Europe Trip 2024: Day 5 in Budapest

May 14, 2024

I took a 10-day trip to Europe with my son between April 26 and May 5. We spent time in both Barcelona and Budapest. This post covers Tuesday, April 30.


We decided to return to the Csengery Reggelizö és Kávézó that we had visited on our first day. The cafe was much busier on a Tuesday morning than it was on Sunday morning. I enjoyed people-watching. I watched a family with two young kids. The father was in and out with the kids as they had trouble sitting still. He seemed like a patient father and I saw a smile on his face throughout the morning. We both enjoyed bacon and eggs again.

Overall, I enjoyed our first visit more but it might have had more to do with the fact that it was our first visit. I think our experience with the waiter the first morning added to the experience. With the cafe busier, we did not interact with the staff as much. I would highly recommend this place to anyone who visits Budapest.

Off to Parliament

After breakfast, we got on the subway and changed lines to go to Kossuth tér. We wanted to see if we could get tickets to tour the Parliament building. We waited in line for about 30 minutes when a guard approached us and told us that there were only 10 tickets left and we were too far back to hope to get any. He told us they opened at 8 a.m. the next morning so we decided to try again on Wednesday.

We explored two underground museums/memorials they had built in the old ventilation tunnels of the parliament building. The first museum contained older statues that had been part of the facade of the parliament building. But the stone would deteriorate quickly and they would have to replace it. I remember there used to be scaffolding on one part of the building at all times. They would make their way around and start over once they made the circuit. My friend Laci told me they are using a different stone that does not deteriorate. I did not realize the stone deteriorated. I thought it just got dirty due to the pollution and they were just cleaning it each time.

1956 Memorial

We also visited the 1956 memorial. I had studied the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and written a paper about it in college so I was interested to see this exhibit. This memorial focuses on the events of “Blood Thursday” on October 25. Troops fired on a peaceful crowd in Kossuth tér killing hundreds of people.

CC by 2.0 Deed, Fred Romero on Flickr

The memorial combines video, memorabilia, and photos of the period. There is a red line on the floor that leads to a hologram of a tank opening fire. I did not notice that aspect of the exhibit. It was interesting to watch the video testimonials of eyewitnesses who described the terrifying night.

One man was with his father and they sought shelter behind columns in a building across from the Parliament. His father knew that the soldiers would have to reload so they made their way from column to column until they could escape. You emerge from the experience with a different perspective of the square as you consider that a majority of the people killed were situated near one of the statues.

I forgot that they did not want me to take pictures and I started to take pictures of a marker for the victims and a Hungarian flag with the Communist seal cut out of the center. A man approached me to remind me and I felt bad that I had forgotten and had taken a picture.

Find out more about the memorial on the museum’s website

Several years ago, I watched a Hungarian film made in 2006 called Szabadság, Szerelem (Children of Glory) about the Hungarian Revolution. One of the main characters is a player on the Hungarian water polo team. The polo team played the Soviets in the Melbourne Olympics several weeks after the Russians put down the revolution. The Hungarians won a bloody match. The fictional film does a great job of putting the audience amid the action and gave me a different perspective of those events by getting engrossed in the story.

You can rent Children of Glory with English subtitles on Vimeo On Demand

House of Terror

A good follow-up was visiting the House of Terror just after we grabbed lunch of groceries we bought the night before. The House of Terror was just a block from our hotel. The building housed the Arrow Cross (the Hungarian fascist militia) and later the Hungarian secret police. The exhibits are a blend of pictures, videos, and memorabilia which includes some paintings and statues from the Communist era.

We started on the wrong floor as I forgot that the “second” floor in Europe is the third floor because the ground floor is numbered 0. We had to go back through the first-floor exhibits to get to the second floor. We are glad that we were able to start over because the second floor started the story of the Communist era. The museum helped put into context what we had seen at Kossuth tér. It was an interesting yet sobering experience.

In the basement, you could visit the different cells that they would keep prisoners in. Some of the cells were only wide enough to stand straight up. Another cell had a low ceiling and another they could fill with water to torture the prisoners. On the elevator from the first floor to the basement, they played a video that explained the different cells and how they executed prisoners. There was a re-creation of a room where they would execute prisoners by hanging. Those executions happened elsewhere.

The combination of media and memorabilia did a great job of telling the story of this building and the terror that the Hungarian citizens faced both during World War II and under Communism before the 1956 Revolution. I thought about the end of the Children of Glory movie when many of those who fought in the revolution were kept in cells like this and many were later executed. It was another sobering experience visiting the place and those events became more real.

Sculpture of the “Iron Curtain” that separated Europe just outside the House of Terror (the white building to the right).

Heroes Square and City Park

I am not sure why I did not go landscape with my phone to capture the entire monument at Heroes Square.

After the museum, we rode the “yellow line” (Metro 1) to Heroes Square. This subway line is the oldest in continental Europe. City Park and Heroes Square were built for the 1896 Millennium celebration. We enjoyed walking around the park.

I shared some more stories with my son as we walked around and saw some of the different attractions in the park. There are reproductions of different buildings from historical Hungary including a castle from Transylvania. We also walked by the Széchenyi Baths and swimming pool and the Budapest Zoo which has some fun animal statues on the facade.

Dinner with my friend Laci

We made it back to our hotel in time to meet up with my friend Laci. We sat at the cafe in the park next to our hotel and enjoyed talking before walking to the Mazel Tov restaurant for dinner. Laci has been to Israel several times and he enjoys this restaurant. The restaurant is built between some older brick buildings and has a wonderful ambiance with hanging vines and strings of light.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal and time of fellowship. I was the only one to get dessert. It was a strawberry cheesecake with Baklava phyllo dough as a shell. It was delicious. Dinner with Laci at this beautiful was a great way to celebrate our last evening in Budapest.

After dinner, we walked to Laci’s car and he took us around the city to enjoy the lights along the river. We stopped across from Parliament and took some pictures. I was glad to enjoy the lights along the river our last evening. I have always enjoyed seeing the landmarks along the Danube lit up at night.

The Chain Bridge had red lighting at the top, white in the middle, and green at the bottom, the colors of the Hungarian flag. We had not seen it lit up like that on our first night. I am not sure I like it. I like the usual way of just lighting it with white light.

After we came back to the hotel, Laci and I found a place in the lobby to talk for a while just the two of us. Both of us have aging parents that we are having to care for. We talked about that. We talked about the job search that I would reengage at home. And he talked about thinking about the next chapter of his life and wondering how he can invest wisely in that. We ended the time by praying for each other. And then it was time to say goodbye.

I am grateful for the time I spent with my friend while in Budapest. It felt just right. I returned to my room and joined my son in packing to prepare to return to Barcelona the next day. We had a 3:45 pm flight and decided to see if we could get tickets to tour Parliament the next morning. So we packed and got to bed early in preparation for getting up early the next morning.

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