I just came back from the most amazing, relaxing and transformative river cruise on the Avalon Tapestry. It was a Jewish Heritage cruise from Budapest, to Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz, the Wachua Valley, Passau, Salzburg, Regensburg, Nuremberg and Prague. There is too much here for one article/blog, so I will split this into a series: Budapest, Vienna, Durnstein-Melk-Linz-Wachau Valley-Passua-Salzburg, Regensburg-Nuremberg and Prague, the River Cruise itself.
Budapest has a motto, two cities for the price of one because this wonderful city is actually two cities that straddle the Danube, It is called the Pearl of the Danube and for good reason. It is beautiful during the day and spectacular at night. Buda and Pest (pronounced Pesht). Buda is an ancient city with a magnificent hill setting topped by an enormous Palace complex containing the magnificent Matthias Church. The views from Castle Hill (Varhegy) along with the Fisherman’s Bastion are breathtaking. The Palace, Budaviri Palota) houses the Hungarian National Gallery and National Library. St Matthias Church, with its colorful majolica roof tiles, was the venue of the coronation of many Hungarian kings and their queens. It was wonderful to stroll along the charming cobblestone lanes with lovely historic homes. Also on the hill I was able to dine at the famous Hotel Gellert and take in their famous thermal baths and pools.
The Chain Bridge, Budapest’s oldest, connects to Pest. From here you get a great view of the Liberation Monument erected during Soviet Communism. Pest has the amazingly beautiful Parliament Building with Parisian-style boulevards. The most spectacular architecture and design is the Hungarian Parliament. It is a Neo-Gothic wonder and boasts a dome over 310 feet high. It houses the crown jewels of Hungary and the staircases, chandeliers and overall décor are spectacular. St Stephen’s Basilica is the cornerstone of Stephensplatz, the city center. Go atop the Basilica for great city views and amble the shops and restaurants around Stephensplatz. Great dining does not have to be fancy. I thoroughly enjoyed my bratwurst, peppers and beer at the Weiner Wurst there. Walk along Andrassy ut, the promenade modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris, that runs past the gorgeously ornate State Opera House to reach Heroe’s Square, with wonderful statues and Millenium Monument. Since eating and shopping are one of any trip’s pleasures, don’t miss the Great Market Hall with one floor just devoted to food, a second floor devoted to Hungarian crafts and many stalls of native Hungarian foods – Yum! I thoroughly enjoyed Hungarian Goulash soup, Chicken Paprikash, Hot Wine, palascinta (pancakes), and the deliciously decadent Esterhazy gateau at the Café Gerbeaud. Every night we were treated to wonderful local wines and beers onboard the Avalon Tapestry. It was fun to go to restaurants with traditional Hungarian food and gypsy music. Very lively and a lot of fun. I recognized a lot of the tunes! I really loved Budapest and look forward to returning soon.
Jewish Budapest: Budapest has a rich and varied Jewish past. The Jewish quarter in the Middle Ages is located in the Castle Quarter. Before the Holocaust, 20% of Budapest’s population was Jewish. Today there are 80,000 Jews living in Budapest with 17 synagogues. Many Jews have come from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. Unfortunately anti-Semitism is rearing it’s ugly head in the government of Hungary. Went into the Dohany Synagogue, second largest synagogue in the world and the largest in Europe. It houses up to 4,000 worshippers. It was constructed in 1859 in the Moorish style. It is absolutely gorgeous in hues of pink and scarlet. Visited several Judaica shops in the synagogue and nearby and saw several Jewish and Israeli/Meditteranean restaurants nearby. Went past two other synagogues and visited the Tree of Life memorial, a silver weeping willow tree with leaves dedicated to Jews who died in the Holocaust, with plaques from American-Hungarian notables such as actor Tony Curtis and Ron Lauder (Estee Lauder’s son) and visited the Jewish cemetery. Visited the excellent Jewish Museum with Jewish traditional objects dating from Roman times to the present. The most moving and emotional Holocaust memorial was the Shue Memorial, along the Danube, very close to the Parliament. It is a simple yet powerful collection of shoes of women and children who were killed along the Danube by the Hungarian Nazi collaboraters. My mother’s family died at the hands of these Hungarian Nazi collaborators from her town of Ungvar, Hungary (now part of the Ukraine) and I am looking to see how I can purchase a leaf on the Tree of Life to honor their memories. If you have family that died in the Holocaust, I encourage you to check this out as well.
It would be my pleasure to help you plan your next trip to Budapest or anywhere in the US and the world. Kindly call us at: Eva’s Best Travel and Cruises, at: 203-221-3171, toll free at: 888-499-7245, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and check our website at; http://www.EvasBestTravelAndCruises.com.