Thursday, June 27, 2013

Adventures in Budapest (Updated with Photos)

This will be updated later when I get a chance to post photos.

The plan for Wednesday was to get up relatively late and meet our guide, Janos, at the Dohany Synagogue at 10 am.  I got a little turned around getting off the metro, but had no trouble finding him.

I first met Janos six years ago when he was my guide in the Jewish ghetto.  The way it worked was I went into the Dohany synagogue and museum myself and then we all met him afterwards for a 2 to 2.5 hour tour of the Jewish quarter.  I sort of expected he would do the same thing this time, but he didn’t.

Instead, he took us into the Dohany and spent about an hour giving us a history of the Jews in Hungary. 

Unfortunately, his accent made it difficult for some of my students to follow and one started to fall asleep.  Then he talked about the synagogue for half an hour.  

After that, he guided us through the small museum for half an hour and the sites in the synagogue complex for about fifteen minutes.  

[A Jewish vision of hell, courtesy of a burial society book]:


 In other words, we didn’t start the tour of the former ghetto until well after 12:00 pm. Here's the decaying interior of the Rumbach synagogue:

I had not intended to spend an entire day on the Jewish quarter tour.  I had originally hoped to do the Holocaust Museum in the afternoon, but one of my students had lost his bag with his passport, metro pass, and camera in it.  He was pretty sure he had left it at Bagolyvar, but they were still closed when we left for the tour.  So I changed plans and thought to give the students some free time before our late afternoon meeting with the Roma NGO, during which time, the student and I could track down his missing passport.

So as the clock ticked closer to 1:00 pm, I told Janos that we need to finish the tour by 2 at the absolute latest and explained about the passport. As we walked through the neighborhood, he pointed out historic buildings and talked about Jewish community politics, but the students followed almost none of it.  Afterwards, they parodied him “just one more thing,” and “I think your students will find this really interesting.”

A little after 2:00 pm we reached Klauzel ter, where I intended to have lunch.  He still wanted to show us one last place, but I said we didn’t have the time.  He helpfully got us settled in the restaurant and I gave him a generous tip, considering we had used four hours of his time.

After lunch we returned to the hotel where we learned that yes, Bagolyvar had his bag.  The student and I went up and they made him go through the entire bag and sign that nothing was missing.  Finally, we returned to the hotel.

For some reason, I thought our afternoon meeting with the Roma group was from 5-6 pm, but in reality, it turned out to be 4 to 5 pm.  We didn’t get back from getting his passport until 4:10, so I emailed them and told them we would be late.

The organization is Romedia and they are an NGO dedicated to raising awareness about the situation of the Roma as well as the Roma Holocaust.  They talked to the students about a commemoration event they organized in conjunction with the unveiling of the Roma memorial in Berlin and also showed some interviews with Roma survivors.  They also talked about contemporary persecution.  It was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

When we were done, they asked if some of the students would be willing to be interviewed for social media websites and five agreed.  They were asked questions like what they knew about the Roma before today, what they learned from this visit, etc.  I think the students really liked it.

Afterwards I treated the students to dinner.  I had saved a lot of the tickets to Warsaw so I have a small surplus.   After finding the memorial to the Jews shot into the Danube, we went to a street not far where there were a variety of restaurants.  

Some students had said they like hummus, so I took them to Hummus Bar, while five us went to a nicer restaurant at the end of the same block.  At first, they didn’t want to split up, but I think it worked out for the best.

I ordered the gulasz soup and the duck breast, but the duck tasted dry and slightly over cooked.

We walked down the pedestrian mall and I suggested heading back to the Danube to see all the bridges and downtown lit up.

Thursday morning, we had to check out of the hotel before we headed off for the day.  They stored our luggage and then we headed out to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The students were really impressed by it, though not all liked the aesthetic choices of music and sound effects.  

At Romedia, they had told us about a Roma monument to the Holocaust by the Danube.  We walked down and found it, though it looks as if it has been vandalized.  One edge of the black triangle has been split open an the interior of it has been partially filled by empty toilet paper rolls.

We had lunch at the Great Central Market.  I gave the students a brief tour and then let them loose.  At first they were somewhat timid, but they ended up with better food then me (or at least they liked it more).  I had the stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut, but the students who had the goose leg or the gulash liked it more.

For the afternoon, we split into two groups.  Six went to Gerbeaud for coffee and pastries, while took three to the Szechenyi Spa for an afternoon in the various hot pools.

I love this place and spent nearly three hours there.

The students liked it too.

Afterwards, we met up at the hotel and headed to the train station.  All the students are safely stowed in their couchettes,

but at first I had to share with two other people.  One woman, however, apparently did not want to share with two men and got the conductor who placed her in a different compartment.  You have no idea how happy I was to hear that as otherwise I would end up on an upper bunk (I have claustrophobia).  Now I’m sharing with only a Polish man, who appears to be in his late 40s.

It's now morning and we're in the hotel in Warsaw.  Slept so-so on the train.  More details in next post.

No comments: