Monday, September 30, 2013

Enchanting Eastern Europe - Budapest 2/Hungary

Today's full day event turned out among the best for the entire holiday. First the weather was with us, then the interactive knight's tournament left us in stitches and the meals were among the best. Today is also September 18 which coincides with our grand-daughter Ling's 6th birthday which we had celebrated earlier before we left for this holiday. Happy birthday again, dearest Ling. We love you from the land of the knights in shining armours.

It was a good day to visit Visegrad, the old capital of Hungary, to see the Royal Palace also known as the King Matthias Palace. It is situated north of Budapest on the right bank of the Danube and has a very small population of about 2000. The skies were blue and temperatures between 12-20C so the jackets came off for some tour members. We are not used to wearing thick jackets at home. I was over-prepared wearing a long john before I left but quickly took it off. Sometimes we over prepared for the worst. The Palace is actually quite ordinary compared to grander castles and palaces we've been before but its significance is in that King Charles 1 of Hungary made Visegrad his hometown and used this as his palace. The architecture was a mixture of different styles belonging to the Gothic and Italian Renaissance period. You may not know but after the Ottoman Turks' siege in 1544 the Palace fell into ruins, and by the 18th century it was completely covered by earth. Its excavation began in 1934 and continues today. At present, the reconstructed royal residence building is open to the public, and houses exhibitions on the history of the palace and reconstructed historical interiors. The palace was named after King Matthias Corvinus who used it as his country residence.

After the Royal Palace we were driven to the Lower Castle. On arrival we were greeted by this gentleman in traditional ceremonial gown and for want of a name let me call him Donny (he looked like Donny Osmond or the Osmond Brothers fame in the same era as the Jackson 5) who led 2 drummers. He leads this medieval programme performed by the Saint George Knightly Order in the open air theatre of the Lower Castle in Visegrád. Donny led us down a gravel road into the lower castle with great fanfare. We felt royal. On arrival at the roof terrace of the Solomon's Tower we were each given a welcome glass of white wine and invited to sit in the viewing gallery of the small arena to watch knights compete in throwing machets, spears, shoot arrows and fight face-to-face with swords and shields before the king and queen selected from the group (Mr. and Mrs. Tan of our tour group) and the court jester (Mr. Aw).

We adjourned to the Renaissance Restaurant nearby, run by Donny's family, for lunch and wearing silly party crowns, but took a group picture to remember this jovial event.

Zoltan bade us farewell when we returned to Budapest for the Danube cruise we signed up as an optional tour costing 25 Euro each. He led us to a shop selling authentic Hungarian goods and we bought some Hungarian chocolates for the family back home.

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