It is a bitter sweet moment as we end our month’s long stay in Budapest. We have seen so much more, having spent more time here than most tourists.
Reflecting back on our decision to stay a month we have zero regrets. Little moments, like seeing the same next door neighbor every morning as she was having her morning smoke will be a memory we won’t soon forget. She never smiled, even with a friendly good morning or wave. About halfway into our stay, she would smile and say hello with genuine kindness. I don’t know why she was not friendly as first, but something happened that changed her mind about her “Homeaway” neighbors next door. Maybe that fact that we had no loud, wild parties or debauchery next door might have put us in a better light.
We closed out our last week with a few last minute excursions, but feel like we have done all the major things we set out to do. This week we took a tour of the Hungarian Royal Opera House. Our first week in Budapest included many classical music venues, so we didn’t go to a performance at the Opera house, but opted for a tour instead. The tours are very popular, and when we handed them our ticket that divided us up based on the language we spoke. No Southern English group, so I joined in with the official English group instead. While waiting for our tour to start at the top of the stairs where the English sign was, Clay snapped a photograph of this grumpy looking guy behind the sign.
As you can see from Clay’s photos, it is an amazing building. It was opened in 1884 under the shared responsibility of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When opened, it became one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Europe. The acoustics are considered to be among the best in the world. It has seating for 1200 people.
Before the tour started we encountered our first and only obnoxious American tourist. After a hello and the obligatory “where are you from”, he immediately launched into a speech about this opera house not comparing well with the Paris Opera House. Both Clay and I were thinking , “we haven’t done the tour yet, so how do you know this?” He then asked us if we had been to the Paris Opera house, with an obvious hint of how cultured he was. (He previously mentioned he had been to lots of other opera houses, and this one just didn’t compare.) Of course he was talking loudly and with that false like “Donald Trump” confidence. I bet he has never been to an opera in his entire life. We just wondered what the Hungarian English tour guide was thinking when he arrived to take us on the tour. Hopefully, he didn’t hear this jerk. And, for your information, the Hungarian Opera House was beautiful!
Day trip to Gödöllő
In honor of Queen Elisabeth of Hungary, I highlighted this section title in purple – her favorite color. Gödöllő is a small town not too far from Budapest. It is only about 30km Northeast of Budapest. It was an easy ride on the metro. The attraction of most interest here to us was to see the magnificent palace where the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Franz Josef, and his beautiful wife, Queen Elisabeth (“Sisi”) had as their summer residence.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside the palace, so these pictures are stock photos. We had an English audio guide which was very helpful in understanding why Hungarians love their Queen Elisabeth. Briefly, she was born into Bavarian royalty and married Franz Joseph when she was only 16. After becoming Queen she would often visit Hungary and developed a deep kinship with the people of Hungary. She was instrumental in bringing about the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867.
Tragically, she was stabbed to death in 1898 by an anarchist who simply put – “just wanted to kill a member of royalty”. After her death her popularity with the Hungarian people only increased. There are statues of her and numerous sites named after her, including the Elisabeth Bridge, just a 5 minute walk from our apartment here.
On the left is a statue of Queen Elizabeth, with the Elizabeth Bridge in the background. On the right is the Elizabeth Bridge at night, with the Libberty Statue on the hill.
I hope you can see a little bit of why we love Budapest so much. It’s old, it’s new, beautiful and maddening, with its own complicated history. It’s a fascinating place to immerse yourself for a while. Even though we’ve spent a longer time here than most travelers get to do, it still hasn’t been long enough.