Danube Odyssey, Part 5

Visit to 13th Century Cathedral, Synagogue

 

 

1.Flights from Memphis to Budapest, Hungary

7. Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace and museums

2. Budapest Hilton

8.  Cruise on Danube River and Durnstein

3. Visit to Holloko Farming Village

9.  Mozart and Trapp family home of Salzburg

4. Budapest area attraction of Szentendre

10. Weltenburg Monastery near Kelheim

5. Visit to 13th Century Cathedral, Synagogue

11. Nuremberg and Nazi monuments

6. Dreary Bratislava and visit to painters' home

12. Flights from Nuremberg to Memphis

 

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

 

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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

Actor Tony Curtis donated 'Weeping Willow' Holocaust Memorial at Dohany Synagogue

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

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.

 

Hungary 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

River boat's dessert bar

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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 abominations.

 

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.

 

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