Sunday, July 3
After breakfast we disembarked from the ship and were taken by coach to the Anantara-New York Palace Hotel, where we stay for 2 nights before flying back to Michigan. It looks like a very nice hotel and the room is very large. We didn’t see it right away though because we had an excursion planned to Szentendre, which our guide translated to St. Andrew. It is about 40 minutes outside of Budapest, and we started with an open-air museum that showed typical rural Hungarian life in various regions. We saw some animals, looked at some crafts, and then went to learn how to cook Hungarian Goulash Soup. This was followed by a lunch of said soup accompanied by Gypsy musicians, or at least musicians playing Gypsy music. After lunch, we were taken to the town of Szentendre, which was mostly shopping opportunities for arts, crafts, knick-knacks, and such. It was roasting all day, so we were not in the mood to enjoy an hour of cheap crap for tourists. We were very happy to get back to the hotel. I hope that tomorrow’s excursion is better.
Monday, July 4
Well, today’s excursion was indeed a lot better, my favorite of the Budapest portion of the trip. It was called Jewels of Andrassy Avenue. We started at the hotel, took the tram 2 stops to Octagon Square, then took the Metro two stops to St. Stephen’s Basilica. This was a beautiful church famous for having the Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen, which is in fact a mummified right hand in a golden case. We learned it gets taken out annually to parade around Budapest, but otherwise lives in the church. While we were there they had no services so we were free to walk about and take photos. After this, we walked a few blocks back in the direction of Octagon Square to the State Opera House. The Hungarians had to petition the Hapsburg Emperor for permission to build it, and he imposed one condition: it must be smaller than the one in Vienna. They of course complied with this condition, and when the Emperor came to see a performance there, he left before the end in a huff. It seems the Budapest Opera House was more ornate than the one in Vienna, but that was not prohibited when they built it. We saw the King’s Box, as well as the boxes for the aristocracy. The very top floor had both seats and standing room for inexpensive tickets for the commoners. At the end we got a brief performance by two singers, a soprano and a tenor of course, on the staircase, where they did selections from several operas.
After this we went to a coffee house across the street for beverages and cakes, then back on the Tram to take us to the hotel. It was a very hot day, but I didn’t mind it so much because I was enjoying the tour. Once again we ate dinner in the hotel, and were joined by Steve and Amy.
Tuesday, July 5
We were up at the usual time to pack our bags and grab breakfast in the hotel. We had been warned that some people’s flights were getting canceled, but thankfully nothing of the sort happened, and we had uneventful flights back home. We cleared customs in Detroit just after 7pm, and took a taxi home.
A few things stick out from our experience on this trip. First, Prague is a wonderful place, and definitely my favorite stop of this tour. If you have a chance to go there, take it. I’m very glad we booked that extension to the cruise. Second, things that we consider “history” have a lot more relevance and presence there. The Nazi invasions, the Holocaust, and Communism are still being talked about. They were talked about in every place we went. It is one thing to read about them as history, which of course I have done, and quite another to have people pointing out “this is where such-and-such happened”. I will definitely carry memories of this for a long time. Third, it was beastly hot the whole time. Everyone said it was unusual to be so hot, but I think we will hear this more and more since we don’t seem to be willing to do anything about global warming. For now, Cheryl has said no to any future travel in the summer, only shoulder season will be allowed. The last thing is that when we took a Covid test shortly after returning home, it was positive. The “colds” that Cheryl and I had were Covid, and we have since heard from a number of others on the cruise that they too tested positive. I have to think that is also something we will hear more in the future. Looking back, I think most of us on the cruise didn’t take that seriously. I noticed that the crew were always masked, but the passengers weren’t.
Still, despite the problems, it was a great trip, and I’m glad we did it. We’ll have to save up for another one.