This was our last day, and we wanted it to be the perfect day. We were a bit tired of taking chances. We didn’t want to spend our last day walking to a museum, only to find that it was busy or closed, and we didn’t want to have a single bad meal.
So, we got out the door, eagerly anticipating our perfect day. We wanted to go to the waffle restaurant that had failed us on the first day, and we had taken this morning a bit slower than usual so that it would be open when we got there. We got there at 10:40, ten minutes after it opened, and……IT WAS CLOSED! For absolutely no earthly reason. We waited a bit, thinking maybe they were running behind, but eventually we just gave up and went off to the Christmas market. The last we had seen of it had been the day before, and it was open and serving delicious fried bread (langos) sausages, and waffles. So we walked all the way there….AND IT WAS CLOSED. The entire market, being packed up right in front of our very eyes.
We were getting desperately hungry by this time, and we managed to stumble our way into a donut and bagel restaurant. It was not what we wanted, but it was great all the same.
Then we saw four things in quick succession.
- The Soviet War Memorial: After the battle for Budapest (a 50 day battle in Budapest that killed 80,000 Soviets, 79,000 Nazis, and 76,000 civilians) the Soviets built a memorial honoring their dead.
- The American embassy: built RIGHT NEXT to the Soviet War Memorial, for your convenience.
- A memorial built by the Hungarian government honoring those murdered in the Holocaust. And a separate “public” memorial denouncing the first memorial. According to the second memorial, the first was built to appease the right-wing party, and makes it look like Hungary was innocently going about its business until the Nazis showed up and forced them to cooperate with their anti-jewish beliefs. The second memorial says that Hungary should take full responsibility for its actions in WWII (they were pretty eager to murder their own Hungarian Jews), and not to blame Germany for Hungary’s own mistakes. The first monument is a tacky, metallic, “butch”, piece of art. The second is made up with photographs of those murdered, everyday belongings (briefcases, shoes, clothing, etc) to highlight the human cost, and stones left by those who remember.
- The Parliament Building. It is the largest building in Hungary, and the tallest building in Budapest. It is also considered to be one of the most beautiful government buildings in Europe, if not the world.
- The Shoes on the Danube (sad warning): While the Battle for Budapest (that I mentioned earlier) was raging, the Hungarian Far Right party rounded up 3,500 Jews who had been living in the Budapest Ghetto, took them to the Danube, tied them up three at a time, and then shot one of the three. That one would fall into the river, dragging the others down. Before shooting them, they made them take off their shoes, which they did because the shoes were valuable and could be sold for money. To memorialize this horrible event, a sculptor crafted 60 shoes in bronze, all in the styles of 1945, and cemented them into the concrete along the banks where the murders happened.
- Margaret Island: This large island in the middle of the Danube got its name after the Mongolian invasion. As the Hungarian king fled Budapest, he promised God that if his family managed to survive the Mongolians, and retake their land, that he would give his daughter to the church. Long story short, they did, and he built a large monastery on the island, gave his daughter Margaret over to a life of nunnery, and the island came to be known as Margaret island. Today there are many cool things to see there, few of which can be seen in January. The musical fountain, the gardens etc are all hibernating for the winter. But we did see an animal sanctuary filled with Hungarian animals. And the walk itself was relaxing.
After all this sightseeing we wanted some lunch, so we went to our favorite restaurant, Firkász Kávéház Étterem, and we both ordered the crispy goose leg.
After visiting a Korean grocery store in the neighborhood we went to the day’s main event, the pinball museum. This time we spent about 5 hours there. Kaeti made it her goal to play on every machine, which she accomplished. And after playing every machine we can definitively say that our favorite pinball machines are: Elvira: Scared Stiff, Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, and Apollo 13. (Although “Sexy Girl” the German pinball machine that had nude lady pictures show up when you reached certain point thresholds had its merits).
We walked home in the dark just when it started to snow. It was of course super beautiful, but we had trains and a flight to catch in the morning, so it wasn’t looking great for us.
The next morning we woke up, walked to the train station in a steady downfall of snow, stopped every block or so to snap pictures, and prayed to the snow and travel gods that our train would not be canceled. We did NOT feel like getting stranded in Budapest.
The train was right there waiting for us, we claimed our seats, and settled in for a two and a half hour journey through a snowy wonderland.
The rest was us getting from the train station in Vienna to the airport, then the flight to Palma, the train to Manacor, and the walk from the station to our house. We had one snow delay in Vienna, but we managed to get around it by taking a wacky ride on the Vienna U-Bahn. But all in all it was easy peasy.
Two weeks back and we are already looking at our next adventure destination!