Gritty Budapest and pretty Prague
March 16, 2017 by jimmycsays
Of the three large European cities Patty and I visited on our recent trip, we liked Vienna best, by far. It is clean, partly because all modes of public transportation are powered by electricity; it is sprawling, but manageable precisely because of the pubic transportation network; and it is loaded with great museums, performance halls and other outstanding institutions.
The other two large cities we visited — Budapest and Prague — are quite different, but powerful in their distinctive ways. Patty likened Budapest to New York City because it’s rough around the edges and not particularly clean. But it projects vibrancy and grit. The experience of World War II, when Budapest incurred significant damage and about 300,000 Hungarian soldiers and more than 600,000 civilians died (including at least 450,000 Jews), imbued Hungarians with grit and resilience.
Prague, on the other hand, was largely spared during World War II and is a picture-book city in some respects, notably with its trove of architectural gems and outdoor gathering places, like Old Town Square.
Both countries were part of the Soviet bloc until 1989.
With that, here’s the second round of winter vacation photos, these from Budapest and Prague…
Keleti palyaudvar, Budapest’s main train station
This was the first time I’ve ever been scared on escalators. Steepest I’ve ever seen, by far. When going down, I’d position myself directly behind someone and look down at my feet so I couldn’t see the angle and length of the descent.
“Castle Hill” affords a breathtaking view of the Szechnyi Chain Bridge (spanning the Danube) and the eastern or “Pest” side of the city. That’s the Basilica of St. Stephen in the background.
The Hungarian Parliament building, an outstanding example of the Gothic Revival style. It’s the largest building in Hungary.
Statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a Hapsburg hero who wiped out the last Turkish army at the Battle of Zenta in 1697. (The Hapsburgs were so grateful they built him a palace in Vienna.)
Five-hundred-year-old Matthias Church
One of the works of art displayed in the church — a partial reproduction, in marble, of a bronze called “Christ on the Cross,” by Janos Fadrusz
The courtyard outside the church, after a light rain
We stayed at an apartment a block off this major thoroughfare.
The lobby of one of Budapest’s famous bath houses, Gellert Baths. (I took a long bath in one of the pools and emerged with all my physical problems cured. Oddly, my knees started hurting again as soon as I went down the next flight of stairs.)
The Great Synagogue, also known as the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest in the world, outside of New York City.
The synagogue incurred significant damage from aerial raids during the Nazi Occupation and especially during the Siege of Budapest. Wikipedia says that during the Communist era, the damaged structure again became a prayer house for the “much-diminished Jewish community.” It was restored between 1991 and 1998, partly with the help of a $5 million contribution from fragrance and cosmetics baroness Estee Lauder.
Where the Dohany Street Synagogue was built in 1859, the “Old-New Synagogue” was built in 1270. It is the oldest synagogue in eastern Europe and perhaps all of Europe.
Our last stop was Prague, where we stayed in a fifth-floor apartment above this bakery. I spent a considerable number of Czech crowns at Paneria.
Across the street, a Metro (underground) station contributed to a steady flow of foot traffic.
This is the original and historic part of the Prague train station. The newer part is as plain as could be.
Patty and I at the historic station
Perhaps Prague’s most famous landmark, the Charles Bridge. It was started in 1357 under King Charles IV and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. Until 1841, it was the only bridge crossing the Vltava River, connecting Prague Castle on the west side and Old Town on the east.
Locals and tourists alike stream across the bridge every day.
St. Vitus Cathedral is adjacent to Prague Castle and, from this vantage point, behind the castle wall.
The charming and irresistible Old Town Square
The famous Old town Square astronomical clock, with moving side figures that put on a little show at the top of each hour. (I still don’t understand how to interpret the clock.) The day we were there, a huge crowd cheered after the 5 p.m. “performance.”
Prague’s Municipal House is a stellar example of the Art Nouveau style of architecture. It opened in 1912 and is used today as a concert hall, ballroom and civic building. It also includes cafes and restaurants…
…like the Ameriky (American) Bar, on the first floor.
Our group — consisting, from left, of Charlie, Paul, Edie and Patty — found it to be a very sobering environment…You have to trust me, though, when I say this group was a lot of fun.
And then…poof! It was over, and we were at the Prague airport Saturday morning, getting ready to come home…If you’d have shot a canon down this broad corridor that morning, you would have killed only one person.