At the encouragement of our cruise director Monika, we were on the top deck of the AMAPrima as we sailed into Budapest around 8:00 AM listening to her commentary. Monika is from Budapest and was able to give us first hand accounts and her impressions of her city. Cameras were ready as we sailed in past Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube. We were told how the Hungarian ruler in the 13th century made a promise that if he was able to rebuild his country following the invasion of the Mongols, he would send his daughter to live at the Dominican nunnery that he founded on the island. He was able to do it and fulfilled his vow. His eleven year old daughter Margaret was sent to the nunnery to live. Her grave is still there so if you go, and I would highly recommend it, walk by Margaret’s grave.
As you have heard me say throughout most of this trip, it was another hot day projected to be in the low 90’s and this was only June 7th. I believe this was the start of the heat wave that seems to have invaded Europe during the summer of 2015 and in August caused some river cruises to be canceled and other had to bus their passengers.
At 9:30 AM we met our group on the dock to board our buses. This time, rather than following a female tour guide as I had recommended in another post, we had male tour guide and he was fantastic! He actually trains tour guides in Budapest so I believe we got the best of the best.
We rode the bus through the city to get a general overview and then ended up at Heroes Square. Heroes Square with its Millennium Monument is one of the most visited sights in Budapest and is the largest square. What I learned was that the monument was built in 1896 to mark the 1000th (that number is correct) anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarians (Magyars) into the Carpathian Basin which became Hungary. The monument consists of two semi-circles. On the top are the symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, Knowledge and Glory. The statue, which is the main focus of Heroes Square, is of the Archangel Gabriel. He stands on top of the center pillar, holding the holy crown and the double cross of Christianity. The seven chieftains who led the Magyar tribes to Hungary can be seen on the stand below. Statues of kings and other important historical figures stand on top of the colonnades on either side of the center pillar where Gabriel is located.
After walking around Heroes Square we boarded the bus again to drive to the Buda Castle District which is on the Buda side of the river. This area is made up of little cafes, crooked and narrow streets, little parks, cute shops and of course the historic section with the Royal Palace, St. Matthias and a few medieval buildings. To me what was most striking was the roof of St. Matthias Church – absolutely beautiful with the different colored tiles.
When we returned to the ship after our tour, we had a Hungarian Folklore Show featuring gypsies who played music as well as male and female dancers doing some traditional dances for us.
After dinner, when it got dark outside, our Captain took us on a Illumination Cruise of Budapest at night. This was my very favorite part of the trip. With the city bathed in a soft yellow glow from the illumination of all the buildings along the river, soft classical music playing and delicious wine to drink, we all sat back in awe of this beautiful city. What a way to end our cruise – it couldn’t get any better than what we experienced this evening. It was a chance to say goodbye to our new friends, get email addresses and Facebook contacts. Enjoy these few photos of our last evening: