Budapest: a religious and cultural dayOctober 17, 2019 in Hungary ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
As already mentioned, we had missed out on seeing the Grand Synagogue on our first attempt because it was closed and wasn't due to reopen until 17 October. This being 17 October therefore, it remained our only opportunity to visit it before we set off for home.
The Grand Synagogue is truly impressive, both from the outside, which we'd seen previously, and the inside. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Budapest and was certainly very busy when we arrived.
They are very well organised, with guided tours in several major languages running every 30 minutes and included in the entry fee. We joined one such tour, with our guide being most informative about the building itself, its associated features and generally about Jewish history in Budapest during the 20th century. Afterwards we were free to wander round and take photos as we pleased. This, the biggest synagogue in Europe and the second biggest in the world, is certainly built on a grand scale and was well worth the effort to visit. Amazingly it survived the Second World War without substantial damage.
However, the place where we spent the most time and which we found the most interesting was the information display about the Budapest ghetto, located in the basement of the building. The display contains a lot of written information and many photographs detailing the horrible circumstances leading up to the creation of the ghetto and the brutal treatment of its inhabitants by the Germans and more particularly by many fellow Hungarian citizens. It was good to see that many tourists were taking the time to visit this display and to study it closely.
After grabbing a quick sandwich we decided to go all Roman Catholic and visit the St Stephen's Basilica. It dominates the skyline in the downtown Buda area and certainly looks very impressive from the square in front. It is the biggest church in Budapest, accommodating up to 8500 people. It is named after the first king of Hungary and one of its main claims to fame is that it holds as a relic the right hand of St Stephen himself. The hand is on prominent display in a reliquary, though unless one were told, it would be hard to work out exactly what the object was that was being displayed. Amazingly this was one place where it was possible to simply walk in without having to buy a ticket.
Our next port of call was the Hungarian Opera House, also nearby. More bad news. Both the auditorium and the exterior are currently undergoing renovation, with a scheduled completion date of 2021. Tours were still being run, but much of the building was off-limits. As a consolation they were offering a free short concert after the tour.
What we saw of the building was indeed impressive, though we were disappointed that we could not get to see the auditorium. Compared with the Palais Garnier, the place seemed quite small, but the explanation for this lies in its history. The Austrian Franz Joseph, granted permission for the opera house to be built, but only on condition that it was not to be bigger than the Vienna Opera House.
The consolation prize concert consisted of three operatic duets given by a soprano and a tenor with piano accompaniment. It ran for about 15 minutes. They performed on the landing of the main staircase while the audience members stood on the upper level and watched or simply sat on the staircase.
This was our last night in Budapest and indeed the very last night of our holiday. We spent it having a very relaxing pleasant meal with Brian's cousin Panni at an outdoor restaurant close to her place. She was having to start work early the next morning so it wasn't a late night.Read more