Tag Archives: Danube

A to Z of Statues – I is for Imre Nagy

At one other end of Louis Kossuth Square in Budapest is a statue of Imre Nagy, another Hungarian martyr and hero, who was Prime Minister during the post war occupation  years and led the ill-fated 1956 anti-soviet government after the revolution of the same year attempted to break free from Soviet control.

Nagy’s government formally declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and pledged to re-establish free elections.  By the end of October this had seemed to be successful but on 4th November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and during a few days of resistance an estimated two thousand five hundred Hungarians died, and a further two hundred thousand more fled as refugees. Mass arrests and imprisonments continued and a new Soviet installed government was installed and this action strengthened Soviet control over Central Europe.

Charged with organising the overthrow of the Hungarian People’s Republic, Nagy was executed by hanging for treason in 1958 .

Read the full story Here…

 

On This Day – Budapest, Hungary

The lock down goes on so I continue to look at my photograph albums and back posts. On 20th January 2008 I was in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary…

We left the hotel early this morning to take full advantage of the unexpectedly good weather.

On the other side of the Liberty Bridge was the Market Square and the covered central market building. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was several degrees above average for this time of the year. Today we were going to concentrate on Pest but with an eye on the blue skies had a mind to return to Buda for photo opportunities that had eluded us yesterday.

This meant that time was an issue so there was no time to dawdle about. From the market we walked through the streets of the city, past the Hungarian National Museum and down a long road that went past some very fine buildings and wide boulevards. In the nineteenth century Budapest earned the tag of Paris of the East and looking around it was easy to see why.

After the creation of Budapest as one great city, there was a rush of construction and Pest was extensively rebuilt in the image of Vienna including a great central park with magnificent fountains and lakes and all of this frantic reconstruction reached a fanatical peak to coincide with Budapest’s millennium anniversary celebrations of the original settlement of the Magyars. We were beginning to realise that two days was hopelessly inadequate to appreciate this really fine City.

Moving swiftly on and next it was St Stephen’s Basilica which at ninety-six metres high is the tallest building in Budapest. Actually the Hungarian Parliament building is also ninety-six metres high which might sound a bit of a coincidence but in fact quite deliberate because the number ninety-six refers to the nation’s millennium, 1896, and the conquest of the later Kingdom of Hungary in 896. It is all very symbolic.

Seven years after Budapest was united from the three cities in 1873 the National Assembly resolved to establish a new representative Parliament Building that appropriately expressed the sovereignty of the nation.

A competition was announced, which was won by the architect Imre Steindl and construction from the winning plan was started in 1885 and the building was inaugurated on the one thousandth anniversary of the country in 1896 (no surprises there) and completed in 1904. It is the third largest Parliament building in the World after those in Roumania and Argentina.

It is set in the spacious Louis Kossuth Square and there is plenty of room to wander around and admire the magnificence of the building. Louis Kossuth led the 1848 revolution that attempted to overthrow the Hapsburgs and there is a large monument to his memory at one end of the square. At the other end is a statue of Imre Nagy, another Hungarian martyr and hero, who was Prime Minister during the post war occupation years and led the ill-fated 1956 anti-soviet government after the revolution of the same year attempted to break free from Soviet control and was executed for treason in 1958.

I have to confess that Budapest was an absolute revelation, I had not been expecting anything so grand, it was easily as good as Vienna and in my opinion much better than Prague, the scale of the city eclipses Bratislava and Ljubljana and I liked it as well as any other city I have visited.

We would have liked to have stayed longer on this side of the but because in contrast to the previous day the sun was shining we wanted to return to Buda to see this at its best as well. We crossed the Chain Bridge for a final time and in Adam Clark Terrace took a ride on a funicular back to the Royal Place.

At the top we were approached by a charming man who tried to persuade us to join a two hour sightseeing tour with his specially prepared English narrative and commentary. He was very polite and quite amusing and if we had had the time we would have willingly have joined him.
First it was back to the Matthias Church and this time spend more time at the Fisherman’s Bastion which is a viewing terrace with seven towers that represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 896 and has magnificent views over the Danube.

From the Castle Hill our route took us once more past the statue of St Gellért who was allegedly murdered on this spot in the eleventh century because of his Christian beliefs. The story goes that they put him into a barrel and rolled him down the hill and into the Danube. It could be true, but on the other hand…

We ended our tour at the Liberty Monument before working our way back down Gellért Hill to the Hotel to collect our luggage and prepare for the journey home.

Travel Issues – Forgotten Documents

Bratislava station

Some time ago we visited Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia and on one day we planned a visit to nearby Vienna.  After an excellent breakfast of ham and eggs we left the hotel and took the short walk to the railway station for an early train to Austria.  It was a lovely crisp autumn morning with another promising blue sky.  The city roads were busy but not uncomfortably so and we enjoyed the brisk walk to the trains.

Purchasing the tickets was straight forward enough and at only €6 was a real bargain, there was some confusing and contradictory information about the platforms but we found the right train without any difficulty and settled down for the one hour journey to travel the sixty kilometres to the Austrian capital.

I stress Austrian because today we were visiting another country and this involved crossing a state boundary with border controls.

What a good idea it would have been therefore to take a passport!

Shortly out of Bratislava two men in black military uniforms wandered through the train requesting documents.  I naturally assumed that they were checking tickets so was surprised when they showed no interest in these whatsoever and demanded travel documents instead.

Border Control Police

OMG!  This simply hadn’t occurred to me, and just when I was thinking ‘we’re all in trouble now’ Micky, Sue and Christine produced their passports and waved them in the air like flags with a self-satisfied smugness, while Kim and I sat there in a state of extreme shock!  And I wouldn’t mind but I should have known better because I’ve had a passport cock-up before when I attempted to travel from Paris to Calais on the Eurostar and wasn’t allowed to do so because I wasn’t carrying my documents.

They towered over us, dressed in commando style uniforms with lots of belts and zips and velcro pockets and loops holding torches and batons and radios and they looked very much as though they could handle themselves in almost any situation from disarming a nuclear submarine to dealing with people without documentation.

As we looked nevously at the loop with the handcuffs we had to confess that we hadn’t got the necessary paperwork and the policemen asked if we had any alternative forms of identification and Kim optimistically offered twenty year old photographs of her children, perhaps hoping that a family resemblance might be acceptable to them.

This didn’t work of course and the options began to look bleak, at worst a concrete prison cell and some explaining to do  to staff from the British Embassy and a solicitor, at best being dropped off at the next station in the middle of nowhere before the train crossed the border into Austria and having to find our own way back.

According to the official Web Site, the Slovak Police Force is an armed security force that performs duties in the field of maintaining public order and security, combating crime (including its organised and international forms) and other tasks resulting from Slovakia’s international obligations in the field of policing. These are tough professionals and they deal with organised and serious crime and are the main points of contact with Europol, the Organised Crime Bureau, the Judicial and Criminal Police Bureau and the Border and Aliens Police Bureau.

I was fairly certain  at this point that we were going to become a Eurostat crime statistic but luckily the men with guns eventually seemed to find our embarrassing situation just as amusing as our travelling companions and on the basis that Micky was able to vouch for us and to confirm that we were neither refugees nor international terrorists they agreed that we could proceed with our journey.  They seemed surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing even though this was two months before the Schengen* ‘no borders’ agreement was due to be implemented in Slovakia.  I doubt it would be so easy right now!

They added a chilling warning however as they moved on; ‘Of course we cannot guarantee that the Austrian police will be so understanding on the way back’, which left us weighing up our overnight and return journey options.  No problem, we could get a hotel for the night while Micky returned tomorrow with our documents.  Then we rather pessimistically remembered that you usually need a passport to book a hotel room!  A night on a chilly park bench seemed to be a distinct possibility.

Upon arrival in Vienna we feared that there might be a frontier post to negotiate without our passports but there was no sign of officialdom and we alighted the train and left the station without incident.

For the rest of the day it was difficult not to worry about getting back to Bratislava and on the way back to the station for the return journey a nervous Kim kept a watchful eye out for the border police but I was less concerned now because I couldn’t imagine that they have too much trouble trying to prevent people slipping over the border into Slovakia from Austria.

Pendolino MEFT

Anyway there were no police and once we were over the frontier we felt safe to sit back and relax and enjoy the rest of the return journey.  Now that we were securely on our way it seemed almost James Bond like to be dashing across Eastern European borders and sneaking like fugitives through custom checkpoints without identification, but next time I shall try and avoid this sort of tension and definitely remember to take my passport with me.

Have you ever forgotten any important documents when travelling?

passport

*The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed on 14th June 1985  between five of the ten member states of the European Economic Community. It was supplemented by the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement five years later and together these treaties created Europe’s borderless Schengen Area which operates as a single state for international travel with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.

The Schengen Agreement was implemented on March 26th 1995 and by 1997 all European Union member states except the United Kingdom and Ireland.

 

Cities of Eastern Europe – Bratislava

Bratislava buildings

This was our first view of the famous River Danube, which at two thousand eight hundred and fifty kilometres is the second longest river in Europe after the Volga.

It is the twenty-ninth longest river in the world and flows through nine countries.  It starts in Germany and runs like a European timeline through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine before it finishes its journey by discharging its waters into the Black Sea at the Danube Delta and on route it passes through the four capital cities of Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. It was flowing quite briskly through Bratislava today and its appearance was brown and muddy and disappointed those in the party who were expecting to see the sort of Blue Danube that inspired the composer Johan Sebastian Strauss to write his famous waltz.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Bratislava Street Art

Bratislava Street Sculpture

“If there is something famous about Bratislava it is its statues. If you have visited the city, or even more if you live here, you definitely must have a picture with these icons. These strange sculptures were created to give some flair to the town and an added touristic attractive to visitors.”

http://www.inevents.org/bratislava/statues-in-the-old-town-our-silent-neighbours#.UyVh8fl_vQw

Bratislava, The Castle and The Genie

Bratislava Castle

The castle is one of the most prominent structures in the city and stands on a plateau eighty-five metres above the river.  There has been a castle on this site for hundreds of years, the Romans had a fort here and after them there was a large Slavic fortified settlement. A stone castle was constructed in the tenth century, when the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and subsequently it was converted into a Gothic fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg (Luxemburg?) in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562, and was rebuilt in 1649 in the baroque style.  Under Queen Maria Theresa, the castle became a prestigious royal seat.

Read the full story…

Vienna and a Celebration

Vienna detail

The city was in very good condition compared with others we have visited and this is due to the fact that it wasn’t destroyed during the Second-World-War and fell quite quickly in the Russian Vienna offensive of 1945 and secondly because after the war the Russians were prevented from adding Austria to the Soviet Bloc and therefore it never suffered the indignity of years of communist neglect.

Read the full story…

Vienna, A Greek Restaurant and Complimentary Red Wine

Girls in Vienna

As with most big cities the approach to Vienna by train was not the most attractive entrance and we passed low-grade housing and light industrial units before we arrived at the Südbahnhof station.  We feared that there might be a frontier post to negotiate but there was no sign of officialdom and we alighted the train and left the station without incident, stopping just briefly on the way out to purchase a map of the city.  Once we had found our bearings we set off on a direct route for the city centre along a street with impressive buildings mostly occupied by foreign embassies and business headquarters.

Read the full story…

Bratislava to Vienna Without A Passport

passport

Purchasing the tickets was straight forward and at only €6 was a real bargain, there was some confusing and contradictory information about the platforms but we found the right train without any difficulty and settled down for the one hour journey to travel the sixty kilometres to the Austrian capital.  I stress Austrian because today we were visiting another country and this involved crossing a state boundary with border controls.

What a good idea it would have been therefore to take a passport!

Read the full story…

Bratislava

Bratislava buildings

The Danube is a navigable European artery and there were a lot of cruise boats on the water that make the daily journey either west to Vienna or east to Budapest but they didn’t look especially exciting so we were glad that we were planning to use the railway tomorrow instead.  It was mid morning by now and time for refreshment so we walked back from the river and after the girls had walked past and rejected café after café, all of which that looked perfectly acceptable, we finally found something that got the collective seal of approval and we enjoyed drinks at a pavement café in the sun in the old Town Hall Square.

Read the full story…