To Budapest we went!
We made the drive passed more beautiful countryside and lots of windmills! On one of our drives, and I cannot guarantee it was this one, Aed discovered his first word! He loves balls with his whole heart, and we were playing with one together in the back seat. I asked him if he could say ball, and he said it right back to me! Too cute, and so fun. Since then he has continued to mimic a lot of our sounds, but seems to especially favor those b-words.
Anyway.. We parked in a little parking garage and hustled over to where we were supposed to begin a walking tour of the city. We were only in Budapest for one day, so we had limited time to see the few things we really wanted to see.
Aed made friends with some people on the metro..
And our first stop was yet another St Stephen’s! Apparently Stephen was a popular name in these parts..
A basilica this time, and fully decked out with more bling than I have taste for :) But, it was beautiful.
The thing I was most looking forward to was in a little chapel off of the main room of the building. St Stephen’s mummified hand resides in this little chapel, in its own little palace!
Inside the glass chamber, you can see behind the reflection of the windows that there is a miniature church-looking building. Inside that little building lies the hand of St Stephen. This little relic is one of the most sacred treasures in all of Hungary and we got to see it!
You could pay a Euro to have a little light shine on the hand for 2 minutes, and there were several groups of people waiting around for someone else to do it so they wouldn’t have to pay. No one did it while we were there, but there were plenty of pictures around of the hand.. kind of gross if you ask me! But weird enough that we were excited to see it :) A few google searches and you can get a good idea of what the hand looks like just shy of 1000 years since any life was in it.
ERT Tip #11: Pay the Euro to light up the hand.. I mean really.. How many opportunities are you going to have to see a really old hand?
After a quick tour of the church, we grabbed some lunch and caught up to the walking tour. The first few stops were lost on us as we were busy trying to take care of our hungry, tired baby. We were keeping our distance from the group so his loudness wouldn’t hinder their tour, but he eventually fell asleep so we were able to stay with the group and actually hear what the tour guide was saying.
ERT Tip #12: Another seemingly obvious one when undertaking such an adventure.. Go with the flow. I got really uptight about this tour because Ian really wanted to do it. Timing wasn’t great with Aed’s need to eat and sleep. I was so concerned with Ian getting to hear everything the guide was saying, I made the first few minutes of our tour less than ideal as I kept trying to get Ian to leave us be and let me worry about Aed so he could catch up to the group when he didn’t really want to. Once I took my afternoon chill pill and just let everyone do what they wanted.. things got much better :)
We stopped briefly at this little sculpture. I missed what it was intended for (perhaps its current use is what it was intended for), but the trend is to put a lock on it with you and your lover’s names symbolizing your commitment to one another.. awwww! :)
Notice Mr. Dreadlocks. He was the organizer of the walking tour.. Very nice guy.
Apparently Budapest has a lot of neo-gothic architecture (or it may have been art deco.. like I said, the beginning of the tour is a little spotty), and our guide pointed it out as a part of this building – a four seasons hotel. She said one night at this hotel costs as much as the average person in Budapest earns in a month.. kind of crazy what people will spend money on..
We walked across the Chain Bridge and got an amazing view as we passed from Pest into Buda.
The super spikey building on the right is the parliament building, which was designed by a guy who had been influenced by the design of Parliament in London. According to our guide, its steeple is one meter taller than London’s.. Just to be cheeky, I presume :)
We headed up a hill (Buda is very hilly) and got another beautiful view of the bridge below.
Our guide mentioned that there was a trolley you could take to the top of this big hill, rather than climbing, but we decided we’d save our money and walk. What she failed to mention was that it was endless stairs to the top! So, again we carried our sleeping babe in his throne up and up and up.
This is what we should have done.
And this is what we did. Oh well! We made it all in one piece.
It was worth the climb!
The guides offered to take everyone’s pictures with the cityscape in the background. We were thankful for the opportunity for a family shot that didn’t involved one of us holding the camera at arm’s length!
The guy said ‘say Budapest!’ So Ian did.. Maybe not the best word to say for a picture :)
This picture kills me. Aed is actually just blinking, but it looks like he is giving the guy taking our picture the most judgmental look! We still crack up every time we look at it.
This next building was one we photographed because it was riddled with holes from bullets and shrapnel from the war.
Much of Budapest is still ‘unrenovated’ since those destructive times.
Another plague statue..
There were several of these in the cities we visited, and all were seemingly erected by people of faith as they had symbols of the Trinity atop them.
This next statue has quite a reputation.
You might not notice anything to being with, but if you look closely around the horse’s nether regions, you will see a little shimmer..
This particular horse is very well endowed. It became tradition for students in the area to climb the statue, grab the horse’s testicles, and climb down again with renewed confidence in their love lives. Our guide invited anyone that wanted to give it a try, but there were only a few bold souls that added to the sheen on those testicles!
Our last major sight on the tour was the labyrinth! How cool is that? There’s a labyrinth under the city! It was originally intended to be cellars and bomb shelters, but it is a total maze of passageways and openings. Our guide said that you can come at night as well, and one of the night options is the Lovers’ maze. You start at opposite ends of the maze and have to find each other in the middle in pitch black with only a hand-held lamp. She suggested having some wine first to add to the adventure. Ahh.. if only we didn’t have a baby in tow! :)
After the labyrinth, Aed resumed his usual position..
And we grabbed a bite to eat and headed home to Vienna.
Our last few days in Vienna did not disappoint! It was sunny and perfect for sight seeing and re-sight seeing some of the places that had been less than impressive in the dreary rain of our first day.
The Great European Road Trip of 2010 Roundup is tomorrow!