Travel Diaries: Hung(a)ry for Budapest

I know, I know. What a lame title, but I had to try 😛

Budapest, Hungary is one of the most under-appreciated countries in Europe. You don’t often hear people having it part of their itinerary and I was glad we had a chance to enjoy the city. A little trivia: Budapest was actually two separate cities, named “Buda” and “Pest”, and was united in 1873. Isn’t that an awesome fun fact?? *kroo, kroo*

ANYWAY, we left Vienna early in the morning to reach Budapest around lunch time as we had a scheduled performance at Belvárosi Szent Anna Templom. It ended later than we expected and most of us were terribly hungry and exhausted that we all just cooped up inside the hotel, which was at the Pest area, and prepared for a big day tomorrow. We had around 10 days left until the European Grand Prix so we all had to make sure we would be ready then, both physically and mentally. Getting sick was a big no-no and as much as we wanted to go around on our first day, we didn’t want to risk it.

We had rehearsals first thing in the morning the next day until lunch time. I decided to go around the area with Dom and Gorby before our call time for another performance that night.

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Our performance was at Avilai nagy Szent Teréz Plébániatemplom, a church which was walking distance to our hotel.

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And I finally saw one of my closest friends back in Bangkok, Kiiyha! We were called twins by Khun Poon, our conductor’s asst in chorale class, and I haven’t seen her since 2007, when I left Bangkok to move back to Manila. She was based in Budapest last year (though she’s in London now) so I made sure to contact her once our trip was finalized. Too bad I wasn’t able to hang out with her again after we left but I was so happy I was able to catch up. Here’s a picture of us back in 2007:

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Those were the days.

On our third day, we had a courtesy call at the Philippine Embassy which was at the Buda side. We had our rehearsals there as well and right after lunch, we finally had the time to go around the city!

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We visited St. Stephen’s Basilica first. It was named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary.

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There was a service when we went inside so we couldn’t go near.

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Right in front of the basilica is the Szt. István Square. There were coffee shops and restaurants at the sides. There were a lot of people out that day since the weather was just right and the sun was shining.

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We found this cute policeman and we just had to take a picture with him! Here he is with Dom..

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Gorby

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And moi

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We continued walking until we reached Budapest’s Szabadsag (Freedom Square). It used to have huge barracks called Újépület which was built by the Austrians in 1786. It was a symbol of repression as many Hungarians were imprisoned and executed here. Today, the former Stock Exchange Building, Hungarian National Bank, and the US Embassy Building stand near the square. This monument in the picture is the Soviet monument. Ironically, many Hungarians see this as a reminder of the Soviet occupation.

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Near the Szabadsag was a monument honoring former US president, Ronald Reagan, as he played a major role in ending the Cold War. Through this, Hungary was able to attain sovereignty.

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Sorry Gorby, I had to post this =))

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The building in the middle is the Hungarian Parliament Building.

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It houses the National Assembly of Hungary, and is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. It’s right beside the River Danube, and is the largest building in Hungary. They hold tours daily but we weren’t able to reserve a ticket for the english tour. It reminded me of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada due to its gothic revival architecture.

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We walked along the River Danube to get to the Chain Bridge so we could across to the Buda side.

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Formally, it is called István Széchenyi, who was a major supporter of its construction, but it is more popular called and known as the Chain Bridge.

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The Buda side from Pest with the River Danube

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Walking along the Chain Bridge

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We walked along the streets of Buda to find a way to reach the Castle District and Fisherman’s Bastion.

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We couldn’t figure out how the buses worked as we only planned this using a map. We climbed this flight of stairs all the way to the top.

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We saw the three sopranos on their way down from where we were going: Stef, Ms. Joy and Rina 🙂

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We were finally at the top! I’m not really sure who the person at the top is though but if I could make a guess, I think this is King Matthias. — EDIT: It’s King Stephen, the first king of Hungary.

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Matthias Church

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A beautiful view of the Pest side from Fisherman’s Bastion. There’s the Parliament!

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One of the seven towers of Fisherman’s Bastion. The name came from the old ages when fishermen protected the area. This was built between 1895-1902. There are seven towers which symbolize the seven tribe leaders that lead the Hungarians.

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We stayed here a bit longer as we couldn’t help but stare at the view. This is one of the reasons why I wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer.

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We saw Ave! And hung out by the trees for a bit to prepare walking back to Pest.

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On our way down from Fisherman’s Bastion

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I’m not really sure what this is but I found it quirky and out of place 😛

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The Chain Bridge from Buda. I wish we could’ve seen this lit up at night!

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We passed by point zero first, Zero Kilometre Stone, which is a reference point from where all road distances to Budapest are measured. This wasn’t where the point was actually located but was moved only when the Chain Bridge was built. We, of course, took individual pictures!

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I couldn’t reach it 😦

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Dom

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Ave

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Gorby

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A picture with the Chain Bridge from the Buda side

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We walked through the same road where we first passed through so we saw St. Stephen’s Basilica again. I loved how the sunset was captured here.

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We passed through the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. We didn’t enter but it houses the Great Synagogue, Heroes’ Temple, graveyard, the Holocaust memorial (which I wish I could’ve entered!!), and the Jewish Museum. The street itself has Holocaust connotations as it used to be the border of the Budapest Ghetto.

It was raining the next day, April 14, so we were all thankful our free time was the day before. Ave, Gorby and I had lunch at this quirky restaurant we saw in the middle of rainy Pest near our hotel.

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I had Grilled Rosemary Chicken, Apple Chutney, Cous cous and Hungarian Goulash for lunch!

We had a performance at the Sunshine Foundation Retirement Home before dinner and I’m thankful for another experience where we shared our music to people despite language barriers. It was touching seeing them communicate to us through song as well, expressing their joy in hearing our music.

Ironically, it was Friday the 13th (April 13, 2012) when we went around but it couldn’t have been a better day. The weather was gorgeous with the sun shining the whole day and it wasn’t as cold as it was at night. Though our feet hurt having to walk all the way to Buda from Pest and back again, it was great having had the opportunity to see the beauty of Budapest. Having the opportunity to sing to people who had a very different language from us, many who also don’t speak English, yet seeing their faces light up when we sang a happy song or danced one of our folk songs or seeing them listening intently when we sang slow and sacred music.. What an uplifting feeling as a musician.

*Some pictures from Dom Bulan and Ave Royd Santiago

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2 thoughts on “Travel Diaries: Hung(a)ry for Budapest”

  1. The green statue of the horse-riding king is not Matthias (Matyas), but Saint Stephen (Hungary’s first king).

    You walked right past my work place, even photographed it. At the bottom of the long steps is a vocational high school, a yellow building. I walk those stairs twice daily.

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