Two things I’d never done before Friday: eat a medlar, and visit a synagogue.
I spent Friday wandering all over Pest, with a bit of Buda thrown in as well, through all the parts I’d missed. Well, not all of them: it’s a huge city, and I couldn’t hope to see everything in three days. But I did want to see a few of the more obviously appealing things.
I started off at Kossuth tér Metro station shortly after ten o’clock, and my first stop was the Ethnographic Museum (along with a crowd of excitable schoolchildren). After having got my free ticket, I was initially perplexed: I couldn’t find the actual exhibit, and spent a few minutes wandering the corridors looking for it. What I found was a smallish but edifying collection of artefacts pertaining to Hungarian peasant life of centuries past.
It was a short walk from there to the Opera House. Unfortunately, my plan to see something that evening failed: there was nothing on until Saturday, by which time I’d be far away.
I continued onward, stopping briefly for a restorative coffee before visiting the Jewish Museum and Dohány Street Synagogue. I’d never been inside a synagogue before, and I didn’t know what to expect, nor do I know whether it’s representative. Apparently, the synagogue is the largest in Europe. It’s certainly impressive. I was struck by the general similarity to most churces I’ve been in, although there weren’t any graven images or crucifices in the synagogue, while stars of David got more of a showing. Having to cover my head was novel.
I went from there to the National Museum, where I saw a wide range of historical artefacts presented in their chronological context, ranging from the 1100s up to the last century.
After that, I crossed Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge) to the Buda side and the huge rocky hill of Gellert hegy. Dug into the riverward side is a small, cosy, and rather humid troglodytic chapel. There’s not that much interesting about it beyond the novelty value of being in the side of a hill, but that’s enough to make it worth a brief look.
Further up the hill, I availed myself of some mulled wine being sold by a street vendor, and which was very welcome on a cold, damp day. It gave me the impetus to finish the rather arduous climb up to the top and the Citadel, which hosts an exhibition of photos and paraphernalia from the protracted siege of German units by the Soviet Army at the end of WWII. The images of depredation—human and infrastructural—were sobering to see.
A medlar, incidentally, is a small fruit resembling a persimmon. The ones I ate had been simmered in honey liqueur, and accompanied my dinner of duck breast very nicely.
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