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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Budapest, Hungary | Day 4

Thursday | October 8, 2014

Today, we drove north to a small town called San Andreus.  It is a very old town that was originally established in the early part of the 11th century on the Danube River. It was abandoned for many centuries and then, in the sixth century, the Serbs were driven south by the Turks and they inhabited San Andreus. It was their intention to remain there only a few years until the Turks left — but the Turks never left.  The Hungarians were jealous of the protection the crown gave the Serbs; in addition, the Serbs had certain freedoms. First, they were allowed to practice religion freely, which was not a privilege known to the Hungarians.  And second, they were required to pay much less in taxes than the resident Hungarians.  It was a quaint village. 

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We visited a quaint Greek orthodox church that has stood on that site for several centuries.

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The services lasted about 4 to 5 hours and the parishioners store during the entirety of the proceedings. The men stood in the front of the church and the children and women stood in the back.  Along the sides, they had “leaning chairs” for the elderly.

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Before lunch, I took the opportunity to do some shopping. Because it was cold, I bought a wonderful hat that is made out of mushroom.  (Later that day, someone exclaimed “that doesn’t sound normal, honey” but since when does anything I ever do seem normal?)  I also bought a beautiful leather bag that I negotiated down to $20 American.  I have not had a bag like this since I was a teenager when my father and I carried identical bags through Europe.

We dined in St. Andreus at a wonderful restaurant named Promenade.  The owner/restauranteur  fashioned himself to be very charming, but the meal took quite long to prepare and serve. Nevertheless, my veal wienerschnitzel was the best meal I’ve had since I landed in Hungary.  (The red deer goulash was also wonderful.)

After lunch, we had a lengthy bus ride back to town before we were able to visit the Rock Hospital.  

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Many centuries ago, the Romans dug caves in the mountains in the Buda side of Budapest.  These caves when largely unattended until the 1930s when the Hungarian government discovered them and decided to revive them. But then, World War II was quickly upon them. The caves were immediately transitioned into a hospital.  The hospital was designed to care for 30 patients. By 1943, there were 125 patients in the hospital. Thereafter, over 500 patients were resident in the hospital.  As a result, stretchers were all over the floor and the conditions were abominably unsterile.  For example, when a patient died, the bandages were removed from the corpse and placed onto a living person. As a result, the infections grew exponentially and thousands of patients died.  Separate rooms were established for men, women, and soldiers.  In the latter part of 1945, the Nazis decided that they had to leave Budapest and try to align with their brother soldiers who were on the other side of the Buda hills.  One night, 25,000 Nazis headed north into the hills.  The Soviet soldiers were aware of the plan and the Nazis were met with a curtain of volleys. By morning light, only 800 of the 25,000 Nazis were still alive.  All told, in the battles surrounding Budapest, the Soviets lost over 80,000 soldiers and the Nazis lost over 200,000 soldiers.  Although the site was full of wax dummies, the entire experience was extremely moving. 

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Dinner was at Faustus, an excellent recommendation, where I enjoyed amazing lamb shank.


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