Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Budapest, Day 1

June 27, 2012      Budapest, Hungary

The Dollingers made it first to Budapest last night...  Alas, the Weiss' were delayed by their own Frankfurt Airport (rental car) challenges and didn't leave until 5 pm.  That put their arrival in Budapest (or Pest, as I have now learned) at about 3:30 am.

Trivia Question from yesterday:  And the answer is.......1.

We are doing (relatively) well from jet lag, even as we move through today in various states of fatigue.  Rebecca, who slept most of the flight over, awoke at 4 am.  Shayna, who stayed awake overseas, was able to sleep until after 10 am (with an hour awake somewhere near 430 am.)

We LOVE Budapest, the architecture of its buildings, the layout of its streets, all the pedestrians.  It's clean and friendly with young people everywhere.  It reminds Marci and me of a much less crowded Florence.  (Dove il Duomo?)

The city looks like it did in the mid-19th century.  Only the cars and clothing have changed.  (Linda, I looked everywhere for a Vanagon but couldn't find one :)

Thanks to Marci's brother, Jay (figuring Nonny loves that introductory clause), we toured Budapest (or actually Pest, as I have now learned) with our guide, Esther.  (Eszther in Hungarian.  Esther in Hebrew).  She took us to some of the usual spots but then we spent most of the afternoon touring Jewish Budapest (Pest).  We saw three synagogues, including one magnificent shul that ranks as Europe's largest.

We learned that Buda, on one side of the Danube, and Pest (pronounced Pesht for those of us now in the know), on the other, merged to form Budapest.

We learned that Theodore Herzl was born in the building next door to one of the synagogues and that Hannah Senesh was also a native of Hungary.

In what will be the first of many tragic sights, we walked through the Jewish ghetto of Budapest and into a courtyard where 7,000 Jews were killed at the end of World War II.

Esther recounted a great deal about the history of Jewish life in Budapest, and in Hungary, from its earliest origins to the era of the Hapsburgs, to the Shoah, the Communists, and, since 1989, in its post-Communist era.

My favorite part was the way she explained that Hungarian Jews struggle over the question of whether they are Hungarian Jews or Jewish Hungarians.

Today, I am thinking a lot of George Szyllagi, of blessed memory, a dear friend of my parents who survived the war in Hungary.

Hoping to get everyone sleeping early...and through the night..

We'll get photos up as soon as Shayna downloads them.


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