Monday, November 19, 2012

Varhegy/Castle Hill, Budapest

Dominating the Buda side of Budapest is the Castle Hill or Castle District, where the ancient castle of the Hungarian rulers stands. It still is home to the President's Office Building, but has many museums, churches, shops, and spectacular views as well.

As one rides up to the castle, in the trees is the bronze Turul, a mythical bird that is claimed to be the grandfather of Arpad, the leader who brought the Magyar tribes to Hungary. In its talons are the weapons of Atilla the Hun.

Patriotic bird called turul

At the top of the hill, we got off our tour bus right by a building formerly used as an armory. It has been the scene of many battles. It has not been fixed as a reminder of how much sacrifice the people have made throughout the years.

Bullet-hole-riddled building

We heard some drums and such nearby and noticed that the changing of the guard ceremony was beginning at the President's Office Building. We rushed over to see it. The ceremony was a lot more impressive than what we saw at the Prague Castle. If I had known the soldiers were going to do the whole rifle spinning and tossing routine, I would have taken some video. Alas, all I have are the pictures.

Guards ready for replacements to come

Here come the replacements!

Switching positions with precision

This end of the castle (the south end) has the Palace and a few museums and art galleries. We did not go since the kids were not in the mood and the weather was so nice outside. We wanted to save them for the church at the north end of the castle (which was yesterday's blog post).

Castle Palace

The National Gallery, I think

We headed north for some of the more spectacular sights. From the castle hill, there is a great view of the Parliament Building across the river on the Pest side.

Parliament viewed from the castle

The north end has the spectacular Fishermen's Bastion, a medieval-looking fortification like something from a high-budget fairy tale. It was built in 1902 to accompany the Matyas Church nearby as a showcase of the beauty of the area. It has seven turrets to represent the seven tribes brought by Arpad when they settled here. In medieval times, the fishermen would sell their wares here, hence the name. Now many peddlers sell trinkets and musicians busk for donations.

Fishermen's Bastion

The views from there are quite special but the kids were starting to get hungry. We found a grocery store with a small restaurant upstairs. I tried to order one beer, which they no longer had in stock. I ordered a different beer that was on the menu, which was also not available. The waitress recommended a third beer that they did have in stock but not on the menu. Unfortunately it wasn't very good. It seemed odd that they didn't have the beers available for two reasons. First, they were on the menu. Second, we had to walk through the extensive beer and wine section of the store to get to the cafe. Surely they could pull a bottle off the shelf of their own store? Jacob was fascinated with a fountain he saw from the window, so after we ate we went to look at it. I noticed a lot of guys stopping to take pictures and linger over it. Upon examination we discovered why.

Jacob keeps custody of his eyes

After lunch and a last bit of tourism, we headed back to the bus to return to our hotel for nap time.

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