This morning we experienced the first of our free choice activities with Scenic. The majority of people on the cruise opted for the City Tour of Budapest, as we did, but others selected from a hike up Buda Hill, thermal bathing or the Hospital in the Rock. Three Scenic buses were needed for the city tour. We were lucky to have a local guide, Nora, who was not only knowledgeable, but also very funny. And she certainly left us in no doubt about what she thinks of the current Hungarian government.
The city tour covered the same ground Marg and I had done over the past few days, but it was good to hear a guide speak about some of the places and great to meet a few more of the people sharing our cruise.
We went back into the Buda Castle District, where we had been yesterday, and discovered that there was actually no castle in the castle district (it had been destroyed in a war hundreds of years ago) and there had never been a royal family living in the former Royal Palace (when it was built Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ruled from Vienna by the Habsburgs).
I found Matthias Church to be particularly interesting, because Matthias was not a saint, but a very popular king. And inside the church the decorative geometric patterns on the walls and columns were very beautiful to behold. They are there because for over one hundred years the Ottomans ruled Hungary, and rather than erect their own place of worship, they turned the Christian church into a Muslim mosque. As Muslims do not venerate images, they painted islamic geometric designs throughout the structure, and placed a wall in front of the Madonna. When Christianity returned to the land, out of respect for the way the previous occupiers had used the church, the Islamic art was left in place and the Christian images, statues, icons and stained glass windows were returned. What is now in place reflects two different faiths and multiple periods in history. It really is very beautiful.
The tour bus then took us back over the river to Pest and along Andrassy Avenue to Heroes’ Square where the main statues represent the seven tribal chieftains who led their people from Siberia to this land to found Hungary. They were the Magyars.
We finished our tour with a piano and organ recital from a very gifted Hungarian musician who played us some works from Liszt and Bach.
This afternoon our ship, Scenic Jasper, departs Budapest bound for Vienna.