Before we left, I found this really cool website that arranges tours – walking, segway, bike, etc. – with a local guide. It’s called Get Your Guide and this is how we found our tours for this trip. Today, we had a half-day bike tour of Budapest with our lovely local guide. Once again, the bikes were heavy and had few gears but this time, the tour was truly flat so not a problem. We found the bike rental place, made our arrangements and got our bikes …
First stop, the Emanuel Tree at The Holocaust Memorial. It’s a metal weeping willow with the names of the Holocaust victims inscribed on each leaf. Very sobering.
Next stop, the cave church which had been inhabited by a hermit now called Saint Ivan. It’s a network of tunnels and open spaces in which a Catholic church is now housed. To get there, we crossed the Liberty Bridge
Over the Danube River
Peddling our way toward the church
We set our bikes into racks and left them with our guide so we could say prayers in the church
Here’s the statue of Saint Ivan
And this is the view from the Cave Church
We continued our way down the Buda bank of the Danube
Passing the Elizabeth Bridge and headed for the Szechenyi Bridge.
Which is guarded by lions on either end
So, we’re crossing from the Buda side to the Pest side of Budapest. Long time ago, the river would freeze and people could not cross safely between the sides, so putting up these bridges was critical. The story is that this bridge was built because a royal dude could not get to his father’s funeral in winter because there was no bridge. He missed his father’s funeral, so he built a bridge to ensure that kind of thing wouldn’t happen again.
We’re heading into the government section of Budapest toward this – the parliament building.
Whoa! Impressive on this side of the river, but way impressive up close. But first! We stop at Margaret Island and I could not wait to see this – for me, this was the highlight of Budapest. If I lived here, I’d be on this island every day.
It’s a small island in the middle of the Danube river right between the two sides of Buda and Pest.
This is where Budapestians go to relax and commune with nature – it’s green and has beautiful trails, a petting zoo, an animated water fountain, beer gardens … lovely, lovely, lovely.
This is the 13-th century church on the island where Margaret, now Saint Margaret, lived. She was the youngest daughter of a king who swore to God that if they survived a war, he would give a child to God. Margaret was that child and she lived here almost her entire life, taking on the worst chores, living the life of a nun, devoting her life to God.
I adore this place.
The water fountains are beautiful
So, now our guide thinks it’s time for a snack. We heartily agree. She takes us to her favorite coffee house – deeply local.
We climb these crazy steep and oddly shaped stairs to use the restroom – I dare you to try this!
And had our treats outside … you can see I ate the chocolate deliciousness before the camera came out.
We had a lovely chat with our guide. Turns out her little girl is school right down the street from this coffee house, so they are in here a lot. Back on the bikes …
And heading toward Budapest Parliament
We see the Parliament guards
Doing guardy things with muskets and music
When they stop, Steve rushes over to get a photo – at this point, he says this young guard is sick of tourists.
I dunno, he kinda looks like he’s smiling?
And, it’s back on the bikes.
Except we get in trouble with the guards who want us to walk the bikes through the square – here’s where having a local guide who knows the language is super helpful!
Yelling in Hungarian is not pretty – note that. These are the guards who REALLY wanted us off the bikes.
Yikes! We complied (they look fierce, don’t they?). Then turned to snap a photo of this soldier at the other side of the Parliament building.
Beautiful. This post has gotten way long so let’s break up the story and get this one published. More to come …