Monday was dark and cloudy, a perfect background to a possible day of rain. An umbrella was necessary, judging by how low the clouds were.
I took Metro Line 1 to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, and I was surprised by not only the closeness of the rock tunnel (it’s thisclose to the windows of the carriage) but also the tiled names of the stops in the metro. I said something about how historical it all looked, and a passenger said that this metro line was on the UNESCO Heritage list because it was built in 1896. If you look at the pictures on Wikipedia, you can get a sense of why it’s an interesting experience to ride on the world’s 2nd oldest metro (check out: Budapest Metro).
From the metro, it was easy to sight the formidable dome of St. Stephan’s Basilica, a must for those who come to Europe for church-spotting. The exterior is suitably grand and impressive, and the inside is even more so. It’s quiet enough to hear church mice in there as people wander about trying to take the best photo possible of the dome and various roof paintings.
The little chapel is where all the excitement is. The shriveled hand of St. Stephen, the chief relic in residence, is inside a glass case there, almost nondescript save for the acropolis-looking structure that houses it. The last time I’d seen relics like this was in Prague, and they always produce the same level of interest in me. Being raised Lutheran, we’re not much in to relics and grand churches, but I admire the saints for their Christian work in the early church.
Leaving St. Stephan’s, there’s a rather cozy (but pricey) souvenir shop around the corner that has some nicer items you won’t find in the very trumped up places around town. I sprung for a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle label hoodie with all sorts of facts about Budapest on it. It was an interesting design. I also went in for some small bottles of pálinka, a Hungarian fruit spirit that’ll give you a quick lift. Plum, apricot, cherry – those are the traditional kinds. I figured they’d make an interesting gift.
Yep, I like to get my friends something that’ll set their stomachs on fire.