Budapest: Where Luxurious Shopping and Ancient Monuments Make Common Front
But the Jews have proven to be irrepressible. Despite the oppression they faced, the Jewish Quarters in Hungary is home to Great Synagogue in Dohany Street, the largest synagogue in Europe. It is still in use today and also houses the Hungarian Jewish Museum and a beautiful silver weeping willow installation where each leaf bears the name of a Jew who died during the Holocaust, as well as non-Jews who helped to save them.
Move on from the Jewish Quarters to the main city centre of Vörösmarty Square, which is located just in front of St Stephen’s Basilica. It is named after the first king of Hungary, King Stephen I, who established Hungary as a nation and introduced Roman Catholicism to the country. The role of religion plays an important role to Hungary. If standing on the Buda side of the Danube and looking over to Pest, you’ll find that St Stephens Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Building are the tallest buildings in the city. Both stand at a height of 96 metres and signify the nation’s stance that worldly and spiritual thinking should have the same importance.
King Stephen I was and is still revered by the people of Hungary for his contributions to the country and the establishment of Hungary as a Christian state. It comes as no surprise then that he is one of many other monarchs to be commemorated at Heroes Square situated at the end of Andrássy Street. Central to Heroes Square is the Millennium Monument, where there is a large stone cenotaph dedicated “to the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence”. King Stephen I’s effigy stands as the first statue on the left colonnade. The four statues above the heroes represent the virtues Hungary was founded on, and the stages of life of all mankind: Labour & Wealth, War & Peace (separated into two statues), and Knowledge & Glory. In the middle stands Archangel Gabriel who holds the Hungarian Holy Crown and apostolic double cross in his hands, again, as a reminder of the importance of the role of the church in Hungary’s history.
Cross over from Pest to Buda via the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the first permanent bridge that linked the two cities together. While crossing the bridge, look out for the Buda Castle, which wouldn’t be hard to miss. The regal castle is a ginormous building complex that was the palace of Hungarian kings in Budapest and is now home to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and the National Library. Make it a point to visit the basement of the castle, where the original walls of the castle have been preserved behind glass for viewing. Walk around the castle to enjoy a stroll in the surrounding gardens and for an uninterrupted view of Pest.