Surprise! This post is not about IKEA or our pitiful first-world moving struggles, or even about the garbage collection area of our building* (sorry to disappoint). It’s about what we got up to on our Easter holidays – thanks Jebus!
The Danes celebrate Easter in a very Danish way – by giving everyone five days off work. They go all in for Maundy Thursday, despite it sounding like a totally made up holiday. Predictably, there are all kinds of strange traditions involving secret ‘snowdrop letters’ (gækkebreve) and special Easter brew beer (Kylle, Kylle), but we will have to wait to next year to experience these festivities.
Instead, we managed to clamber over the walls of our self-made moving box prison and escaped to Budapest, Hungary for the best part of a week.
Our excellent hosts/tour guides Ev and Bjela, combined with our natural tendency to jam as much into a holiday as possible, means we covered a fair bit of ground. I’ll spare us both the effort of wading through a blow-by-blow chronological commentary and just go with vague themes. Also because I want to do an epic food-themed post especially for Woody, because he loves the current ‘foodie’ zeitgeist so much.
To start with, here are some of the most classic Budapest sights. Our intrepid guide Ev took us up Gellert Hill to take in the stupidly scenic views over the city and the Danube. The main landmark is the Liberty Monument, a tribute to Soviet liberation from the Nazis… understandable, but ultimately premature and now kind of awkward thanks to the giant mess that was Communism in Hungary.
To my delight, someone of great political and social import once remarked that Budapest was pretty nice, except that it didn’t have enough statues. Thank you, snide person from the past! You single-handedly ensured that the city, and also this post, now has a million excellent statues. I am eternally grateful.
There is a church in a cave, inventively titled the cave church. The best thing about it was the part in the interactive guide where they tried to pass off huge engineering blunders as fortuitous expressions of God’s will. Oh, my tunnel came out in totally the wrong place? I guess God wanted it over there! Needless to say, it’s my new excuse for everything.
We tagged along on Bjela’s excellent and highly recommended history tour around all the major sights in the city centre on the Pest side. The shoes on the Danube memorial was devastating, and it was perplexing seeing people trying to get a selfie with ‘both the shoes and the castle in it’. A heady mix of horror and classic architecture for ones profile pic?
Also perplexing was the ‘changing of the guards’ at the Parliament building. There weren’t really any guards to change per se, but not to be left out, Budapest makes a handful of soldiers emerge out the front of the building and do some choreographed moves for about five minutes to a recording of trumpet music. Not quite as ridiculous as the Greek ceremony, but a close second.
Heading across the river to Buda you get more clazzic buildings and statues.
I liked the story of Margaret Island – the King of Hungary was about to get overrun by Mongols and struck a deal with God that if Hungary was spared invasion his fourth daughter Margaret would become a nun. That came to be, so Margaret was packed off to a convent on that island in the middle of the Danube. After a while the King assumed God would have forgotten the deal and tried to marry her off instead. Margaret was having none of it, and stayed put in her convent. Probably for the best. If you’re going to get arranged-marriaged, might as well be to Jebus – at least you get to live on a nice island.
As an aside, we later went to Margaret Island – I assume Margaret herself wasn’t responsible for this piece of public art:
Anyway, back to the castle district:
Old mate Szent Istvan again…
Brace yourself for the manliest group of statues you’re ever likely to set eyes upon, courtesy of the Royal Palace.
Finally, some action from Hero’s Square and City Park. The Anonymous statue is so great – if you’ve read this far you obviously share my deep love of excellent statues and you’re about to get a reward for your tenacity.
Sadly I just realised I didn’t take anywhere near enough photos of the most common statue type we came across: mustachioed walrus-like men. There were so many, I am genuinely shocked by my oversight. My apologies, Hungary! I’ll do better next time.
* My obsession continues unabated – someone has randomly put a toilet next to the plastics recycling bin, if anyone needs one…