Katalin Karády

This plaque is on the front of our building. Somebody added the wreaths today.

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The plaque says that our building was a former residence of Hungarian film star Katalin Karády, the suppressed film star. After a little research, we found that Katalin Karády was famous in Hungary in the 1930’s and early 40’s as an actress and singer. She often played femmes fatales, and her personal life was somewhat scandalous as well, with rumors flying about her conquests and orientation. Her acting was compared to Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwick, Jane Russell and Greta Garbo.

Outside of Hungary, Karády is known for resisting the Nazi occupation of Hungary. She used her homes to shelter Jews in preparation for their escape from the occupied countries. The Gestapo arrested and tortured her, but after three months she was rescued by well-connected friends. During the massacre of the Jews at the Danube, she used her own money and jewelry to buy the lives  of several people who were about to be executed by the Arrow Cross. She took several children into her home and kept them there until the end of hostilities. For this she is recognized as Righteous among the Nations by the Israeli Yad Vashem Institute.

After the war, the Soviet occupiers also suppressed her talents, banning her movies and preventing her from earning a living by acting or singing. She emigrated to the West, eventually finding her way to New York, where she made a living selling hats. She died there in 1990, and in 1991 her ashes were returned to her home country for burial in the artists’ plot in the Farkasréti cemetery, just outside of Budapest.

Katalin Karády’s films are available on DVD in Hungary, where she is still remembered for her style, her talent, and her rare courage.

Katalin Karády

Serendipity

Yesterday was one of those unplanned days that are the benefit of staying in one place for more than a couple of days. Not having an agenda, we set out to figure out the bus system and make reservations at Paprika, a restaurant that’s across town from our apartment. We could have made the reservation over the phone, of course, but we needed to try out our new metro passes.

But first, breakfast: we stopped by New York Bagels, which is right around the corner from our apartment, and while eating had a conversation with some young travelers, one of whom was Irish. He gave us his view on how to see his home country best: spend a few days in Dublin, then hire a car and drive around the island along or near the coast. That’s an interesting idea that we hadn’t thought of – we have some time to work on it, but that’s a good starting point.

We had our brand new 30-day metro passes, which had been surprisingly easy to get. If you research this online, you’ll through multiple web sites with partial explanations of how to get a pass that’s good for more than 72 hours. We had been told that the ticket sellers only spoke Hungarian, the 30-day pass was only for Budapest residents, and all sorts of other lugubrious stories. We tried it out anyway, and discovered that all you have to do is go to the ticket office in a main metro station and ask for one. Their English is a little rough – you have to speak slowly and clearly – but if you smile a lot, say “good morning” and let them go through their mysterious procedure, it’s easy.

We found the nearest the right bus route and nearest bus stop using a combination of the Budapest metro’s Android app and Google maps, waited 10 minutes to catch our bus, and were at our destination in about 15 minutes. (It would have been faster to take the subway, but the view is better on the bus.) We walked about a half mile along a park, found the restaurant (which is beautiful – more on that later) and made our reservations.

On the way back, we decided to walk back to the bus stop through the park instead of back along city streets. It turns out that the restaurant is across from Városliget (Budapest City Park), which is home to miles of walking and biking trails, two art museums, thermal baths, a zoo, a circus, a castle, flower gardens, a lake and Hero’s Square – a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s a  monument to the history of Hungary.

Castle and baths

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car boat

Boating on the lake

Unfortunately, we needed to get back in time for a performance of Hungarian folk music that night, so we only had time for a pretty quick stroll around the park. We decided to come back on Wednesday so we could spend the day before dinner at Paprika.

Serendipity

Budapest – Saturday Morning

Saturday morning in Budapest which appears to be emerging into a beautiful day – sunny and high of 74 ºFDoing laundry this morning at our apartment before exploring this afternoon so taking time now to post some observations about Budapest.

First of all we love our apartment and its location.  We are on the Pest side of Budapest and very close to the Elizabeth Bridge and the Central Market for those that have been here before.  If you zoom out a little from the Google map, you will get a better feel for where we are calling home for the next month.

Below if a photo of the Elizabeth Bridge in the background and a statue of the former Queen of Hungary, Erzsebet. This was taken on our walking journey Friday which totaled over 21K steps (approx. 9 ½ miles).  We rode on the Metro for the first time from Pest over to the end of the line in Buda and walked back to Pest.  Wonderful stroll through parks, saw numerous interesting statues, and had lunch at an outdoor restaurant.  Spotting the bridge, we knew our long journey back to Pest was over.  Exhausting & exhilarating at the same time.

Bridge

The price of everything appears to be much lower than the U.S.  We bought a Metro pass yesterday for $35.00/each which is good for 30 days!  We have a couple of local pubs near our apartment where beer was only $1.85 for a pint of beer!  We were a little surprised that in some tourist pubs it was about $4.00/pint so we are sticking to local places for beer or wine.

Another observation is that one can still see the Russian influence from post WWII days.  On Monday we plan to go to see the Russian statues at Memento Park.  There are numerous statues from the years of Communist control here (1949-1989).  Just strolling through a major street near us you see stalls full of Russian hats and paraphernalia.

More later – hopefully from Clay too!

Maggie

Budapest – Saturday Morning

Surprises and Heartbreak

How long do we get to stay here? Whatever it is, I don’t think it will be long enough. So far, we love everything: the people are friendly, the architecture is amazing, the food is great (it’s NOT all goulash), the prices are low, and the weather is fine. I know it’s only been one day, but I thought we would have to make a lot of adjustments, and so far it’s been easy. I thought we would have a hard time getting by only on English: we’d been told that 80% of the people speak nothing but Magyar, and if you wanted to speak English, you’d better find somebody under 25 years old, or else you’d be out of luck. It turns out that in the heart of Budapest, we’ve had no problem at all. Pretty much every restaurant has English somewhere on the menu, or there are pictures you can point to, or we’ve been able to find a waiter who understands enough English that we could get our point across.We’re even learning a little Magyar, wonder of wonders.

One of the things we’ve noticed is that there is art everywhere. There are the typical statues of generals, saints and war heroes as you might expect; there are memorials of various wars; there’s a huge statue on the hill overlooking the city, which was put up by the Soviets to remind the Hungarians of who released them from the Nazis (it has since been repurposed to honor all those who sacrificed their lives for Hungarian liberty).

To Maggie and me, the most powerful memorial was the smallest: a collection of shoes, cast in iron, representing the Hungarian Jews who were executed by the Hungarian Nazi party, the Arrow Cross. The people to be executed were taken to the banks of the Danube and told to remove their shoes. Then they were shot so that their bodies fell into the river. The message being that, to the Nazis, their shoes were more valuable than their lives. You can find more on sculpture and the story behind it here. Thousands of people were murdered in this way, out of the approximately 600,000 Hungarian Jews who were killed, most of them sent to the death camps.

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It’s a living memorial: people have added flowers, votive candles and thousands of pebbles to mark their witness to the memorial. While we were there, a dozen people came by to observe, leave a remembrance or to sit on the bank and be present. That’s a part of what we love about this place, too: its long, often sad history isn’t ignored; there is actually an active effort to keep it alive, so the tragic episodes aren’t repeated.

Surprises and Heartbreak

Trip to the Central Market Budapest

No trip to any city is complete without me (Maggie) making a trip to the local food market.  First thing we did in Budapest was go to the Central Market in Budapest. It is a restored neogothic hall for traders with grocery produce on the ground floor & souvenirs on the upper floor.  This will be my go-to-place for fresh veggies and meats – not unlike the Austin Central Market or Whole foods only better!

 

 

 

 

Trip to the Central Market Budapest

Budapest – at first glance

Flight to Budapest was uneventful except for the last leg when our luggage didn’t make it to Budapest along with us.  Not a problem.  The owner of our rental unit had prearranged a car to pick us up, and the driver didn’t complain about any BO or anything so I guess we are OK to walk around until our luggage arrives.

The owner of our apartment rental here met us at here at the apt.  He is Italian and his English excellent.  He spent a lot of time explaining how everything works and giving us tourist helpful tourist information.  The apartment is on a side street in the Heart of Budapest.  It is EXTREMELY quiet location close to a busy street, market, and restaurants.  We had planned to stay here for a month, and wonder now if that is enough.  🙂

Getting ready to head out here in a few minutes to hit the Tourist Bureau here and pick up a month’s pass on the Metro/Bus system.  Clay has volunteered to post the first day’s activities tonight.

coffee budapest

Budapest – at first glance

Melbourne

The trip from Apalachicola to Melbourne was on on of those “picture perfect” days. We decided to forego I-10 and hit the back roads to Melbourne. it was an easy drive and took only 7 hours. Highly recommended route.

So glad that we got off the back roads in Orlando and headed east on 528 towards the Kennedy Space Center. We had forgotten that Friday was the launch of the SpaceX rocket, and happened to see it launch from our front row seats in our car. I (Maggie) was too busy watching to photograph the beginning stages, but managed to snag one photo of the smoke trail.

launch

Melbourne