A view of the Danube in Budapest with Margaret Island in the centre distance and the Parliament Building on the right
Dal Singh Dhesy and I decided to take a break and so we flew out to Budapest for a few days. This was my fourth visit, the last time bring in 1986 when Hungary was still part of the Soviet Bloc. We found a vibrant city with a variety of shops with their attractive futuristic designs so beloved by Hungarians.
Dal Singh Dhesy at the Chain Bridge with Pest in the background
My old friend Dr Egon Svastics met us at the airport on a rather miserable wet afternoon. We had first met over forty years ago in a tourist office in one of the Lake Balaton resorts when I had wanted to go to a concert at Kesthely at the south end of the lake. Egon stepped in and said that he would be able to find a room for the night with a family in the village. Since then we have met up many times in various places across Europe.
We had planned an excursion to the Danube Bend, but we found that the river had reached a record level and that the Budapest embankment was flooded. Walking across the Chain Bridge from the commercial Pest to the historic and residential Buda hills the Danube was vaste. We took the rail lift up the hill and looked across the river to the parliament building and down to the flooded Margaret Island.
The flooded tramway on the Pest embankment of the Danube
On Saturday we visited the parliament building with Egon and his wife Kinga. Hungary was preparing for a general election the following day with a close result predicted for the major parties. The building was designed to take two houses, but today there is only one house since the upper house was abolished.
In the afternoon we visited the country residence at Godollo beloved of the Hapsburgs. For many years the house had been an army barracks and then an elderly peoples’ home. Now it was being restored and fondly remembered for its association with Sissi, the wife of Emperor Franz Josef, who was wildly enthusiastic about Hungary and Hungarians. She was assassinated in Switzerland at the age of 60. She is now compared with Princess Diana as somebody who was critical of the restraints around royalty and who sought to be a benefactor. Egon and Kinga had talked to me about her on a visit to Vienna two years ago when they had shown me some of the sights there.
Egon and I went in the evening to the historic Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest where that fine pianist Jeno Jando gave a recital of Haydn, Schubert and Schumann. It was a memorable evening.
We returned to Birmingham in the middle of a hailstorm. Visibility was extremely low as we came into land but cleared in time for a rather uncomfortable landing.