Continuing with Budapest. It is located in Hungary, which is unique because the Hungarian language is unrelated to any other language on Earth. You know how French and Spanish and Italian all grew out of Latin, and all the Norse languages and English all grew out of a Germanic tongue? Hungarian is aaaaaall alone. This drove my mom crazy. She speaks four languages fluently and five not fluently, and she couldn’t pull from any of them to figure out what anyone was saying. Here’s an example. Except for the bottom word, which is clearly a modification of the word “sandwiches”, all the other words are totally indecipherable.
This building is kind of special because apparently Hungary has a ceramics factory that was very big during the turn of the century. Szolnay made the ceramic tiles for the roofs mentioned previously. They were also known for having a particular iridescent glaze they called Eosin. And this building is the only example I saw with Eosin on it.
It also had completely deranged-looking fish holding up the balconies.
Two totally unrelated-to-anything-else things I saw in or near the Danube River: One, a bus that also goes in the water, which was just disconcerting-looking. I kept wanting to call for help, “There’s a bus in the river! Save the women and children!” Two, a cute bit of graffiti on a pylon near the water.
We saw one of the finest sights Budapest has to offer, and it was Jewish, which is unusual. Judaism is not known for having rockin’ awesome art or architecture. But the Budapest Synagogue is pretty terrific. It’s an excellent example of Moorish architecture.
One of the three days I was in Budapest, we went off on a little jaunt to the neighboring villages. One of the villages we visited was a castle on a hill. It was charming and there was a beautiful view and all that, but the two things that really caught my fancy were the collection of medieval weapons:
And the delightful taxidermy collection of local fauna. As a child, I read a lot of Asterix and Obelix, which is a French comic series taking place in Roman-era Gaul, and the characters eat a great deal of wild boar. So I felt obligated to take this picture.
And because I love owls so very much, I took a picture of these little fellas.
There were people in there dusting up. I assumed it must be the Annual Clean the Dead Things Day at the castle.
After the castle, we toddled off to an adorable picturesque village. It was seriously photogenic.
The village housed several marzipan stores, and my mother and I stopped at one for cake and Viennese coffee. I wanted to buy some marzipan creatures for my friends back home, and they had charming bunnies and kitties and hippos, but if you bought the white elephant, you could sign the giant white fiberglass elephant near the door. That sealed the deal for me. I bought several little white elephants and they handed me a Sharpie. So if you go to some cute little village outside of Budapest and they have a marzipan store with a large fiberglass elephant near the door, look for my signature on the rump.
On our last day in Budapest, my mother and I decided to try the spa. Budapest is known for having thermal springs, so there are several spas in the city. I went to the one near the zoo. The Budapest Zoo is a marvelous semi-Art Nouveau zoo inside a park that totally reminded me of the Central Park Zoo. This is the entrance.
And this is one of the panels of the fence. I think that’s supposed to be a stag.
Across the street is the spa. It is Baroque and yellow and ornate and I just loved it.
There is a enormous central court with three large pools filled with warm chlorinated water, like a public pool, but so much more cool. There were fountains and jets that shot up from underneath and from the side – it was swell, I tell you.
But clearly these were regular chlorinated pools. I walked into one of the giant yellow buildings and caught a whiff of egg and burnt ash and I knew I was in the presence of the healing waters I sought out. Here is a list of the healthful mineral properties, in case you are interested.
And the thermal baths were positively Roman-looking. People were soaking, people were doing Sudoku puzzles, people were holding business meetings in the pools. It was amazing. I had never experienced a culture like this before. I have been meaning to go to the Russian baths in Brighton Beach, and I imagine they must be something like this.
Okay, I think that covers all of Budapest. Tomorrow we delve into Prague.