Budapest: Basilica to Parliament

St Stephen’s Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica was a great place to get an overview of the city on our first day in Budapest. Stephen (Istvan in Hungarian) is revered as the founder and patron saint of Hungary. He was crowned king in 1000, but the Basilica is centuries later than that: built between 1851 and 1905.

The interior is beautiful and, in places, quirky – note the reliquary in the gallery below which contains Stephen’s mummified right hand. On the anniversary of his death each year, August 20, this is paraded through the streets.

The highlight, however, was climbing the 302 steps of the tower. Well, not the actual climbing itself, but the views. We could see many of the places we would visit later that day, or over the forthcoming week.

If you spotted a building in the gallery above with a multicoloured roof, that was our next destination. A fine example of Hungarian Art Nouveau, it was formerly the Post Office Savings Bank and is now the State Treasury. The bees on the facade symbolise thrift.

We found Budapest to be a “monumental” city with statues and sculptures everywhere. Here are some favourites from the area between the Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament. Many of the names brought back my school history lessons, for example Kossuth who led the 1848 revolution. Ronald Reagan seems a little out of place! He never visited Budapest but was honoured in 2011, the centenary of his birth, for his role in ending the Cold War.

A couple of monuments merit more detailed attention. The German occupation monument, marking the Nazi takeover in 1944, is controversial. The government insists that it stands for all victims of the occupation while Jewish groups see it as part of an official attempt to absolve Hungary of responsibility in the Holocaust. At its foot, families of those who died have set up a Living Memorial of photographs, documents and belongings which, unfortunately, is frequently vandalised.

The Holocaust Memorial lies on the banks of the Danube and consists of dozens of shoes cast in iron. Hundreds of Jewish adults and children were shot here and their bodies thrown into the river. Before they died they were made to remove their coats and footwear to be used by German civilians. Horrific.

Just upriver lies the Hungarian Parliament Building which makes the Palace of Westminster look rather restrained: Gothic Revival with Renaissance and Baroque flourishes. I’m not sure I like it exactly, but it’s certainly impressive.

By this time it was 3pm and our feet were starting to get sore from tramping the pavements. Before leaving the Basilica in the morning, we had bought tickets for an organ concert starting at 5pm. Just time to go back to our hotel for a cuppa before venturing out again.

Today’s explorations were all on the Pest side of the river. It reminded me a lot of Paris – broad boulevards lined with neo-classical architecture and, when you ventured down the side streets, a slight air of dilapidation. The next day we would cross the river into Buda for the first time (the cities merged in 1873). It was quite different.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2017

In March, we gallivanted as far away as Budapest! More, much more, to come on that in due course.

So what else has been going on?

Aye Write!

Aye Write! is Glasgow’s book festival. For a couple of years I volunteered at it, but last year and this year we missed most of it by being on holiday. However, we attended a couple of sessions on the last weekend of this year’s festival.

Elaine C Smith is a Scottish actress, comedian and activist. Outside Scotland – and I’m not even sure how far this travels – she’s probably best known as Mary Doll from Rab C Nesbitt. In discussion with novelist Alan Bissett, Elaine considered The books that made me – six titles that had a defining effect on her life. She’s maybe a year younger than I am so it was intriguing to match experiences: for example, we were both entranced by The lion, the witch and the wardrobe when a teacher read it aloud to our class of seven-year olds (and we both checked our Mum’s wardrobe in case Narnia was lurking there). I’m not sure if there was meant to be time for questions – there usually is – but the conversation flowed on and on. It was great!

The other session was more formal, an excellent talk by Anne Galastro based on the current exhibition in Edinburgh Joan Eardley: a sense of place, which we saw at the end of last year, and her book of the same title. I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Eardley (1921-1963) because she died tragically young just as she was becoming well-known outside Scotland. She had two main subjects – the area around her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, where she befriended and painted the local children, and the fishing village of Catterline in North East Scotland where she had a (very primitive) cottage. If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh I recommend going to the exhibition before it closes on May 21st. Follow the link above for details and some highlights.

Women’s History Month

Maryhill WHM Editathon

March was Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we had a Wikipedia Editathon at Maryhill where we looked for articles to update with information about women’s history and wrote some new ones.

International Women’s Day (8th March) fell while we were in Budapest, as did the European Day of the Righteous on the 6th which honours those who have resisted crimes against humanity and totalitarianism. Jane Haining brings both these commemorations and Budapest together: She was a Church of Scotland missionary working in the city when she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz later that year, and is the only Scot to be officially honoured for giving her life to help Jews in the Holocaust. We found her name on a memorial in the synagogue that we visited, and on a road called after her.

Wedding anniversary

On 21st March John and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We do have some more formal photographs in the loft somewhere, but finding them would involve climbing a ladder. This one comes from some old slides of Mum’s that I’ve been scanning, and shows the less than picturesque car park at the back of the church. As you can see, we didn’t go for the big white wedding – we were keen on being married, but not so keen on parties, so we kept it very small. We look so young!

Glen Finglas and Loch Ardinning

I thought I was going to have to report zero country walks, but the last weekend in March was absolutely glorious. Luckily, for the first time in weeks, we had nothing else planned so out we went.

Glen Finglas

Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose post Glen Finglas Reservoir inspired us to take this walk on the Saturday. Our circular route climbed above the reservoir then dropped to the dam, and the site of Ruskin’s painting by Millais, before taking in the Byre Inn (excellent late lunch / early dinner) on our way back to the car.

Loch Ardinning

On Sunday, we went back to a walk that I’ve written about before – Loch Ardinning – so I’m just including a couple of shots here.

The last bit

Instead of offering you a Scottish word to enrich your vocabulary this month, I’m offering you a phrase. You might have wondered about the title of Glasgow’s book festival, as mentioned above, Aye Write! I’m not sure exactly what the organisers intend, but I see several levels of pun. Yes, write! and I write! are probably obvious, but non-Scots might not know that Aye, right! is a Glaswegian expression of some scepticism, a double positive resulting in a negative meaning, i.e. I don’t believe it! or Not likely! (Anabel: I don’t eat out much, I prefer to watch my waistline. You: Aye, right! Your observation would be quite correct.)

So that was my March. How was yours?