Budapest Day 2: Gellért Hill
This was a loooong day.
After breakfast we walked down to Parliament to book some tickets for a guided tour later in the day. I liked the fact that the east frontage was reflected in a kind of rill in front of the building. There's also some great statuary - this is a section of a large memorial to the Prime Minister István Tisza, who was assassinated in 1918.
We then walked down Váci Utca, a long commercial street which one of our guide books described as "quite simply the heart and soul of Budapest"; I can't say that I had that impression, but I was fairly irritated to have to keep shrugging off people who were trying to persuade me either to enter restaurants or (unflatteringly) to accept free samples of soap.
We made it to the end of the street more or less in one piece, and crossed the Liberty Bridge, getting a rather daunting view of our destination: the Liberation Monument at the top of Gellért Hill. As you can see in that shot there is a church built into the rock face, which is very famous, but we didn't visit it. Instead we fortified ourselves with coffee and cake at the famous Gellért Hotel - a slightly strange experience because the place seems still to exist in the 1960s, though it does have some cracking stained glass on every landing of the main staircase. We also wandered into the baths complex at the hotel, but decided that climbing the Hill would probably be enough exercise for one day.
If you suffer even slightly from vertigo you'll be familiar with a strange sensation in the muscles of your buttocks and legs, which I attribute to your central nervous system trying to force you to sit down on the nearest available hard surface - in which case you'll understand when I say that I was fighting my nervous system most of the way up that hill. There were points when it very nearly won, and the only way I could go forward was to keep my eyes firmly fixed on CH's heels, and not lift my head at all. But it was worth it - the view from the top is spectacular, even if you're not looking forward to the journey back down!
So, the main photo today is the central figure of the Liberation Monument, which was originally constructed as a tribute to the Red Army but repurposed after the fall of the Soviet Union. She represents peace, and the figures either side of her represent the battle with evil and progress. The second photo on this page shows the whole group; progress also got another couple of images here and here; the battle against evil is also here.
Coming back down the hill there are great views of the Royal Palace, the Elizabeth Bridge, which we crossed to get back into Pest, and the Parliament. There's another memorial too: St Gellért was apparently thrown off the hill for some reason to do with religion; you might think it tasteless to name the place after him in the circumstances, but I couldn't possibly comment.
After more coffee and cake, and a brief sit-down, we did the tour of Parliament, which is extraordinary. We were told that this is the debating chamber - though I read somewhere that actually it isn't: the building is symmetrical, and has two identical chambers, of which one is kept for business, and the other for showing to tourists. There are a number of these devices on the corridor window sills, which in the good old days were repositories for the MPs' cigars, which were not allowed into the chamber itself for fear of fire. There's a great exhibition in the basement of photographs and models connected with the recent refurbishment of the building.
By now we were as exhausted as you must be, so we tiptoed through the tulips to a restaurant by the Danube, from where we could watch people, more people and the sun going down over the Royal Palace.
Other things that caught my eye today:
A pigeon taking a bath in a small street fountain.
Some very sad dereliction - this was once a rather fine Art Nouveau building - I can only hope hope it's scheduled for refurbishment.
The competing tiled roofs of the Mátyás and Calvinist Churches.
Some more good statues: Atilla József looking rather depressed; Scooter Boy; some Roman soldiers close to the site of a bit of archaeology; a girl and her dog; the artist Roskovics painting beside the Danube; a very snooty lion guarding the entrance to Parliament; the Little Princess.
The frontage of the Greek Orthodox Church.
A memorial to Raoul Wallenberg.
The Budapest Wheel - similar to the London Eye, but much faster.