Wednesday, August 1, 2012


In spite of our lack of proficiency in German, we did quite well in Austria.  Among the four of us, we could decipher most of what we needed to, and there were lots of English speakers everywhere.  Hungary, however, had the potential to present some language problems.  Note the differences between German and Hungarian:

I am your friend.
German: Ich bin dein Freund.
Hungarian: Én a barátod vagyok.

The store is closed.
German: Der Shop ist geschlossen.
Hungarian: Az üzlet zárva van.

You are under arrest.
German: Sie sind unter arrest.
Hungarian: Letartóztatom önöket.

There is not ONE WORD of that Hungarian that looks familiar to me.  That's why we were especially grateful to be met at the train station by my niece Julie, who served a mission in Hungary and is currently living in Romania, and her good friend, former mission companion, and current roommate Alex:

Julie and Alex are some of my favorite people, even moreso now that they have proved to be such excellent tour guides and translators.  (Besides, as I will show in future posts, they also have an appealing hankering for pastries.)

The Keleti train station itself is a fabulous site.  Built in the 1880s, it was the most modern train station in Europe at the time.
The statues in the niches at the top are Scotsman Robert Fulton, inventor of the steam engine, and Brit George Stephenson, who built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives.

We were quickly initiated into the Budapest underground.  This would have been a bit scary without our excellent guides.  The longest escalator in Budapest is 290 feet, and I'm pretty sure this must be it. As a point of comparison, the longest escalator in the U.S., located in the Washington Metro, is 230 feet long.

It must be so deep so that passengers can cross under the Danube River, the second largest river in Europe. (We actually have been on one longer escalator, the longest single escalator in the world at 416 feet, which is in the Moscow subway. That was scary too.)

Budapest started out as two cities: Buda on the west side of the Danube and Pest on the east side.The two cities united in 1873 and became the capital of Hungary. We zigzagged back and forth between Buda and Pest many times during our three days there.

One of our first stops was the Church of St. Anne, located on the BUDA side.  Built from 1740-1762, it is said to be Budapest's most beautiful Baroque building.  It is small and not one of the major churches of Budapest, but it was gorgeous inside, well worth a visit.

The church sits right at the edge of the Danube, with Castle Hill behind it:
The Buda Castle.  It was seriously damaged during World War II, but not beyond repair.  However, the new Communist government saw it as a symbol of the past regime, and so they decided to thoroughly "modernize" it inside and out so that it would look very different from the original structure.  That green dome, for example, was added in 1961.
The magnificent Danube flows through ten countries from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, a distance of almost 1,800 miles, making it the main thoroughfare through Eastern Europe for thousands of years.
The other end of Castle Hill includes a beautiful church.  (More on Castle Hill in a future post.)

The breathtaking Hungarian Parliament building is just across the Danube on the Pest side:
This is the largest building in Hungary and was built after the unification of Buda and Pest, beginning in 1885 and completed in 1904.  We tried to get in for a tour, but we were unable to get tickets and had no time to sit around and wait for some to be available.

I love this picture taken by Stan that gives Chris a wind-blown Marilyn Monroe look:

Back view and entrance of the Parliament Building:

We did get in to the most important church in Hungary, St. Stephen's Basilica, located on the PEST side of the city.  It is named for Stephen, the first king of Hungary, who ruled from 975-1038.
Construction began in 1851 and was completed in 1905.  It is exactly and intentionally the same height as the Parliament building, symbolizing the equal importance of both government and religion.

There is a huge courtyard in front of the Basilica.  I thought this little car driving around was pretty cute.

I also loved this stone pattern in front of the Basilica:

The Neo-Classical interior reminds me of some of our state capitol buildings, albeit MUCH more ornamented:

We were excited to see this statue, which Julie had told us looks just like her mom, my sister Angie:
I would have to agree, although I have a hard time imagining Angie holding down a snake with her bare foot.

Everywhere we turned, there were beautiful works of art:


I really like this painting (I think it was a wall or ceiling panel) and can see the influence of Art Nouveau:

A very different artistic style from the one above:

The BIG draw of St. Stephen's is not the art and architecture, however, but the right hand of St. Stephen himself.  Yes, you read that right.  The 974-year-old mummified hand of St. Stephen is on display in the Basilica's reliquary.  St. Stephen converted all the Hungarian pagans to Christianity, and is greatly revered.

Can you see it in there?
 Nope, neither can I.

 It's a good thing they had pictures of it so that I knew what I was missing:

An interesting explanation of the hand found here notes: As part of the canonization process, on August 20. 1083 (the day of Stephen in the christian world), the remains of king Saint Stephen I. were elevated from the crypt of the coronation cathedral in Szekesfehervar and the entire right arm was removed from the body and prepared for preservation. . . . The present day Holy Right Hand used to be a complete right arm, and it is believed that the lower arm is kept in Lemberg (Ukraine), whereas the upper arm is in the Saint Stephen cathedral in Vienna, where the inventory lists it since 1457. . . . In 1944, as the front approached Budapest, the small relic holder with the Holy Right Hand was rescued to Austria where Dr. Rohracher, archbishop of Salzburg kept it. . . . On Stephen's day, August 20 1945, Pater Fabian Flynn, priest of the US Army, brought back the Holy Right Hand from Austria and handed over to Bela Witz, who was the priest at the royal palace that time.

Great story.  And nice to know that the forearm and upper arm are ALSO preserved.

Finally, here is Blessed Gizella, wife of St. Stephen.  Isn't she lovely?

P.S.  Julie and Alex, I am counting on you to be my editors.  If I got anything wrong, let me know, okay?


  1. Those German/Hungarian translations are interesting. German is so much more English-like, and it's good to keep in mind that last one about arrest.

    What is it about Europeans and their dead limbs in their churches??

  2. I hadn't picked up on Gizella. I do like the fact that Angie is pinning down the snake. I'm sure it is just so that she has time to pick it up and take it to somewhere it will be safe. The snake gets a bad rap in the Garden of Eden. Just another woman using something else as an excuse for their own behavior.

  3. My sister went here on a tour, and it was raining, so the photos are more "from the bus" shots. I appreciated seeing all the beautiful art and decoration in your photos. Wow! on that subway tunnel. I've been on some pretty long ones in DC (don't know if I did the longest) and they are mind boggling. Can't even imagine the nearly 500 foot tunnel in Russia. Another great post!