On March 31st, Jesse and I bade farewell to Debrecen . . .
. . . and headed to Budapest for the afternoon.
Our first mission was, of course, to find food. We tried out The Hummus Bar, a popular restaurant that currently has four locations in Budapest. It was vegetarian heaven, but the experience was a little hard on my ears. The diners were over 50% international, and most of them seemed to be American, particularly undergraduate-aged women. I’m not used to hearing so many American accents, and I had a hard time tuning out their conversations.
After stuffing ourselves, we paused to take some pictures of St. Stephen’s Basilica. It is a truly massive church.
From there, we hopped on the metro to head to Hero’s Square. Jesse and I were chatting away when someone called our names. We turned around to see our friends Bobby and Kellie–along with their jet-lagged family–in the same car as us! It was a funny coincidence.
We emerged from the metro to find ourselves in a crowd of several thousand people. This seems to happen a lot in Budapest. There was some sort of religious procession ending at Heroes Square.
Because I can’t go to Budapest without seeing a museum, Jesse and I headed over to the Museum of Fine Arts. The last entry was technically 4:30 PM, but we snuck into line at about 4:38 PM. The ticket lady was kind and let us in anyways.
When I handed my ticket to the guard, I said “jó napot kivánok,” which made him chuckle. He seemed pleased that I knew this standard Hungarian greeting.
Everyone we encountered that day (in fact, for the entire week) was friendly and helpful, which makes traveling so much more enjoyable.
*WARNING: ART TANGENT*
With less than an hour before closing, we had to be strategic about what to look at. The museum has a good collection of pieces by El Greco and Goya, so I sought these out.
It’s hard to believe that El Greco was a Spanish Renaissance painter from the late 16th/early 17th centuries. His style is very expressionist. Many of his pieces seem like they could have been painted centuries later.
Goya was an artist for the Spanish Court in the late 1700s/early 1800s. He witnessed the cruelty of the Inquisition and the invasion of Spain by Napoleon’s troops, but he chose to remain neutral in the political drama that surrounded him. His subject matter is diverse, ranging from royalty to peasants to depictions of war.
After learning so much about the Renaissance while in Florence, I spent a lot of time looking at the Italian pieces. There were no paintings by my new favorite, Lippi, but there was one by his son and one by his assistant.
I couldn’t find an image of the painting by Fra Diamante, but to me his Madonna looked like Lucrezia, Lippi’s model and lover (she was also a nun). I am so captivated by her beauty and by her story.
*END ART TANGENT*
After soaking up as much art as we could in under an hour, we emerged into a beautiful–if windy–spring afternoon. We strolled down Andrássy út, a very grand boulevard. Some of the neo-Renaissance buildings have been preserved and restored while others are crumbling, but the architecture is beautiful regardless.
When gray rain clouds began to cover the sky, we stopped for some cake at a cafe. Then we went back to our hotel to try to get some sleep before our 6:00 AM flight to Sicily.
Getting to experience Budapest on multiple occasions and in different seasons is one of the special aspects of living and teaching in Europe. I feel very lucky, and I hope to explore this fascinating city some more before we head home in June.