Traveling solo is an ultimate life experience! And I was blessed enough to have visited a number of countries on my own. It teaches one to be independent, resourceful, open-minded and appreciative of the world we live in. Last summer, I went solo traveling in Hungary and Greece for 10 days, and those days absolutely go to my list of unforgettable adventures. From Copenhagen, I flew with Norwegian Airlines to Budapest on a flight which lasted a little less than 3 hours. Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It is a lively and vibrant river city separated from the east and west by the Danube River, Europe’s second longest river.
Budapest has several nicknames — Pearl of the Danube, Heart of Europe, Queen of the Danube, Paris of Eastern Europe, City of Thermal Baths.. and I’m pretty sure that the city has worked hard to gain the said titles. There are several famous attractions in the city that I wanted to see, but on the first day, I decided to join a “free walking tour” to the Jewish District. These free tours are popular in European cities, but that doesn’t really mean that it’s totally for free. At the end of the tour, participants are asked to give a monetary contribution (of any amount) to the volunteer guides. Our guide was really informative, and she seemed to be enjoying her job, so I’m sure she collected a good tip from all of us! 😀
The city was greatly affected by the Holocaust, as it has served as home to the largest Jewish population in East-Central Europe ever since the early 1900s. Efforts have been made to preserve the Jewish quarter, and the walking tour provided a great insight of what is was like for the Jewish community to thrive in the city even before the start of WWII. It was very interesting for me, learning how they spend their day-to-day lives, the culture and religious traditions (particularly the Sabbath), the narrow passageways which aim to lessen the amount of time needed to travel to the synagogues during the Sabbath, the synagogues, cemeteries, etc.
The meet-up point was the Lion Fountain at Vörösmarty tér (Vorosmarty square). The square is a common meeting place in the city, but bad in directions as I am, I had difficulty locating the said fountain at first. My feet led me to the bank of the Danube River, which was good because I accidentally found the Little Princess statue, a popular theme on Hungarian postcards!
The major sites I managed to see via the walking tour were the Grand Synagogue on Dohány street (the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world), the Orthodox Synagogue on Kazinczy street, the synagogue on Rombach street, the Gozsdu Courtyard (home to the city’s best ruin pubs, restaurants, cafes, bars and art exhibits), the Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park, and the last piece of the ghetto wall where the Jews were forced to live durng WWII. Here are some photos from the trip:
I learned from the tour how important the Sabbath really is for the Jews. They are not allowed to do anything, BUT they can wish.. So, they hire servants who do the things they cannot do themselves on the Sabbath, including making food, turning the appliances on, etc. They also made little passageways to reduce the time it takes to go to the synagogue during the Sabbath.
It was a info-overloaded walking tour, but I enjoyed it in general. Another thing I learned on my first day in Budapest was that the inventor of the Rubik’s cube, architect Ernő Rubik, was Hungarian! haha Seriously, I didn’t know that. ;P Scattered all over the city were amazing graffiti:
I knew that Budapest has something other European countries do not possess, and I did everything I could to get to know the city during my stay. I even coincidentally bumped into a schoolmate, and we traveled to another town in Hungary to visit Count Dracula’s prison tower! More about Hungary in the next entries. 😉 Sign up/find out more about the free walking tours in Budapest here: http://www.triptobudapest.hu/ Cheers! ❤