BY Lisa Lindblad
April 5, 2010
The Danube runs through this architecturally stunning city, separating the 7 hills that make up Buda from the flat (formerly agricultural) plain of Pest. Guided by Kati, a native of this city and a lover of history, I spent my first rainy afternoon here on a driving and walking tour through Pest, the commercial heart of the city and one that staggers with its grand boulevards, marvelous mansions, pedestrian streets and massive government buildings. Baroque, neo-Gothic, Greek Revival – the array of coexisting architectural styles is invigorating. Roofs cloaked in multi-colored ceramic tiles, facades delicately painted in the sgraffito technique, fountains guarded by finely carved sandstone figures, intricate iron grillwork fashioned into gates, lamp posts and balconies, these are the aesthetic details which keep the eye delighted. I am told that most visitors tend to allot 2 to 3 days to Budapest, spending the greater portion of their vacation days in Vienna or Prague, but there is much to see here beyond the facades. A wide array of museums with offerings ranging from the second most important collection of Spanish art outside of the Prado to the Ethnographic, Stamp, History and Marzipan museums (there is much here to delight children) are just the tip of the art attractions. Certainly hours should be spent on the complex and sobering history of not only the Hungarian Jews and the Gypsy populations but also of the Hungarian populace during their years behind the Iron Curtain. The great Synagogue, one of the largest in Europe, forms part of a larger complex that will have great meaning for students of Jewish history. There is no one better to interpret this long and dramatic history than Kati who has an easy command and a palpable passion for her subject. We will revisit Kati in another posting.