On Cruising the River Danube: Part 3 of 4

 Please excuse the interruption, but a beach walk will return next week. 

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Because we cruised 75-80% of the Danube, parts 3 and 4 of this series features the lower Danube -downriver from Budapest  through Hungary to Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. This portion of the river is less travelled by river cruisers.

 

Budapest, Hungary

As I mentioned in the previous post, Budapest was our halfway point. We hiked the top of a hill on the Buda side for an awesome view of the city. Visited the nearby Cave Church. The view of Budapest at night is spectacular, and a must-do for visitors.

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Pecs, Hungary

Located about a 40 minute bus ride from our dock in Mochas, Pecs (PAY-ch) is Hungary’s fifth largest city. It’s early Christian necropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of interesting archeological excavations.

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Belgrade, Serbia

I recall Belgrade as the capital of Yugoslavia. Although not dominated by the Soviet Union, Marshall Tito had a different view of Communism – so Yugoslavia remained an arm-length from the USSR. Belgrade pleasantly surprised me.

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Donji Milanovac, Serbia

This small town served as a base for the 20-minute bus ride to an archeological site (Lepenski Vir) dating back to 6000 BCE. That’s old! Thought is that the culture worshipped the mountain. Before docking in the town, the ship passed the museum. The actual site is now well below the water level.

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Iron Gates Gorge

The Iron Gates is a spectacular natural beauty separating Romania and Serbia. From the time we entered the region at 7 AM, there’s no better view than from the ship’s top deck. For me, this region served as one of my top highlights of the trip.

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Previous Posts

  • Part 1 (Prague to Linz)
  • Part 2 (Melk to Budapest)

On Trip Tidbits: More Budapest

Embed from Getty Images

 

As my dedicated post indicated, Budapest is a fabulous city to visit – let alone the tidbits about the contradictions at Liberty Square and the memorial of the shoes. However, this post is truly a collection of tidbits with murals at a bathhouse, a sculpture, and a sign.

 

Outstanding murals and a statue in the lobby of a bathhouse.

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A touch of artistry from a gallery.

 

These statues are a bit large.

 

Now this is an interesting store sign.

 

Hope you enjoyed this tidbits from Budapest. Any favorites?

On Trip Tidbits: Liberty Square

Image from Budapest Tourism

Many visitors to Budapest encounter Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) – especially if they are avid walkers. After all, Liberty Square is on the way from city center to the magnificent Hungarian Parliament building.

Liberty Square is a public park. The trees are full, the border buildings are grand. Hungarian National Bank and the former Hungarian Stock Exchange flank one side as symbols to free capitalism. The US Embassy is located on the opposite side of the square.

To me, Liberty square was a place of contrast. A place of contradictions. A place that could be called the Square of Juxtaposition. Let me make my case.

Monument of German Occupation

 

Hungary initially was one of the pro-Hitler Axis Powers. Hungarian military invaded Yugoslavia and massacred many. In 1944, Germans moved to occupy Hungary because Hitler felt betrayed by Hungarian leaders. From that point, Hungarian Jews and Roma were sent to concentration camps. In front of the monument is a collection of small memorials to Hungarian Holocaust victims. Yet, no mention of the Hungarian involvement in the atrocities.

 

Harry Bandholtz Statue

Austria-Hungary and Germany were WW1 allies. Which means the Hungarians lost the war. Liberty Park has a statue to Harry Bandholtz, a US Army general (WW1). It seems a band of Romanians wanted to loot the Hungarian National Museum, but Bandholtz successfully protected the museum – therefore a statue in this honor.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Memorial to Fallen Soviet Soldiers

The Soviets erected a memorial the far end of Liberty Square to honor their role in liberating Hungary from the Nazis and in memorial to the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in the efforts. Of course, the Soviets decided to stay for over 40 years – and the US Embassy is nearby.

 

Ronald Reagan Statue

Very near to the Soviet Memorial stands a statue of Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, the current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is responsible for the statue. However, Orbán is far to the right, and is moving Hungary closer to Putin’s Russia – and I just don’t think Ronald Reagan would be endorsing Putin.

 

Imre Nagy Memorial

Imre Nagy (HM-reh nodge) was a communist, but he sought to ease Stalinist policies. As he rose in leadership, he withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact with hopes of bridging Eastern Communism with Western Capitalism. This memorial has Nagy on the bridging facing the Parliament Building. Interestingly, Prime Minister Orbán had the statue removed in late December. Here’s a related read.

Image from Wikipedia

Yes, Budapest’s Liberty Square is interesting, complicated, and full of contradictions.

On Budapest (Hungary)

Click for some background music while you look and read, enjoy Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Johannes Brahms)

 

BUDA-pesht – is how they pronounce it – not BUDA-pest

Budapest – the capital of Hungary with a vibrant population approaching two million. It was also a co-capital of the Austria-Hungary Empire.

Although we hear about the Danube separating Buda and Pest, we forget that Óbuda was the third city joining in the union forming Budapest in 1873.

The Buda side of the river is hilly and Buda Castle (Royal Castle) sits atop a hill along with Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. These structures and a few statues and monuments amplify the skyline. Buda’s streets are narrow and the buildings echo with history.

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The hills of Buda offers wonder views of the Danube and Pest.

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The Pest side of the river is flat, newer, vibrant, and a grand display of architecture of Art Nouveau, Baroque, Classical, Neo-classical, Romantic, and Renaissance providing a grand visual treat. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Parliament, Hero’s Square, Liberty Square, National Theater, Great Market Hall, parks, spas, shopping, entertainment, and more. Numerous pedestrian-only streets make Pest very walkable.

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Hero’s Square celebrates 1000 years of conquest by the Magyars. Whereas the other countries on the tour were Slavic, Hungary is not – and it’s language is more similar to Finnish and Estonian instead of being close to any of its neighbors. Before this tour, I had no clue about this. Hero’s Square celebrates the seven Magyar tribes of Central Asia that came to the region. The square includes statues to labor, war, knowledge, and glory along with a few early national heroes.

 

A short walk beyond Hero’s Square, Varosliget (a 302 acre city park) also celebrates the 1896 millennium with galleries, museums, a thermal spa, and more in a beautiful park setting.

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If you visit Budapest, make sure you take a night-time cruise on the Danube River because the city lights provide a great show.

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Of the places we visited on the tour, Budapest was the biggest and the grandest. It’s a vibrant, beautiful city and worth at least at least 3 days – if not more. The excellent 6-minute video below showing Budapest is done by a group of travelling friends. Enjoy

Next Stop: Plitvice National Park (posted)

Next Post: Rovinj

Click here for past posts of this tour.

 

On Eger (Hungary)

After our morning at Auschwitz, it was a long ride to Eger (EH-gher) – a city of about 53,000 in northern Hungary. The next day we had the morning to discover Eger on our own before two scheduled activities.

Nestled in the hills of the Bukk Mountains, humans have lived here since the Stone Age.

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Eger Castle sits above the town center – and this place is close to the Hungarians heart because here, the Hungarians defended the castle from the invading Ottomans in 1552. Istvan Dobo is a legendary hero for his leadership.

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During the 1600s, the Ottomans built a minaret in Eger, which is one of three minarets remaining in Hungary.

 

Eger has a variety of grand buildings, but the pedestrian street with Baroque architecture is a pleasant stroll and a good place to eat or enjoy a beverage.

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After our independent time, the group gathered together for an activity – attending a junior high school where we met with a teacher and her students in their English class – and then had lunch in the school cafeteria. (We were pleasantly surprised.)

 

Eger is the center of one of Hungary’s productive wine regions. One of the popular wines is known as Bull’s Blood – a dark red wine blend of three grapes. The legend is that the wine was dark because it was mixed with bull’s blood, which gave Dobo’s men strength. So after the school, it was a short trip to a winery where the wine flowed, the music played, learned a Hungarian dance, and who knows how many times we toasted in Hungarian – Egészségedre!

 

Eger is a charming small city. For us, it was a good stopover between the gut-wrenching in Auschwitz and the grandness of Budapest to come. Time at the school and the winery helped make the day wonderful. Below is a 4-minute video (set to appropriate music) showing many of the sites we saw in Eger. Enjoy.

 

Next Stop” Budapest

Click here for past posts of this tour.