‘Budapesht’, to use the correct Hungarian pronunciation, is the combination of two old towns – Buda and Pest. Buda is on the hilly northern side of the river and Pest is a flat city on the southern side.
Cathy and Chris told us that we would like this place and they are quite right – we really do. It is a city with style!
After a quick bus tour this morning through both old towns, we had a free afternoon. I went for a long walk over the ‘chain bridge’ then along the river bank to the parliament buildings. This is a gothic style of building with an ornate dome and ornate spires. It would stand up to any cathedral in the world.
Along the river bank is a piece of street sculpture made from the bronzed shoes of the Jewish people who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. It is very moving, especially with candles placed next to some of the shoes.
There are many grand buildings in this city – some have the same type of gentle decay that an be seen in many ex-Russian satellite countries, although the Hungarians were very happy to see the end of the occupation. You might remember that it began with Russian tanks occupying the streets in November 1956, a time that coincided with the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
Budapest, surprisingly, has a little emotional significance for me personally. It was the original home of Des and Maya Lee who own the Brighton Savoy Hotel. I used the hotel on many occasions as a conference venue throughout my career as an independent consultant. Des was a very senior public servant in the Hungarian government and left to come to Australia after the communist occupation. He first worked as a kitchen hand, then bought the hotel. When I asked him why he had taken such a big risk in his life, he told me “Because I had nothing to lose”. He helped me to put a more realistic perspective on my own leaving the security of employment in a steady company, to start my own business. What did I have to lose? Nothing much – at worst I could go and get another job somewhere. I have always appreciated those lo9ng discussions with Des in his office!
Tonight is our final night on the ship. Tomorrow, we are on a bus to Croatia.