18 Juni 2023

Happy Father’s Day!

My Father and I during his visit this past spring. He is still going strong!

So our Holiday last week ended with a few days in Budapest. What an amazing place! This was on both of our bucket lists of cities and it was amazing to get it crossed off. We got really lucky on a hotel. Not knowing the city at all, you can sometimes really bomb on the hotel. It might be too far from public transportation, or simply be in an area that takes forever to get to other areas of the city. What caught my eye on this hotel was reading something that it was an area in the city that cars were not allowed. The wording made it sound like it was going to be in this really special part of the city. Well that was kind of true. That part of the city was controlled, but anyone could drive in you just had to pay for taking your car. It did cause me a lot of confusion, though. As I was pulling up the hill, I got to the arm blocking traffic, the sign was not in English; so I had no clue what I needed to do. There was a keypad and I didn’t have the code. So I had to back down the hill (thank goodness no one was behind me) until I found a place I could pull the car over and call the hotel. I felt like an idiot when the concierge simply said to PUSH the button. It turned out to be the same machine at every single parking lot I have ever entered! I just got confused by the Hungarian and the number pad.

The area was amazing though. We were up on top of the hill in the area of the castle. The view from our hotel was one of the best we have had!

Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is a place rich in history, witnessing numerous empires, conflicts, and cultural transformations. The Ottoman rule and the tumultuous era of World War II chapters of the city’s past, separated by centuries, present contrasting narratives that shaped Budapest into the vibrant and resilient metropolis it is today.

The Ottoman Empire, at its zenith, reached its westernmost extent, encompassing vast territories including present-day Hungary. In 1541, Budapest fell to the Ottomans after a protracted siege, marking the onset of a unique and transformative era.

Under Ottoman rule, Budapest—known as Buda, Pest, and Óbuda at the time—experienced cultural fusion, architectural innovations, and religious shifts. The Turks introduced the Turkish bath culture, leaving an enduring legacy of thermal baths in the city. Prominent examples include the Rudas and Király Baths, which have retained their Turkish architectural features.

Architectural marvels also emerged during this period. The Buda Castle, a symbol of Ottoman grandeur, underwent significant transformations, incorporating elements of Islamic and Hungarian architecture. Mosques such as the Pasha Qasim Mosque and the Koca Sinan Mosque adorned the cityscape, leaving an indelible imprint on Budapest’s urban fabric.

Religiously, Islam gained prominence alongside Christianity, as mosques and minarets dotted the city. The conversion of churches into mosques, such as the Matthias Church turned Mosque of Gazi Kasim Pasha, reflected the Ottoman influence on Budapest’s spiritual landscape.

However, the Ottoman rule in Budapest was not devoid of conflict. The city witnessed numerous sieges and battles as the Habsburgs sought to regain control over Hungary. The most notable of these was the Siege of Buda in 1686 when the Holy League forces led by the Habsburgs reclaimed the city, marking the end of Ottoman dominance.

The dark clouds of World War II descended upon Budapest, entangling the city in a web of political turmoil, Nazi occupation, and Soviet liberation. Hungary, initially allied with Nazi Germany, underwent a significant transformation during this time.

In 1944, as the German forces occupied Hungary, Budapest became a battleground between the Nazis and the Soviet Red Army. The city suffered extensive damage due to heavy bombing, leaving scars on its architectural heritage. The iconic Chain Bridge, Parliament building, and other landmarks were severely affected.

Budapest also became a stage for one of the most heroic resistance movements during the war—the Budapest Ghetto Uprising. In 1944, the Jews confined to the Budapest Ghetto fought against deportation and persecution, showcasing immense bravery and resilience.

The Siege of Budapest, lasting from December 1944 to February 1945, witnessed ferocious urban warfare as the Soviet Red Army aimed to liberate the city. The siege resulted in the devastation of Budapest, with over 38,000 civilians losing their lives and many buildings reduced to rubble.

The post-war period witnessed Soviet influence as Hungary fell under communist rule. The Stalinist era brought about significant political, economic, and social changes in Budapest. Monuments glorifying Soviet leaders, such as the Statue of Stalin, adorned the cityscape. However, following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the statue was toppled, symbolizing a push for political freedom and democracy.

The Budapest Uprising of 1956 holds a significant place in Hungary’s history. It was a spontaneous rebellion against Soviet-backed communist rule. The uprising, primarily led by students and workers, saw widespread protests and demands for political freedom and democratic reforms. Although the rebellion was ultimately crushed by Soviet forces, it left an indelible mark on the Hungarian psyche, symbolizing the longing for freedom and resistance against oppression. One of the stories we heard on the tour that we loved was that during the uprising the rebels cut out the emblem in the center of the flag leaving a big hole, and this became a symbol against the communist government for a long time.

The Hungarian flag with the Communist logo in the center.

Julie and I both thought that should be Hungary’s flag now. It would look pretty wild seeing a hole in the center of the flag, but I think it would be very fitting.

The uprising in 1956 was the start of HungaryBudapest’s history it is a captivating tapestry, interwoven with diverse influences and period of turmoil. The Ottoman rule and the ravages of World War II left lasting imprints on the city’s cultural heritage. Today, Budapest stands as a testament to resilience, blending its storied past with a vibrant present.

Our hotel was next door to the St Martin’s Church. This was one of the most amazing churches we have seen during our tours of different cities.

Originally built in the 13th century, St. Martin’s Church served as a place of worship for the local population. Over the centuries, it experienced various architectural styles, including Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic elements, reflecting the changing tastes and influences of the times.

During the Ottoman occupation in the 16th century, the church suffered significant damage. It was later reconstructed in a Baroque style, characterized by ornate details and elaborate decorations. However, in World War II, the church suffered severe damage due to bombings, leaving it in ruins once again.

Following the war, efforts were made to restore St. Martin’s Church to its former glory. The reconstruction, which began in the 1980s, aimed to restore the church to its original Gothic appearance. Skilled artisans and craftsmen meticulously worked to recreate the intricate details and architectural features, ensuring historical accuracy.

Today, St. Martin’s Church stands as a beautiful example of Neo-Gothic architecture. Its slender spire reaches towards the sky, while the elegant façade and intricate stone carvings showcase the craftsmanship of the past. The interior of the church is equally impressive, featuring high vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and decorative elements that transport visitors back in time.

Beyond its architectural significance, St. Martin’s Church also plays a role in the spiritual life of Budapest. It continues to serve as an active place of worship, hosting religious services, concerts, and cultural events. The church’s serene atmosphere and stunning surroundings make it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a tranquil retreat from the bustling city.

St. Martin’s Church stands as a testament to the resilience of Budapest’s historical landmarks and the dedication to preserving the city’s cultural heritage. Its timeless beauty and historical importance make it an essential part of Budapest’s architectural and religious landscape, captivating visitors with its grandeur and historical significance.

I am glad we got to see Budapest now vs in a few years. The Government is rebuilding the Ministry of Finance on the Castle Hill. In fact they are rebuilding quite a few government buildings, but the Finance Ministry will be completed first. Our tour guide told us there will be 8000 people working out of the building. Here is the problem. I already explained that cars are limited on top of the hill, but so is public transportation. Because of the caves under the hilltop, the busses running up and down the hill are limited to a capacity of about 20 people. There are no (currently) train or tram stops at the top of the hill. I cannot imagine how awful it will be to move around up there when 8000 people are trying to get to work and leave work when one bus holds only 20 people.

New Finance Ministry Building.

Budapest was one of our favorite cities. The contrast between old and new is never more evident than here.

Our busy summer continues. Today we took a hike into the Black Forest; so I have at least one thing to write about in the coming days. Next weekend, we are meeting my cousin Julie and her husband Andy in Engleberg. They are on a European Holiday, and thank goodness she messaged me to let us know they were going to be nearby. The next weekend 4 of the absolute best friends in the world are coming. Julie and I are excited to show them the beauty of Switzerland. Then we are traveling to Salzburg, Austria and Munich, Germany.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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