Monday, October 3, 2016

It's River Cruise Day! Almost..... Day 7 Wednesday, June 1, 2016

We left home a week ago today, and we've seen and done so much already! But today is the day our Viking River Cruise officially begins!  We began in Munich, jumped right to Salzburg for some super adventurous days, and have had a wonderful time in Budapest! Today we'd be boarding one of Viking's brand new Longships, the Viking Vilhjalm!  As much as I love traveling in different cities and staying in different hotels, I was really looking forward to getting on board the boat and unpacking for eight days! It was going to be a nice change of pace!

This itinerary is Viking's Danube Waltz, from Budapest to Passau. The first night is actually spent on board the ship docked in Budapest, which allows passengers who didn't spend anytime before the cruise in the city, to have a full 24 hours exploring, as well as a chance to see Budapest in all its glory lit up at night. Our group, Alex, myself, Alycen and Katie, were all glad to have this additional time to spend here! There was still much more to see, and now we had a chance to spend the extra day both on our own and then tomorrow on some tours through Viking!

And so our day begins!  Alex and I met Alycen and Katie for breakfast at our hotel, and it was actually, just ok. We thought the included breakfast in Salzburg was much better than this breakfast here at the Ritz, and this was wasn't included. But all the same, we enjoyed it and continued on!

We checked out and left our bags here until we'd actually be heading over to the docks. But first we had a morning tour planned! It was finally time to see inside this Parliament Building that we'd passed over and over here in Budapest! The guide picked the four of us up and off we went. 



Outside of the building is a mini model so you can see what the building looks like all at one time.




Just a picture of one of the public transportation options, as we were waiting to go in. Budapest seemed to have a good system between this "trolley" looking option, buses and a subway. 







Our group finally was ready to go in. While it was crowded, the guides did a great job with crowd control. The tour was very organized and we saw what seemed like a lot of the public areas. The tour lasted about 2 1/2 hours I believe.

























This room below is where the Hungarian Szent Korona, or Holy Crown, sits with other royal relics.  The guards perform a salute at arms every 15 minutes or so, so the crowd has to stand back so their swords don't stab anyone!

In 1945 the fleeing Hungarian army actually gave this crown and jewels to the US for safekeeping, rather than have it fall into the Soviet hands. The US returned it to Hungary in 1978.

The hall of the rotunda is lined above with statues of former kings.


After visiting the treasure, we went into the Parliament chambers. There is definitely a strong gold presence! 















In the museum is another model of the building. This Parliament building is the 3rd largest in Europe. It has 24 towers and the exterior is lined with 90 statues from Hungarian history. There are apparently 88 pounds of gold used in the staircases and halls!






During the Soviet occupation, the Soviets wanted the parliament dome to be higher than the dome of St. Stephen's cathedral. They installed this red star at the top of the Parliament building to represent their leadership and occupation. When their rule was overturned, the star came down.  You can't tell by the picture, but the star is 10 feet wide. 




After the tour, we walked around the building outside a bit.










And then we decided to walk back to our hotel, somewhat following the path that Alex and I took on our Segway tour last night, so we could show Alycen and Katie some of the things we saw.

First up, we had to pose with Ronald Reagan! His statue was unveiled to commemorate his role in bringing the Cold War to an end.  And with that, Hungary regained its Sovereignty. 


This is the US Embassy


The US Embassy faces Parliament


This monument below is a monument to the Soviet troops who died during the liberation of Budapest in 1945 - 1946. It faces the US Embassy. There are apparently many modern-day Hungarians who would like this monument removed because it is a reminder of the Soviet occupation. 



From here, we made a stop at St. Stephen's Basilica. This is the city's largest church. 







There are said to be 150 kinds of marble, all from Hungary in the church. Except for the Carrara in the center, used to make the statue of King Stephen. Stephen was Hungary's first king and patron saint.





Perhaps the most unique feature in visiting this church is that you have the opportunity to see Saint Stephen's mummified hand.  Yes, his hand. Look close below and you can make out the figure of his hand in the case below. 






For only a few coins, you press a button and the hand is illuminated for two minutes!

After checking out the hand, we found that we could go up to the top of the cupola for an amazing view of the city. So up we went! By elevator, for those who may not want to climb the 364 steps! 






















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