November 12, 2018
Prague, Czech Republic—Week 9: Part I Fr. James Donohue, C.R.
On our break week, I had the opportunity to go to Budapest in Hungary and Bratislava in Slovakia for the weekend. I had never been to either place before and both places are quite beautiful. Budapest was actually formed from two cities that are divided by the River Danube: Buda and Pest. They were united into one city on November 17, 1873. It is a large city—the 10th largest in the European Union with about 1.7 million people.
One of the first places I visited was Heroes Square, where the early Hungarian rulers are honored with individual statues around the square. First among them was King Stephen of Hungary, who is also identified with a double cross. This symbol, often referred to as the patriarchal cross, appeared in the Byzantine Empire in large numbers in the 10th century. It was thought to have been given to Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, by Pope Sylvester II (999-1003).
Heroes Square is adjacent to a beautiful park with a series of large ponds that in the winter are used for outdoor skating.
There was a statue within the park that brings good luck to all writers if you grasp the finger of the statue! I was not going to let this opportunity pass!
One of the more famous aspects of Budapest is their spas. They are very much a part of Hungarian life and many doctors will prescribe time in the spas as treatment for medical issues.
You can look for me, but I don’t think that you will see me in these photos…I did not come prepared for a spa! As you can see below, not all the spas need a doctor’s note! I wonder what people will think of next…a Margarita Salt Bath?
On a more serious note, I was able to go to the Hungarian State Opera House. Construction began in 1875, funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary; it opened to the public on September 27, 1884. The Emperor had forbidden the architect to make it larger than the famous opera house in Vienna, but the Emperor realized that this was slightly smaller, but much more beautiful.
Budapest is also known for its outdoor markets. I walked through a few…very busy with lots of different products.
But, most famous of all is the indoor market in Budapest. Paprika is most famous for use in the goulash soup and it was sold everywhere in the market. The goulash soup was great!
I also was able to see the Parliament Building outside and inside. It is an absolutely incredible structure that houses the crown jewels and the working government.
Another stop was St. Stephen Basilica; it was named in honor of St. Stephen, King of Hungary (875-1038). His right hand is housed in a reliquary.
There is an incredible view of the city from the top of the Basilica tower.
The interior of the Basilica is absolutely breathtaking.
On the Buda side of the city, I visited the Matthias Church which, built in the heart of the castle district, was the site of several coronations, including the last Hapsburg King, Charles IV, in 1916. Saint Stephen is featured prominently in this space.
The last night in Budapest revealed the wonderful night view of the parliament buildings, as well as the “Shoe Memorial” on the side of the River Danube, which remembers those people who were viciously killed and were thrown into the Danube in WWII.