Danube Odyssey, Part 5
Visit to 13th Century Cathedral, Synagogue
Index to Photos / Page Updated Jan. 21 2008 -
(More than 200 additional photos taken on the Nolans' two-week cruise through
parts of Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia are posted in several Lewis
Nolan albums at www.ritzpix.com, a website that requires sign-in)
By LEWIS NOLAN
Return to Nolan Travels Home
Nov. 16, 2007, Friday - In Budapest
Neither of us slept very well. We got up at 7 a.m. when the
room's alarm clock went off at the time set by a previous occupant. A gray day
awaited us we could see through the windows, with a cold
mist falling. The weather prediction called for showers, a high temperature of
40 degrees and a low of 28.
We had a nice breakfast (for me bacon, scrambled eggs, toast
and a wedge of hash brown potatoes with a small glass of tomato juice and a
small bottle of Coca Lite and for Betty fruit and pastry), then boarded a tour
bus with 27 other passengers to see some of the local sights of Budapest.
The most interesting stops for me were a 13th
Century cathedral honoring the Apostle Mathias followed by a visit to the
Dohany Synagogue, supposedly the largest synagogue in Europe.
The Mathias church has a venerable, distinctive roof of
orange tiles and skeletal Gothic spires. Built as a mosque by the Turks, it was
destroyed and reconstructed during the 19th Century, only to be bombed
during World War II. The Hapsburg emperors were crowned kings of Hungary here
until 1916, with Charles IV the last surviving monarch of a family that still
lives in the area.
The Dohany Synagogue, named after the street it sits on, was
built in the 19th Century by a non-Jewish architect along the
familiar lines of a great Cathedral. Still in use, it resembles a Christian
church with its elevated pulpits, row seating and the transepts suggestive of
the arms of a cross. The Orthodox Jewish temple will seat up to 6,000
worshippers if the pews in the upstairs mezzanines for use by women are full.
We were told by a synagogue guide that Jews were tolerated
by the old Hungarian monarchs and that Budapest
once had a Jewish population of 200,000, about 20 percent of the city's total.
Today, an estimated 65,000 Jews live in Budapest,
where 65 percent of the citizenry are believed to be Roman Catholic.
was ruled by Germany
for much of the 20th Century and when Nazis came to power Jews were
treated harshly. An estimated 6,000 were put to death in the Holocaust of the
1930s and 1940s. Some of their remains are buried at the Dohany temple, where a
tiny cemetery is just outside the synagogue. A stainless steel, weeping willow
tree with the names of several thousand, known Budapest victims of the Nazis are inscribed
on the metal leaves in the cemetery. It was a gift of the Hollywood
foundation that was founded by actor Tony Curtis. Nearby are four granite
columns that are engraved with the names of several hundred "righteous
gentiles" who lived in Budapest
and who helped Jewish people during the Nazi terror. The cemetery is a
crashingly sober sight, especially for a Christian who grew up with the error
of thinking that there were huge numbers of non-Jews who defied the Nazi
extermination of millions of Jews and other "undesirables" in the
1930s and 1940s.
In charge of the Nazi discrimination in Budapest, our group was told by a Jewish
woman serving as a tour guide, was the arch-criminal
Adolph Eichman, who was executed many years later for
heinous war crimes at the Auschwitz death
camp. I remember reading newspaper accounts about his being guarded behind
glass at trial in Israel
and his ashes being scattered in the ocean after he paid the price.
Ironically, and thankfully, the Nazis didn't get the Budapest extermination
fully underway until August, 1944, when most of the western world finally
defeated their armies. That was why so many Jews in Budapest
and other parts of Europe survived the Nazi
After our very saddening tour ended, our group returned to
the River Explorer cruise ship and we had a nice buffet lunch. I had to reflect
on how lucky my generation was to have been spared the agony the Germans
inflicted on Europe. We sat by a nice, Asian
couple from Honolulu and a man from Australia named
John during the meal. I then repaired to the boat's "Latitude 52
Degrees" lounge to make some trip notes and Betty went shopping with a
nice couple from South Dakota,
Don and Mary Dorsman.
with next trip segment / Return to Nolan Travels