Day 25: Jewish Budapest

One thing that was really nice about the room we had in Budapest (with the Contiki trip) was the view. From the balcony we were able to see the Danube river.  It's hard to see in this picture, but trust me, it is straight ahead.
I know, this is a blurry picture, but I wanted to share this one and the next because this is the original metro line here in Budapest, which was the second ever created, just behind London, which came first. Once you know what you are doing with the metro system here it is very easy to use and get around the city with.  The problem at first is the language and becoming familiar with the names of the stops.

The first part of the day was a little sad to start since we said our goodbyes to others in our group.  Some people were staying a little later to catch flights or trains.  Aino was still around for most of the day, so after check out we headed over to the Buda side to check out the caves.

Here we are crossing the Chain Bridge.  It was a short walk for us from a metro station, and it was nice to have the chance to walk over the Danube.

Walking over a bridge always gives you the chance for great photos.
I have no idea what this really is, but I thought it looked neat, so I took a picture.
To get up to the top of the hill, Aino and I decided to take the funicular up.

Time to go for a ride!
This was another way to get in some good views.
More monuments up at the top.
Thankfully Aino had our tour leader mark off the caves because they weren't on the map.  Interestingly, after looking it up online and finding this website I am not so sure about what we visited.  Apparently the caves are now closed, and there are some counterfeits, according to the website.  Perhaps we were in something else.  Oh well!
Here are some pictures from inside, where we ran around a bunch and tried not to be too scared.
I think being scared came from seeing these mannequins as we first entered.  Something about this was creepy.

We also overlooked reading the signs before entering, so we ended up not knowing what we were looking at.

Here I am as we exited the caves.
Here is another picture walking back over the bridge from Buda into Pest.
For lunch we checked out the market, but I was short on time, so we both bought a cheese croissant and ate lunch on a bench.
Aino and I said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  This was because I had booked another tour for that afternoon.  I scheduled the Jewish Budapest tour because I was very interested in learning more about the Jewish population here both before and after WWII.  Budapest had a very large Jewish community, and nearly all of the Jews here were sent to concentration camps, while others died in the ghetto here.  Luckily, the Dohany Street Synagogue still stands.  It is the second synagogue in the entire world, and the largest in all of Europe.  It can hold up to 6,000 people.  Attached to it now is a museum, and that is on the former location of apartments, including the one where Theodor Herzl was born.  You will notice that it doesn't really look like a synagogue, and inside the same is true.  It was designed by a Christian architect, and because of it's grand scale and lack of anything else like it, it was designed more like a church.  It also has Moorish influence, which I think it very evident just by looking at it.  I will also mention this is for a different sect of Judaism as people wanted to split from Orthodox Judaism, which was the only form at that time.  This new group was known as neolog Judaism.

Here are some pictures of the artifacts inside the museum.  Most of this was hidden during WWII and therefore it all survived and was not destroyed.

This is what it looks like inside the synagogue.  You can see it looks like a church, but if you look closely you will see the typical Jewish things.

Outside in the courtyard is a cemetery, which is unusual to find next to a synagogue, but during the war when they were stuck in here (it was inside the ghetto walls), people were dying and they decided to bury them here.  These are actually mass graves as it was hard to identify everyone.

Here is a memorial to all those people that lost their lives.

This is another building by the synagogue, and I think it is a museum.
This memorial is for Raoul Wallenberg, who was a Swedish diplomat.  He helped many Jews escape.

This is the Tree of Life sculpture.  The leaves the names of the victims engraved on them.

This is a smaller synagogue next to the Great Synagogue (Dohany Street), and this one is used in the winter because the big one is never full and it is very expensive to heat it all.
Next up was a visit to another synagogue.  This one has a sad story.  It was to be renovated and restored, but there just wasn't enough money to bring it back to it's former glory (before the war).  Most of the congregation had been killed or left the country after the war, so there was no one here to take care of it or need it for any real use.  Now it sits like this.  It is owned by the Jewish community and our guide said it will likely be turned into a museum.
This is the inside of the dome.
This is the building from the outside.  You can see it has the Moorish look too.
Lastly, we stopped off at the Orthodox synagogue.  We didn't get to go inside, so here is what it looks like from the outside.
This is the chuppah out front.
This is the main entrance.

Our tour concluded with sweets and coffee at a kosher coffee shop.

This is a traditional Hungarian Jewish cake, but I didn't order it because one layer was walnuts and I am just not a fan.
I went with the apple pie.  Yum!
That ended my Jewish Budapest tour.  It was really nice to hear about all of this coming from the Jewish perspective.  I have noticed differences in things I am told depending on if the person is Jewish or not.  This is by no means to offend anyone, but it is a good example of how history works.  Everyone has their own perspective on things and their own interpretation.  When I hear about historical events from a person of one culture or country it is often different from how the story is told by someone of a different culture of country.  Since I didn't hear anything else about the Jewish population here other than my Jewish guide, I have nothing to compare this to, but I know from the past that sometimes different things are said after events involving the Jewish population.  It all depends on what you were taught and what books you read.  So, as I was saying, I enjoyed learning about this from the Jewish perspective.  I had no idea before planning my trip that Budapest had a very large and thriving Jewish community before the war, and that it was almost entirely wiped out during the war.

My final stop for the day was at my next hotel.  When I made my reservations so early in advance, I didn't know where we would be staying with Contiki, so I booked a room at the NH Budapest.  You may have noticed I have stayed at a few of these in the past.  I am happy with the chain and I earn rewards credits there, so I tend to book there unless it is overpriced and I can find something cheaper and just as good.
I had a nice sized room, although not nearly as big as in Vienna.
My view was of this courtyard area.
The bathroom wasn't too bad either.
I still had a valid 24 hour metro pass, so I decided to head to the main shopping street area and take one last look around.  Eventually I needed to eat some dinner, so I picked Cyrano.  The menu looked good and the place was very busy.  While it doesn't have a Michelin star, it is recommended by the Michelin guide.
One thing I thought was so cute here was that the outside tables have blankets on each chair.  I noticed this also in Bratislava, but only when I was in Budapest did I actually see the blankets get used.
I sat at a nice table in the upstairs area, and I think most people there were English speaking tourists, but that was OK with me.

To start I had this goat cheese with a biscuit and something else on top.  I wish I knew what it was, but I think it was some sort of herbed ice.  It was cold, and it was definitely like Italian ice.
My entree was Norwegian halibut topped with a little cheese and served with a shrimp and vegetables.  It was really good.  Overall, I was very pleased with this meal.  It was a nice way to end my time in Budapest.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever taken a "Jewish" tour in a European City?  Have you ever noticed that historical "facts" may be different depending on who you are talking to?  Have you ever visited underground caves/secret rooms?

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