. There are two solutions to this. One is to steel myself and settle down to write everything that has transpired. The more practical solution is to select only a few events to fill the time gap, but that requires overcoming an obsessive need to record every single interesting thing that has happened. In reality though, I have already forgotten much of what has occurred since I last blogged properly and my readers most likely do not even want to know everything that has happened. Hence, I have resorted to writing down only the events that my selective memory has retained without effort. I will leave out those recollections that require me to scour obscure corners of my brain in the following few catch up posts.
Following on from Eger, Nabil’s sister, Liz, joined us in Budapest. Without a doubt they were the funniest brother and sister I have ever met, with top quality banter and clearly deep affection for one another. The place we stayed was next to a marketplace, but when we arrived in Budapest, the marketplace was closed and we had to take a detour around it. We then discovered that the marketplace had been closed due to a bomb threat and the area was under lock down. Later, it was cleared without incident. However, this small episode, as well as the police walking around with big guns, made me aware of just how sheltered Australia and now, Oxford, are. Sydney is so far removed from most of the world that I had never before come across such vivid display of the dangers in the world. Even the Sydney Siege in 2014, though a shock, seemed to be such an isolated danger and it didn’t outwardly change how the city looked. In Europe, however, let alone the Middle East, danger, or at least threat of danger, seemed to be a much more commonplace occurrence. Just today, on the anniversary of the Belgian attacks last year, there was a terrorist attack in London. It’s a sobering realisation to recognise what kind of world we live in.
Next our accomodation, stood St Stephen’s Basilica. The namesake of the Basilica was canonised as a saint posthumously, with the qualifying miracle being that his hand was naturally mummified. The hand is known as the Holy Dexter and is housed in the Basilica. The amusing thing is, the famous left-footed Hungarian soccer player, Ferenc Puskas was buried beneath the Basilica after his death, leading to the saying that the Basilica housed the Holy Right Hand and the Holy Left Foot.
Budapest is the most beautiful city (not including small towns and villages) I have ever been to, though the list of cities that I have visited is short. We went into Hero Square featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and it was nothing short of awe-inspiring, seeing the statues of the legendary seven great horsemen who led the Magyars into the Carpathian Basin to become the nation known as Hungary. Though the Seven Chieftians as a collective may have been more legend than history, a few of them were definitely historical characters. The sight of them riding their huge bronze horses with swords, shields, and recurve bows, tugged at the part of my heart that longs to be a historian and writer. At the back of the square, were many more heroes of historical Hungary, ranging from the first King of Hungary, Stephen the First (also the St Stephen of the Basilica mentioned before), to the Father of Hungarian Democracy, Lajos Kossuth. It was simply magnificent. Next to the square, was an outdoor ice rink that sprawled across the open area besides Vajdahunyad Castle. At night, the twinkling lights from the castle made the ice rink breathtakingly romantic. We visited the castle as well, with the intimidating statue of the Hungarian chronicler known as Anonymus.
The next day, we joined a free walking tour that started on Pest, the side of Budapest on the flat lower bank of the Danube, and walked our way over the river and up into Buda, the high hilly side with the palaces and parliament. Both the view looking upwards from Pest onto Buda and the view looking downwards from Buda onto Pest were stunning. The way that the river Danube cut the city into two halves, which unified into one city in 1873, reminded me of Brisbane. Brisbane is an inferior city, fact, not opinion. Overseeing Pest, from the Royal Castle high up on the Buda side, was the statue of the huge mythical guardian bird, known as the Turul. Legend has that the Turul guided the Seven Chieftains into the Carpathian Basin. Seeing the sword gripped in its claws evoked strong feelings of epic tales and heroic sagas.
It was during this walking tour, that we met Denise the Adventurer. We discovered that the huge and rather fancy cloak she was wearing was a gift from a Saudi prince that had given it to her in gratitude for caring for his mother. Denise was an American nurse who worked in a Saudi royal hospital. She shouted us dinner because she said that she simply wanted to have an enjoyable conversation again. One of the stories she told us was about her journey to the Phillipines where she was taken to the last traditional tattooist of some indigenous tribe. The tattooist who was the last of her line was a ninety year old woman who refused to draw anything but a turtle, which was the symbol of a traveller. Denise then showed us the tattoo which had been etched into her skin by a pointed bamboo stick. Overall, it was incredible to meet Denise and I hope she is well.
We later went to a ruin bar called Szimpla Kert in the Jewish district, and while we sat around with our drinks, a waitress came to us with a bucket of carrots. The spiel she gave us went along the lines of, “We started doing this six (or something along that order of magnitude) years ago because it was different and carrots are healthy and why not?” I of course obliged and bought a carrot for 300 Florints to munch on with my scotch. I will finish this post by mentioning the sheepskin ushanka I bought in a Christmas market. I think ranks amongst the most expensive accessories and/or clothes I have ever bought, but it’s warm and it’s unique!
That’s enough for tonight, my Austrian journey will be up next, which contains one of the funniest stories of my time overseas. Stay tuned!