Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Budapest: Big Boots to Fill

Budapest, I predict, will be the gem of our tour. It's cosmopolitan, it's beautiful, it's a little dirty, it's inhabited by Hungarians - who are witty and interesting and classy and cool. They are world experts in the art of finessing - witness how they stalled both the Nazis and the Commies from taking total control immediately as they did elsewhere. It's an admirable skill.

The photo above was taken at Memento Park, where the Hungarian government has assembled an assortment of ridiculous statues from the Communist era. I am standing (victoriously!) by the famed boots from the Stalin statue in Budapest. The rest of the statue was torn down in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. NOTE: these are not the actual boots (which were also looted) but instead "an authentic replica of the original" according to the guidebook.

Here's a less-famous statue: "Pool attendant speedily returning lost towel."

We also visited St. Stephen's Basilica, which, overall, is just another big church. However, inside they have enshrined the Holy Dexter, or the right hand of King (and later Saint) Stephen, who is a major figure in Hungarian history. Look closely - his actual hand is the shriveled black thing in the house. You had to pay 100 forints, or 60 cents, to turn on the house light (as above), and there was a funny episode in which two ditsy Italian girls made extended gestures to dig out the coin from their various purses, unzipping and unclasping and digging through assorted change, then giggling and repeating, as a big crowd looked on. They were obviously used to being pampered by pathetic Italian, but in spite of those connotations I cut my losses and handed over the money, for which I was rewarded with premier standing position and a halting explanation in Hungarian describing how the entire arm was carved up between various countries over the year. I think. Anyhow, the Holy Dexter is in full force on St. Stephen's Day - August 20! - when they actually parade the dead man's right hand all over town. I gotta say, the strangeness surrounding relics is one of my favorite aspects of Christianity.

That's all for Budapest folks. Keep your fingers crossed for sunny skies and clear roads as we head inland across Hungary and off into Romania.
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Colin said...

Good luck out there on the Great Hungarian Plain.

Drink plenty of water, and stay away from the goulash. It will only weigh you down.

Caroline said...

Yes, it will. But it is so delicious. The goulash in the Pest train station is shockingly good, although I was a little frightened of it at first.

Reading that makes me miss Budapest so. I need to return to see the shriveled hand.

lowlander said...

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Andy said...

Dude! How about some pics of the Italian ladies instead of more "culture shots"?