A Travellerspoint blog

Creating New Memories in the Footsteps of the Past

Day 28, 29, 30, 31 Budapest

sunny 20 °C

Budapest is a chance to catch up with my cousin Marta, on my Dad's side. I also wanted to understand more about the Revolution in October 1956, and the events leading up to it which caused my Mum and Dad to leave Hungary in January 1957.
Jen visited Budapest 5 years ago and I was here 30 years ago. Jen had a miserable time on her one-day visit to Budapest so I was determined to endear Hungary to her this time.
Marta did a marvellous job of arranging an apartment for us about 1 kilometre from the River, close to the Metro and historical sites. We adore the apartment, 200 years old and beautiful.
The first day was totally non-tourist, having coffee, going to the shops, lunch. It was lovely spending time with Marta catching up on the past 5 years from when I last saw her in Brisbane.
The next day was the HopOnHopOff Bus. We did the loop, stopping at Gellért Hill with its famous Liberty Citadel at the top. It's a great outlook as you can see down both sides of the Danube River and over the Buda side.
On the way up is a monument to Saint Gerard, a bishop, brought in by St Stephen in the first century to bring Christianity to the pagans. He didn't do very well and met an unfortunate end in 1046, after being bundled into a barrel by his "congregation" and rolled down Buda Hill into the Danube, never to be seen again.
There is a monument to Erzsebét, namesake of the bridge, and Queen of Hungary.
We made our way back via the Metro to Marta's apartment which is near the Ferenc Puskás Stadium. Named after the great Hungarian football striker from the 50's, my Father’s idol, is currently being rebuilt.
We were treated to a home cooked dinner with Marta's mother. A perfectly cooked traditional meal: húsleves (meat soup), crumbed pork, krumpli (potatos), uborkasaláta (cucumber salad) and finished with a dessert called diós pita (walnut pastry cake). We had a lovely time chatting and enjoying the hospitality.
Marta then drove us to Margrit Sziget (Margaret Island) for a sophisticated jazz concert by Stacey Kent at the Szabateri Szinpad – we felt very elite.
The whole night was a great experience, walking around the parks on the Island and up the Tower on a beautiful evening. Marta was a magnificent host and we are most thankful for her looking after us.

The next morning we went to Hõsök tere (Heroes Square).
FO4A8134.jpgFO4A8139.jpgFO4A8140.jpgFO4A8141.jpg FO4A8175.jpg IMG_2023.jpgIMG_2024.jpg
There we stopped at the local market selling Alma Retes (Apple Strudel) which tasted great (almost as good as Mum makes) with fresh pressed coffee.
FO4A8174.jpg FO4A8184.jpg
The food stalls also had whole pork on the spit, homemade salamis and freshly baked bread the size of a Fiat and displays of bottles of pickled vegetables. As well as stalls filled with the most amazing traditional sweet treats - I am in heaven. The smells were amazing.
FO4A8156.jpgFO4A8159.jpgFO4A8165.jpgFO4A8168.jpgFO4A8176.jpgFO4A8177.jpg FO4A8180.jpg
I was able to stop into a sports shop to buy a Hungarian national soccer shirt and a vintage Ferenc Puskás jersey circa 1953. Dad used to tell me grand stories about the superb Hungarian team of the 50's especially Puskás. He is an absolute legend amongst the soccer world and at the age of 4, I could name every player in the 1954 World Cup team.
We next did a “Communism” walking tour. The city is adorned with posters commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Revolution. It is poignant that I am here in Budapest at this milestone.
The walk was sobering and poignant, as the guide explained what it was like living in Hungary from the 1945 to 1991 under the Soviet regime – she has a pragmatic view of the past, growing up in Budapest during 1970s. I was able to understand the world in which my parents lived until they left in January 1957.
The tour gave Jen and I a real insight into what Hungarian people had to endure. With the passage of time, our tour leader, who had a dry sense of humour, could tell her stories with light-heartedness and humour, but there are many painful and challenging reminders as we wandered around the city. She explained different areas of Communism, picking out key buildings and monuments of significance: the Socialist Realist architecture apartments, the Basilica and how religion was starved and stigmatised by the Soviets to lead people away from worship, the controversial German Occupation Memorial, erected in 2014 under cover of darkness on a Sunday morning with an inscription “Memorial to the victims of the German invasion”.
Even before appreciating the public protest items posted in front of it, the monument immediately struck us as strange. Amid calls for it to be taken down, Prime Minister Orbán defends it as a monument to the victims of the Nazis, brushing off the criticism, saying it is “not a Holocaust memorial but a tribute to all the victims”.
The controversial monument has divided Hungarians and angered Jewish people. Critics of the monument – which depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle – say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation – not pointing fingers at the Germans, but rather at its own citizens for the pain and horrors inflicted on fellow human beings.
Prime Minister Orbán is also facing criticism for closing a large portion of the historical vista on Buda Hill to construct a “Government House”, which is essentially a private residence. It would seem that new democracies are challenging.
We also visited one of the few surviving Soviet monuments, as most of them were removed after the dissolution of the USSR. This one marks the buried remains of Soviet Patriots who died defending the Union, and during the Soviet times would have been a constant reminder to the citizens of Hungary. What is tremendously interesting about this monument is that the site adjoins the Embassy of the United States. And on the other side, is a proud statue of Ronald Reagan. It is really quite comical how Ronald is looking towards the US Embassy with the Soviet monument in his line of sight.
We took in Parliament House on the landside, having seen it glittering at night.
The Square at the landside entrance of Parliament House is also significant as it was the location of protests in October 1956 where guns were fired, setting off a butterfly effect, causing lives to be lost, and citizens to attempt a revolution, which was ultimately, and heartbreakingly, unsuccessful as Soviet tanks moved in and overpowered the uprising, ensuring many more decades of Soviet control.

Marta also spoilt us with dinner Jamie Oliver Budapest on top of Gellert Hill on the Buda side at Mathias Templom (Matthew’s Temple).
FO4A8271.jpg FO4A8480.jpg FO4A8274.jpg
After walking back down and along the Lancid Hid (Chain Bridge) we took a late night boat cruise. It was a beautiful night and the vista along the river with Parliament House, the bridges and all the lights on the castle, it is one of the best city views I have seen in my travels. Jen took some great photos.
The last day was a walk along the Erzsebét Bridge and back up to the Palace revisiting my footsteps from days gone by. Jen and I hunted for a while and eventually found the exact spot, although the trees are larger now and obscured the view.
PhotoScan__17_.jpg FO4A8441.jpgFO4A8465.jpg1E2353DFA0987AABE3F9E449B728303D.jpgFO4A8448.jpg1E34BDF29498CF4C55474D928C499602.jpg1E3D3CDCD4F5F4C284F75741C64730D5.jpg1E44E497B89B42D21FEE0BD2DBCE347C.jpgFO4A8476.jpg1E57131591EB263340A12172C45A3F88.jpg
We walked back over the Lancid Hid and across to Parliament House via a lunch break of Paprika Palacsinta (Hungarian Crepes).
We had a final “farewell until next time” Unicom with Marta, thanking her for everything she had done for us, going out of her way to make our four days so special. She was a fantastic host and I hope she comes back to Australia again so I can repay her very kind and warm hospitality.
We then caught the train to Veszprém.
As we trundled into the station in the late afternoon, my heart beamed as we were met by my cousins, Láci & Váli, in matching blue t-shirts, bouncing onto the platform with wide smiles, warmly greeting us and hustling our bags to the waiting car. I visited my Veszprém relatives in 1972 and 1985, so coming back was long overdue.
In a whirlwind of excited grins and rapid Hungarian, we were whisked home and plied with Parlinka, just in time for Hungary’s first game of the European Cup (after a 44-year absence) against Austria. FO4A8851.jpg
There are new relatives to meet. Váli’s daughter, Váli (who was a happy young girl when I last visited) is married to Tamás, who is kind and ensures we have plenty of fröccs (wine with soda water) and Parlinka or Unicum, and their wonderful kids, Boti and Laura. Váli cooked up a storm in the kitchen, sending in dish after dish of tasty treats. My senses are overloaded with wonderful memories of being a kid and my Mum’s cooking – I am overwhelmed. Hungary won as well 2-0! Jen sat there in amazement at the warmth and hospitality of my family, who I had not seen in 30 years and that she had only just met.
Our stay in Veszprém has started off on a huge high, it feels like yesterday that I last saw them. It was a night of stories and catching up for the past 30 years.
Also my Hungarian has passed with flying colours. Basically able to converse, understand what is being said, order food, catch the Metro and buy tickets. I know the next six days with family will be something I will cherish.

Posted by tszeitli 11:20 Archived in Hungary Tagged food budapest family hungary special communism memories childhood

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


With the abundant blessings from all fronts, I can safely assume what your fitness instructor said about portion control is entirely out of control, yes? :-0)

by Angela Zheng

Unfortunately yes, please don't tell Troy!!!!

by tszeitli


by Sharn Duff

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.