Inside the Great Synagogue.
Hungarian wines sold in plastic bottles.
July 1, 2006
I always thought a fun fact about this city was that the Danube River divides Buda and Pest. Probably was more exciting to me
than most people. Anyway, I will get on with our time here...both in Buda and in Pest.
Our first full day in Budapest would start with going to the Synagogue. My sister really wanted to see this and felt a bit bad
about having me go again. The truth was that I tried to find this the first time I was here but I had no luck. So this would be
my first time as well.
When we got to it, I could not have been more embarrassed about not being able to have found it in the past. It was huge. How
could anybody miss this structure? Even somebody as direction-illiterate as myself should have been able to see this. Not only
was it huge but it was rather ornate. I was losing points with my sister by the minute. I am actually surprised that she’s not
more worried about my traveling around by myself. Between losing things, forgetting things, not being able to locate things…I’
m actually getting a bit scared for myself.
In any case, we entered probably the most beautiful synagogue I have ever been to in my life. It is the second largest in the
world next to Temple Emanu-el in New York City. It was just gorgeous. It was built in the 1850’s and obviously got very
damaged during World War II. After all, the Jewish Ghetto was set up in this area of Budapest. It became a prayer house again
after the war though the Jewish community was completely diminished. It wasn’t until democracy came back to Hungary in
1991 that it would be renovated. This renovation was completed in 1996. It was beautiful on the inside with a mixture of
Byzantine, Gothic and Romantic elements. There were two large chandeliers each weighing 1.5 tons.
From there we went to the museum. I got an abridged version of what each major Jewish holiday is about. Call it a ‘Jewish
Holidays for Dummies’ of sorts. There was also a part of the museum that was obviously geared towards the Holocaust. I wish
the photos had better descriptions because many of them didn’t say anything regarding what the pictures were from. But
there were a couple pictures showing the Hungarians in Auschwitz II – Birkenau right near the train tracks. The very train
tracks that I stood at just over two weeks ago. It was interesting seeing the different impact these photos had on me versus
my sister. The different things I have seen in the past month have made it possible for me to piece together parts of the
Holocaust. At least more so than I was able to beforehand.
Outside there was a Holocaust Memorial. At the center of it was a silver weeping willow tree. The leaves had names of victims
engraved onto them. There were also plaques that surviving family members had dedicated to their relatives that were killed
in the Holocaust. It was extremely moving reading all of these plaques. Many of the relatives were from New York. One name
that might sound familiar is the actor Tony Curtis. He was the individual who set up the foundation that has done so much for
this synagogue. He is of Jewish-Hungarian descent. But he probably did this more because of the fact that he lost his father in
After leaving the Synagogue we went to the Market Hall. There’s a combination of produce, Hungarian products, souvenirs,
meats, etc. here. And let me just say that with the meat, there aren’t many parts that they waste. We seriously saw a pig’s
face. This market was really all someone needs to see if they want to stop eating meat (surprisingly this wasn’t enough to do it
for me as I ordered pork at dinner a couple nights later).
After our stroll through the market, we went to Raday Utca for lunch at the Soul Café. Boy, was this restaurant good! This
would be where I would get my first taste of ‘fruit soup’ – something they serve at most of the hip little restaurants over here.
I have to say that the sound of it might be a bit weird but it is the most refreshing, tastiest thing that I have had since my
mango juice in Egypt.
We walked through many more areas and found the place that Michelle was seeking out – Gerbeaud. A fancy-schmancy
elegant patisserie that was listed in all of the books she had read about Budapest. Maybe they were having a bad day…but I
have to say that we had one of the worst pastries ever here. Completely dry. Completely stale. It was just one of those that
leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Plus the waitress was pretty rude. And the pastries were twice the price of anywhere else.
This got a big thumbs-down from both of us.
After we got back from Eger the next evening, we decided to hang out in Castle Hill (in Buda). While this seemed like a great
idea to my sister before wine tasting, this was not so much the case after wine tasting. She was feeling sooo great that she
actually marked her territory…twice…in the bushes of this UNESCO site. Way to go, Michelle. She had the wineries of Eger
and their free-flowing wine tasting to thank for feeling this way.
Thankfully, Michelle felt much better yesterday when she woke up. Phew. A sick Michelle is not a fun Michelle. We decided to
head out of the city for a bit to a suburb called Szentendre. As luck would have it, Mother Nature was on our side. After having
me follow a heat wave for what seemed like forever, she would cool things down by about 30 degrees and even give us a little
rain. Just what we needed! I had never been happier to see gray skies as I was yesterday. As for the town of Szentendre, it
was a bit touristy but it was also quite cute. It is known for being a city with lots of artists, etc. The last thing I wanted to do
was shop…but I found a beautiful handmade perfume bottle at one of the stores. I decided to purchase this to go with my rip-
off-of-a-purchase Egyptian perfume that I got back in Cairo (I’m still bitter about being so stupid about that).
This town is also very well-known for Marzipan. They even had a Marzipan Museum. While I don’t go out of my way to visit
museums these days, this one was unique enough where I couldn’t pass it up. There was a 60 kg marzipan Parliament
building. Even better was the 80 kg marzipan and white chocolate Michael Jackson. Anybody else find it a bit ironic that it was
made out of white chocolate???
When we got back to Budapest we headed out to the Szechenyi Furdo baths which were just the relaxation we both needed
after all of the walking that we had been doing. These baths were quite beautiful.
Before long it was time to get cleaned up to get ready for our final dinner in Budapest. We went to Mokka which was excellent.
A great way to wrap up a great trip.