October 20-21, 2007: Having already done the river trip to Szentendre (verdict: boring stretch of river, very pretty town but overrun with tourists), this time I decided to go inland, to the former palace at Godollo. This turned into a bit of a trek. I started by taking the metro to the end of the M3 line at Ors Vezer ter, where I found the HEV station quite easily, but not anywhere to buy a ticket for the suburban train. I boarded with my fingers crossed, and luckily no inspectors showed up. However, shortly after a crowd of school kids got on we stopped at a station, an announcement came over the P.A., and everyone got off. Turned out we had to take a seriously overcrowded bus the rest of the way to Godollo.
As I’m not a fan of baroque, and as the Godollo palace is definitely baroque, I had been more interested in the trip through the countryside than the palace itself, but I quite enjoyed it anyway – particularly the gowns belonging to Sisi (Empress Elizabeth, the Austro-Hungarian Princess Di) and a big chapel with a glass-enclosed viewing gallery. However, only coffee and cake were available for hungry visitors – no lunch. I don’t seem to have taken any photos at the palace, but this gown from the Esterhazy collection at the Decorative Arts museum would have been right at home there.
My feet, which had started complaing the afternoon of my first day in Budapest, were still unhappy. The helpful woman in the T.I. booth at the palace told me that a ten minute walk would take me into town where I could catch a regular train back to Budapest. At a slow limp, the 1 km took rather longer, but I enjoyed the quiet, almost rural, back streets. The regular train, unlike the HEV, was pretty decrepit, but I was able to check out the distance from the platforms to the metro at Keleti station, and realized I would need a taxi the day I left. Lunch was, for the second time, at Duran, and I am glad to see that it is still selling its wonderful open-faced sandwiches. (Caviar! Smoked salmon! Shrimp! Cheese! And cheap…)
My last afternoon, after a not very exciting visit to Gyorgy Rath Asian museum, I headed back to Andrassy ut, thinking of visiting the other Asian museum, Ferenc Hopp, only to find the wide avenue filled with men in black vests and red and white neckerchiefs, drawn up in military formation behind big red and white flags.
I asked one of the spectators who they were, and I swear I heard “Goths”. Despite all the black, this seemed unlikely. The Hungarians after all, were proud descendants of the Magyars, not the Goths.
I moved on and tried someone else. This time I learned they were actually the Hungarian National Guard, and that the U.S. and the Western press and CNN all misrepresented them… I edged away from the lecture and started taking photos – of the Guard and of journalists taking their own, posed, photos. I walked on up to Heroes Square, to find a big crowd and more flags. I decided that there would either be a lot of speeches I wouldn’t understand, or some form of mayhem I’d prefer to avoid. Back on the metro, headed south, I saw more trains than usual headed north, packed with burly men in khaki.
Riding the shuttle in from the airport, the local sitting next to me had told me all about the riots that had erupted the year before on the anniversary of the 1956 uprising, on October 23rd. It know looked like good planning that had scheduled my departure to Vienna for the day before, but I confess that it was pure chance.