Today is our last day in Budapest, and Hungary for that matter. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we hop on a 10 hour train ride through the Hungarian and then Romanian country side where we will end up in the city of Sibiu, Romania.
Today we wanted to take it easy, see a few things that hadn’t had the chance to yet, including the Dohány Street Synagogue and adjacent Tree of Life Memorial. The Synagogue is the second largest in the world, behind the Temple Emanu-El in New York City.
We decided that we didn’t really want to pay the entry fee, or the fee to take photographs, so we opted to walk the perimeter, as we had read about the Tree of Life around the back and really wanted to see it. The Synagogue housed thousands of persecuted Jews during WWII and was part of the Budapest Ghetto. About two thousand Jews died during the winter of 1944/1945 and were buried in a mass grave in the courtyard, which is now a memorial garden.
We headed around back to find that the Tree of Life (officially known as the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs) was fenced off, so we had to observe from behind a gate. The Tree of Life is a steel structure in the shape of a weeping willow, designed by Imre Varga. The shape also represents an upside down menorah. Each leaf bears the name of a Hungarian Jew killed by the regime, and in the middle is a special memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who took the position of ambassador in Hungary and used his powers to issue Swedish passports to persecuted Jews during the War, effectively saving tens of thousands. Sadly, Wallenberg was accused of being a spy by Soviet Forces, arrested and eventually executed.
We thought that the memorial was beautiful and thoughtful, and a shame that you had to pay to approach it and really admire and give it the respect it deserves.
After the synagogue, we got back on the subway and travelled one stop to Deák Utca because Pa had read about a really cute ice cream place where your cone looks like a rose. On the walk to the shop we noticed a sign that said BUDA FCKN PEST. Intrigued, we went in and found clothing, underpants, shot glasses, lanyards, all sorts of merchandise bearing that slogan. So naturally, I bought a night shift appropriate t shirt.
We found the ice cream place called Gelarto Rosa and HAD to get 2 different flavours to show the contrast of the flower, of course.
We finished our ice creams and ambled through the square at St Istvan Basilica where there was a chocolate festival taking place. There were stall upon stall of vendors selling, chocolate, cakes, jelly beans, donuts, waffles and even some sausage and burger stands. We grabbed a seat at a cafe and had some drinks and people watched the festival revellers and tour groups.
Next we headed to Liberty Park, a large green space with monuments dedicated to the uprising of 1956 as well as several heavily Soviet inspired anti-fascist pieces. There was also a fountain in the shape of a square that had sensors so that if you got close, the water would turn off for a few seconds so you could step into the middle of it.
After a pit stop at our hotel to pack our things for the train ride tomorrow, we picked up provisions at a nearby grocery store (pretty much just beer and candy) and headed to dinner, back to the Budapest Biztro as it was close to our B&B and offered authentic Hungarian cuisine. For our last meal in Budapest we dined on gulyás, dobos torte and palinka in the shadow of the illuminated Parliament building.