|St. Stephen's Basilica|
|The Opera House|
As we walked along the Danube River towards the Chain Bridge we came across a World War II Jewish Memorial. The "Shoes on the Danube" memorial represents the Jews that were killed along the river by fascist militiamen between 1944-1945. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water - the memorial represents the shoes left behind. The memorial is very simple, poignant and effective.
|This was written in Hungarian and Hebrew as well|
|The Chain Bridge|
|Our spectacular view of Budapest from the castle :/|
After walking around the complex of Castle Hill, we attended a wine tasting at Faust Winery. We don't really know anything about Hungarian wines, but when do we ever pass up the opportunity to try some wine? The cellar was located in deep dark caves underneath the castle grounds. We tried a total of nine wines over the course of three hours, and afterwards we were very surprised at the sight that welcomed us when we walked (stumbled?) out of the caves.
|Matthias Church at night|
|A very foggy night|
|Our tasting menu|
|The entrance to the caves|
The next day we went to the Jewish area of the city and bought entrance tickets to the Dohany Synagogue (aka The Great Synagogue) and Memorial Park. The Dohany Street Synagogue is the second largest synagogue in the world (after Temple Emanu El in New York City) and was built in the 1850's. Right away we noticed that this beautiful synagogue was different from the rest. Aside from the lavishness of the outside facade, there was a huge organ in the front and two pulpits on the sides. According to one of the rabbis there, in order for the synagogue to be built it had to integrate into the non-Jewish community, thus making it more church-like. Furthermore, it was designed by a German architect who specialized in churches so he built what he knew! It survived WWII because, as it has some of the tallest towers of the city, the Nazis used the synagogue for their radio transmitters. Very interesting stuff.
The Holocaust Memorial Park is located in the courtyard next to the synagogue and is named after Raoul Wallenberg who saved tens of thousands of Jewish Hungarians during World War II. He was serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest during the war and issued Jews protective passports and sheltered them in buildings designated as Swedish territory. In the courtyard stands The Tree of Life, a steel weeping willow tree with the names of about 5,000 victims buried nearby. The small park was a simple but moving memorial of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Budapest has such a rich history and you can see and feel it everywhere you turn. It is a city that treasures its old qualities, but embraces the new aspects that the world has to offer. Budapest is beautiful and we're so happy that we had this opportunity to visit it. If only the weather had been nicer to see the (supposed) amazing views!