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Journal of No. 118


August 21st, 2012

Danube River Cruise Part II - Budapest cont. @ 05:30 pm

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Wednesday 8 August

After breakfast, a city tour of Budapest. Our first stop was at Freedom Park, an important location for the 1956 Revolution, when Hungary threw off Communism for a few weeks. At one side of the park is a building then used by the Hungarian Communist Party & some shootings took place there. We spoke with a chemical engineer who was a child at the time. He gave some history and his own experiences. A vitally important event for Hungarian history & national pride (particularly now that communism is gone for good) but I didn't find him very enthralling.


We drove past many other sites: the opera house, the zoo, the city park, Heroes' Square, the museums, etc. We crossed from Pest to Buda on the Margaret Bridge. One intersting thing is that the bridge also connects to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube, with parklands.

On the Buda side we climbed up to the palace hill and saw the Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion, and a little bit of the palace grounds, which are now primarily museums.

Back across the Danube on the Elizabeth Bridge, we stopped at one of the covered markets. Lots of fish stalls, meat & sausage, veggies and fruits, wines & in the upper galleria, lots of souvenir shops and the like. Neat to see Hungarian peppers in their native habitat.

Back to the ship for lunch. Really tasty tomato soup, followed by an American-style goulash -- Hungarian goulash is often more of a soup than a stew. And I guess the realllly authentic stuff has a nice think layer of fat on top. It may not had that, but mine was plenty tasty. A little Esterhazy for dessert, a nice nut-flavored cake that tasted great with the berry compote, but had way too much icing for my taste.

Afterwards, we were on our own, so we walked to nearby St. Stephen's basilica. It's quite an impressive building, though the artwork was not as impressive as in the major league cathedrals. They do have an impressive relic -- the fist of St. Stephen in its own lovely reliquary, which you can light up for two minutes for better photography for a mere euro.

A bit further on, we came to the opera house, where you can at least check out the foyer if (like us) you don't have time for the full tour. From there, a longish walk to the Budapest synagogue, the largest in Europe. Very impressive facade and towers. As we heard the outside was the best part (and didn't have time for the long and expensive tour) we moved on until we came to Vaci street, a pedestrian street with shops and cafes.

Back to the boat with a little time to catch up with the journal before the Captain's Welcome, dinner, and the ship casting off for the voyage to Bratislava, which all happen in the next couple hours. Soon it will be goodbye to Budapest and then goodbye Hungary. It feels like we've seen so little of the city, it's a shame, but the river calls.

***Breaking news*** Fire Drill. Rules and regs and company policy require a drill within 24 hours of embarcation (it used to be 48 hours until the Costa Concordia thing). So we got our vests and hung out on the sundeck for a bit. Unlike other cruises, there wasn't any warning or schedule, so one couple was apparently in the jacuzzi. Fawlty would be happy. The crew also took the opportunity to truss up on of their own in an evac gurney thing and carry him out to the deck. We think he was chosen for being the lightest crewmember.

And now the ship is under way!

Dinner provided some excitement, as Carol decided we should mingle. WE chose a table for six and who should arrive but the grandmother/granddaughter duo. You may recall that I hypothesized homeschoooling. I believe the judges will accept 'minister's daughter' as a correct response. They're from WV/VA and gramma kept up her didactic and emphatic ways with all of us as her victims. Some of it was amusing, but conversation turned out a bit too one-sided, especially at a table with six chairs. She contradicted my statement that a nautical mile is larger than a standard mile. In deference to her age, I did not smite her for her abuse of units.

Dinner was great; my veal was cooked to perfection and even the opprobrious stares of my companions could not lessen my pleasure. The mashed potato 'pear' was admired by all.
 
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Journal of No. 118