Saturday, May 13, 2023

13th of May 2023 - Budapest Castle Hill Area and St Stephen's Basilica

The day started with an excursion for the seven us doing the Budapest pre-cruise extension to the Castle Hill area of Budapest which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our first port of call was the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum.  During WWII, the caves and passageways of Castle Hill were fortified and used as an air raid shelter and emergency hospital.  During the Cold War, the hospital was further fortified to protect it from chemical and nuclear contamination.  Now the hospital is a museum, complete with waxwork recreations of hospital treatments and tbe day-to-day tbs scenarios during the siege.  Many of these recreations were really grim.

Afterwards we walked through the picturesque cobbled streets of the Castle Hill area to Matthias Church which is also known as The Church of Our Lady.  This Baroque style Roman Catholic church was built on the site of an 11th-century church and was completed in 1269.  The church served as a mosque during the Turkish reign.

Behind the Matthias Church, at the exact spot where the local fishermen's guild built their defence installations in the Middle Ages, is the Neo-Romanesque style Fisherman's Bastion which was built between 1895 and 1902.

There are great views over the city and the Danube from the Fisherman's Bastion.

I joined Marge and Maggie for lunch at the CafĂ© Strudel.  The plum strudel I initally ordered was quite a small portion so I also ordered a sour cherry strudel with a chili choclate sauce which was delicious.

After lunch I headed off on my own to the Roman Catholic St Stephen's Basilica which is named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose right hand is housed in the reliquary, a container for relics.


The circular observation area surrounding the cupola is accessible to visitors,  Getting up to the cupola was a mixture of lifts and umpteen stairs.  The view was certainly worth the climb.


The view included the Budapest Eye with my hotel just to the left of the Eye.

On my way down from the cupola I visit the Treasury of the Basilica of St Stephen which contains ecclesiastical objects including censers, chalices, ciboria and vestments.  It is also a veritable shine to Cardinal Mindszenty including his clothing, devotional objects and death mask.

After leaving St Stephen's Basilica I found a bar with a view of the Basilica where I could sample a local beer and write some postcards.

Tonight I went for a late dinner at the AszĂș restaurant which was recommended to me.  had .  The atmosphere was brilliant with lively clientelle, a carved gilded wood interior and live music played on a cimbalom (hammer dulcimer).

The musician playing the cimbalom picked up on my Irish lineage and played first "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" followed by "Danny Boy".  I don't usually make the effort to go out for dinner on my own but was delighted to do so this time.  The traditional Hungarian food and wine were excellent.

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