Eastern Europe Trip – Day 16 – Vienna, Austria

Today I finished exploring Vienna. I woke up around 7:00am again and went to the nearby McDonald’s and purchased a coffee, and picked up a sandwich from the Spar grocery store below.

First stop today was Hundertwasserhaus, an apartment complex with an expressionist architecture style. The building was conceived by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertswasser and Jospeh Krawina. Friedensreich started his career as a painter in the early 1950’s, however became increasingly focused on architecture, and literature. In 1972 he had his first architectural models made for a telvevsion show called “Make a Wish” in order to demonstrate his ideas on forested roofs, “tree tenants”, and the “window right” of every tenant to embellish the facade around his windows. In these models he showcased his architectural shapes, which included “eye-slit” house and “high-rise meadow house”. In Late 1977 the federal chancellor Bruno Kreisky suggested to the mayor of Vienna (Leopold Gratz) that Hundertswasser create an apartment building to his own idea, however architect Joseph Krawina was invited to join him and help put his ideas to practice. Krawina presented his ideas to Hundertswasser in September 1979 with a Styrofoam model and rudimentary drawings. Hundertwasser was shocked and rejected them. In the end the house was built between 1983 and 1985 according to the ideas and concepts of Hundertwasser with architect Krawina as a co-author and architect Peter Pelikan as a planner. It features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. Hundertwasser took no payment for the design of the house, declaring that it was worth it, to prevent something hideous from going up in its place. The apartment complex contains 53 apartments, 4 offices, 16 private terraces, 3 public terraces, and 250 trees and bushes.

Second stop was Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburgs. In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain on the Wien river. In 1548 the previous owner had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and introduced game such as pheasants, ducks, deer, and boar. Over the next century the area was used for hunting and recreation. Eleonora Gonzaga, who inherited the property after the death of her husband Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643 she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion. The name Schönbrunn first appeared in 1642. It also appears that the orangery was started by Eleonara as well. The Schönbrunn Palace in its present form was built and remodeled during the 1740–50s during the reign of empress Maria Theresa, who received the estate as a wedding gift. Franz Joseph I commissioned the redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as it appears today.

On site is Palemnhaus, a beautiful Art-Nouveau greenhouse, that was built in 1882 to showcase many exotic plants. The site is also home to Schönbrunn Zoo, the world’s oldest zoo, dating back to 1752. There is an amazing assortment of animals there; I was told roughly 8000, with 700 unique species including turtles, goats, pandas, penguins, lions, tigers, various birds, hippos, etc! I had a delicious brie and cured sausage for lunch at the zoo.

Third stop was Secession, a contemporary art museum with a gold dome of gilded laurels & temporary exhibitions by renowned artists.

The Austrian National Library was my fourth, and last stop of the day. It is the largest library in Austria with over 12 million items in its collection. The library dates back to 1368 when Duke Albert III moved books from the Viennese vaults into an imperial (national) library. The library is located in the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg in center of Vienna. Neue Burg, also known as Hofburg, is a former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today it serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence. Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the architects of the Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.

I spent the majority of the evening at the hotel doing work, however I did manage to sneak out for some delicious mushroom orichette and a beer at a restaurant called Schachtelwirt. I also took a few night shots of Vienna’s streets.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 15 – Melk Abbey & Vienna

Today I woke up around 7:00am to catch a 7:55am train to Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey, located about 1.25 hours West of Vienna. I had breakfast the same McDonald’s as yesterday, since that was the train station I was departing from.

Melk Abbey is located in the town of Melk, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey contains the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau, as well as the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty. The abbey was first founded in 1089 when Leopold II, gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, was founded shortly after, and the monastic library soon became recognized for its extensive manuscript collection.

The current Baroque style abbey, designed by Jakob Prandtauer, was built between 1702 and 1736. The frescos on the roof were designed by Johann Rottmayr. The abbey somehow escaped dissolution under Emperor Joseph II, when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and destroyed between 1780 and 1790. The abbey also survived the Napoleonic Wars and World War 2. After World War 2 the school returned to the abbey, where currently 900 pupils attend. There are approximately 30 monks that currently serve the Monastery. Unfortunately I was unable to take any photos inside the abbey, so I have just a few photos of the exterior of the abbey.

After exploring the abbey I ate lunch at Rathauskeller, one of the oldest restaurants in Melk. It’s been serving customers for over 350 years. I had a wonderful Veal dish and a local beer.

After lunch took a train back to Vienna. When I arrived in Vienna I had some time to check out Wotrubakirche Church, before heading for dinner.

Wotrubakirche Church, also known as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, was built between 1974 and 1976 on a model designed by Fritz Wotruba. Sadly Fritz died before the completion of the church. At first glance this church represents a piece of abstract architecture or sculpture. This brutalist style building is comprised of 152 asymmetrically arranged concrete blocks that weigh 1.8 to 141 tons. During the Third Reich in World War 2 the church houses German Wehrmacht barracks.

It was now time to head to dinner at Brasserie Palmenhaus, a neo-classical greenhouse that was built between 1823 and 1826 according to the plans of Ludwig Gabriel von Remy, raking from the designs of the greenhouse at Schönbrunn Palace. The rear wall of the building is part of the old city walls of Vienna. It was later demolished to make way for a new Art-Nouveau building, built between 1902 and 1906, designed by Friedrich Ohmann. The building was renovated between 1996 and 1998. The central part of the building houses the restaurant, the left wing houses a butterfly garden, and the right wing serves as a greenhouse. I chose to have a wonderful mushroom ravioli, and a few beers.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 14 – Vienna, Austria

Today I woke up at 7:00am. After getting ready I walked to a McDonald’s at a nearby mall, where I had a coffee and an Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin was different than the ones that we get here, because they don’t put back bacon in the sandwich.

In the morning I explored Bundesamtsgebäude, Urania-Sternwarte, UNIQA Tower, Österreichische Postsparkasse, Gasometers of Vienna, Flak tower, Katholische Kirche St. Florian, and Majolikahaus von Otto Wagner.

Bundesamtsgebäude is the Federal Office Building. Due ot its octagonal shape, the building is oftern referred to as Octoneum. The three ring-shaped octagons and courtyards on the upper floors correspond to the three public zones on the ground floor. The octagons symbolize tradition, aesthetics, function, commitment, monumentality, technology, innovation, and economy.

Urania-Sternwarte (Kinder Train Museum) is a public educational institute and observatory. It was built in Art Nouveau style by architect Max Fabiani, who was a student of the very famous Otto Wagner. It was opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I originally as an educational facility and public observatory. During World War 2 it was severely damaged, with the observatory dome being completely destroyed. It was reopened in 1957 after extensive renovations.

The UNIQA Tower is a 75-metre-tall tower that was built between 2001 and 2004 for Uniqa Insurance Group. The tower has 22 floors and was designed by Austrian architect Heinz Neumann.

Österreichische Postsparkasse was the headquarters of a postal savings bank that was owned by the Austrian Mail that merged in October 2005 with BAWAG to form BAWAG P.S.K. The building was designed and built by the famous Otto Wagner in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style between 1904 and 1906. It was opened on December 17th 1906, and an extension was added between 1910 and 1912. The building is now used by BAWAG P.S.K. as their headquarters. The eight-story high building occupies an entire city block. The beautiful façade is covered with square marble slabs and aluminum applications. Granite slabs are attached to the lower and upper levels.

The Gasometers of Vienna are four former 90000 m3 gas tanks that were built as part of the Vienna municipal gas works project of 1896-1899. They were used between 1899 and 1984 as gas storage tanks. After the changeover from town gas to natural gas between 1969 and 1978, they were no longer used and were shut down. The spheres were designated as protected historic landmarks in 1978. In 1995 ideas were presented on how to repurpose the structures. The chosen designs by the architects Jean Nouvel (Gasometer A), Coop Himmelblau (Gasometer B), Manfred Wehdorn (Gasometer C) and Wilhelm Holzbauer (Gasometer D) were completed between 1999 and 2001. Each gasometer was divided into several zones for living (at the top), working (in the middle), and entertainment / shopping (ground floors). The historic exterior wall was conserved. The shopping mall levels in each gasometer are connected to the others by sky bridges.

Flak Tower VIII (G-Tower Arenbergpark) is a former concrete bunker from the Second World War. The tower had room for over 20000 people who could shelter during bombings, and there was also space for the storage of goods. The bunker was equipped with Flake anti-aircraft guns. These large towers were built during the Second World War in the cities of Berlin (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Vienna (Austria). The tower is now used for the storage of art.

Katholische Kirche St. Florian was built between 1961 and 1963. The concrete frame structure was built according to the plans of German architect Rudolf Schwarz, despite him passing away before the structure was completed. Johann Petermaier completed the construction of the building. The church has undergone a few renovations from 2005 to 2016. It’s really hard to pinpoint the style of this church to be honest; it’s a bit of everything.

Majolikahaus of Otto Wagner, also known as the Linke Wienzeile Buildings, are two apartment buildings that were designed by Otto Wagner, and constructed between 1898 and 1899 in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style. They are lavishly decorated in colourful tiles, sculptures an wrought iron.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to get some lunch. I stopped in at a restaurant called Wirr, where I had a delicious smoked salmon bagel, and some coffee.

After lunch I explored Neue Burg, Artaria Haus, Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, Innere Stadt Street, Anker Clock, Regensburger Hof, Karlsplatz Metro Station, Karlskirche, and the Vienna Opera House.

Neue Burg, also known as Hofburg, is a former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today it serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence. Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the architects of the Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.

Artaria Haus is an Art-Noveau style building that was built between 1900 and 1902. It was designed by Max Fabiana. The marble cladding of the facade is considered a parallel to Otto Wagner’s ideas, and the later very popular bay windows appear on this building for the first time in Vienna. The façade of the house is set back opposite the row of houses, which goes back to a regulatory plan that never came into effect. The Artaria House is also one of the first buildings in which electrical cables were laid under plaster.

Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, also known as the Pharmacy to the White Angel, is one of the oldest pharmacies in Vienna, started in 1587. It was relocated a few times in its history before settling on its currently location and Art Nouveau style building in 1901-1902. The new building and design of the pharmacy was carried out by Oskar Laske.

The Innere Stadt is the old town of Vienna. It’s the first municipal district of Vienna. Vienna’s city boundaries were expanded in 1850.

Anker Clock is a beautiful Art-Nouveau style public clock that was designed by Franz Matsch, and built between 1914 and 1915 at the Der Anker insurance company headquarters building. The completion of the clock took longer than expected due to World War 1. After two trial runs the water stayed off for quite some time. It was decided that it would be a “peace watch” and only after the end of the war it would be turned on. After World War 1 ended it was turned on. Sadly, during World War 2 it was badly damaged by arson. It remained out of service from 1945 to 1956.

Regensburger Hof is a beautiful building that dates back to the 14th century, however has been rebuilt many times. It was once the site of a historical meeting between Emperor Friedrich III, and the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus in February 1470. The original building was demolished in 1896, despite numerous protests. The current building was built in 1897.

Karlsplatz Metro Station is a former metro station of the Viennese Stadtbahn (Vienna Metropolitan Railway) that was operated from 1898 to 1989. The building is a great example of Jugendstil architecture, also known as the “Youth Style” architectural movement from 1895 to 1910. This architectural movement was known as the German Art Nouveau style of architecture. The building was designed by the famous Otoo Wagner. Toda the buildings are now used as an exhibition space by the Vienna Museum, with an U-Bahn entrance in its rear, and as a café.

Karlskirche, also known as St. Charles Church, is a Baroque church that was built between 1716 and 1737. The church is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the sixteenth century. You can take an elevator inside to the very top, which offers great views of Vienna below.

The Vienna State Opera House was built between 1861 and 1869. The opera house can seat 1709 people, in addition to 567 standing people. It was designed by August Sicard von Sicardsburg, Eduard van der Nüll, and Josef Hlávka. The Neo-Renaissance style building is home to the Vienna State Ballet and also hosts the annual Vienna Operal Ball during carinval season.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 13 – Bratislava, Slovakia

Today I decided to catch a train to Bratislava, Slovakia to explore the small, but beautiful capital city. The train ride took about 1.5 hours, and I arrived around 10am. I left my bag at my hotel, which I ended up picking up at the end of the day, because I would be switching hotels.

Slovakia’s History

Slavs originally settled in the area in the 6th century AD. They were soon conquered by the Avars, but eventually drove out the Avars by the 8th century. In the 9th century Slovakia became part of the state called Great Moravia, which included parts of Germany, Hungary, and Poland. The Moravian empire ran from 830 AD to 906 AD, during which time Slovakia was converted to Christianity. The Moravian empire was destroyed by the Magyars (ancestors of modern Hungarians). Slovakia would be under Hungarian ruling for the next 1000 years.

During the Middle Ages the mining of gold, silver and copper ended up driving economic development. In the 13th century Germans settled in the country and town life flourished. In 1526 the Turks won the battle of Mohacs causing Hungary to be dismembered. Slovakia and parts of Hungary came to be ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria. Slovakia was now part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

During the 19th century nationalism was a growing force in the Austrian Empire, with many Hungarians and Czechs becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Austrian ruling. In 1848 a wave of revolutions occurred across Europe, but the Austrian monarchy was still able to maintain power until 1867, which the Austrian Empire was split into two halves; Austria and Hungary. The Austrian monarch remained king of both independent halves. Towards the end of the 19th century the area surrounding Vienna grew rapidly.

In 1914 Archduke Ferdinand, the heir of the Austrian throne was assassinated, which led to World War I. In October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up. Prague became the capital of the independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. During World War II Prague was occupied by the German Nazi’s. After the war, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state. In 1946 the communists became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, and many Stalin style practices were adopted by the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia (KSC). Eventually these people in charge of the KSC were executed.

On November 17th 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred, which ended communism making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990 the first democratic elections were conducted, with Vaclav Havel becoming the president. On January 1st 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries; Slovakia and Czech Republic, with Bratislava becoming the capital of Slovakia.

Exploring Bratislava, Slovakia

In Bratislava I explored New Slovak National Theatre, Historical Slovak National Theatre, The Blue Church, Schöne Náci Sculpture, Man at Work Sculpture, Michael’s Gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava Castle, and Most SNP (UFO Bridge).

The New Slovak National Theatre was designed in the early 1980’s, and construction started in 1986. The building took 21 years to complete due to lack of funding. The building was finally opened on April 14th 2007. The building is designed to hold roughly 1700 spectators.

Historical Slovak National Theatre was constructed between 1885 and 1886. It was based on a design by Viennese architects Fellner & Helmer, who designed theatre buildings in 10 European countries. This building was designed for roughly 1000 spectators and was illuminated by 800 gas lamps. This wasn’t Bratislava’s first theatre through, as it replaced a former Classic style theatre that was built in 1776 and demolished in 1884.

The Blue Church, also called the Church of St. Elizabeth, is an Art Nouveau Catholic church that was built between 1909 and 1913. The façade was originally painted in light pastel colours, but the church later received its characteristic blue colour, which makes it stand out.

Schöne Náci Sculpture is a bronze statue dedicated to Schöne Náci (real name Ignác Lamár). He was the son of a shoemaker and grandson of a famous clown and brought happiness to the streets of the city. He would walk around the Old Town in a top hat and tails, greeting women with the words “I kiss your hand” in German, Hungarian and Slovak. He received free food from many of the café’s in the city, and took the occasional cleaning job.

Man at Work Sculpture is a bronze statue of Čumil, also known as “the watcher”. It is a statue that reflects a typical communist era worker who is not bothered about the work he is doing. Viktor Hulik commissioned the piece in 1997.

Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved and is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It was originally constructed in the 14th century, but was destroyed between 1529 and 1534. It was rebuilt in its current form between 1753 and 1758. The tower stands at a height of 51 metres tall and has a statue of St. Michael placed atop the tower. The gate received its name from the nearby Saint Michael’s church. Unfortunately it was under renovation when I was there, so nothing exciting.

St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. The gothic style cathedral was built into the city’s defensive walls when it was constructed in 1452. It’s 85 metre (279 foot) tall spire dominates the Old Town’s skyline. In 1760, the top of the Gothic tower was struck by lightning and replaced by a Baroque one, which was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1835. It was reconstructed in 1847 and topped by the crown of St Stephen. The church was re-Gothicized between 1869 and 1877.

Bratislava Castle is a massive rectangular castle that built on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. The area was originally settled on thousands of years ago because it was strategically located in the center of Europe at a passage between the Carpathians and the Alps. The Boleráz culture (the oldest phase of the Baden culture), were the first known culture to have constructed a fortified settlement on the castle hill, around 3500 BC. The hill was occupied over time by the Celts, Romans, Slavs, Nitrian Principality, and Great Moravia until the current castle was built in the 10th century, with extensive modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle, which has four prominent towers (one on each corner), was built originally in 9th century with many modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle features a central courtyard with an 80 metre (260 foot) deep water well. The tower on the southwest corner is known as the Crown Tower because it housed the crown jewels of Hungary from the mid 1500’s to the mid 1700’s. In 1811 a fire was accidentally started by garrisoned soldiers. From 1811 to 1953 the castle’s state gradually deteriorated and the military even sold parts of the main castle buildings as construction materials. It was even attempted to demolish the remaining structures to make was for government offices and a university district, but that never came to fruition. Instead, in 1946 the ruins were opened to the public, and in 1948 the town even constructed an amphitheater in the northern part of the castle site and used for about 15 years in the summer to shown films. It was decided to restore the castle in 1953, and the restoration took place between 1957 and 1968. It was chosen to restore the main building to the Baroque style, which was the last state of the castle when it caught on fire. Some of the other older buildings were restored to Gothic and Renaissance styles. Numerous other reconstructions have taken place since, with the latest reconstruction being the Honorary Courtyard in 2010.

Most SNP, bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, is also commonly referred to as the UFO Bridge. It was built between 1967 and 1972 and spans 431 metres across the Danube River. It’s an asymmetrical bridge constructed of steel, and suspended from steel cables. It features a restaurant and observation deck atop a 85 metres (278 foot) pylon.

Before heading back to Vienna I had lunch at a delicious restaurant called BeAbout, where they make home-made hamburgers. I had a jalapeno burger with onion rings and fries, which was absolutely delicious!

After catching the train back to Vienna I decided to check out a few places before heading back to the hotel including Belvedere 21, Belvedere Palace, the Embassy of France, and the Soviet War Memorial.

Belvedere 21 (21er Haus) is a modernist style steel and glass building designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer. It was constructed in 1958 to be used as a pavilion for the Expo 58 in Brussels, and was later transferred to Vienna to house the Museum of the 20th Century. It was originally nicknamed 20er Haus. The building was used as storage for contemporary art works between 1979 and 2001. Between 2009 and 2011 it was remodeled by architect Adolf Krischanitz and renamed 21er Haus to reflect the 21st century. The building is currently used as a museum showing contemporary art by Fritz Wotruba.

Belvedere Palace is a comprised of two beautiful Baroque palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), as well as the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The Lower Belvedere Palace was built between 1712 and 1717. Upper Belvedere was built between 1717 and 1723. Some extra work was required at Upper Belvedere at risk of structural collapse, so between 1732 and 1733 a vaulted ceiling supported by four Atlas pillars was installed. The buildings were built on request of Prince Eugene. When Prince Eugene died he did not leave a legally binding will so it was decided by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to give the Palaces to the Prince Eugene’s niece Victoria. Victoria was the daughter of Eugene’s eldest brother Thomas. Inside was a bunch of amazing art pieces, which you can see below.

I couldn’t find much information on the Embassy of France, however it’s a beautiful Art-Nouveau style building.

The Soviet War Memorial is a semi-circular white marble colonnade partially enclosing a 12 metre tall figure of a Red Army Soldier. It was unveiled in 1945 to commemorate 17000 soviet soldiers who were killed in action during the Vienna offensive in World War 2.

It was time to pickup my bags from my hotel that I stayed at the previous night, and then I checked into my new hotel, which would be home for the next four nights; Hotel Urania. The hotel was quite beautiful, however I can’t recommend staying here based on the useless WiFi. It made working in the evenings a very frustrating experience.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 11 – Budapest, Hungary

Today was my last full day in Budapest. I had a quick breakfast and took the bus to All Saints Roman Catholic Church. This church was built in 1975, was designed in a brutalism architecture style, and was the first church in Budapest that the Communist regime allowed to be built. The previous one was built in 1948. The state provided no money, so the congregation had to rely on social workers for labor and very cheap building materials. Architect István Szabó, a man of faith himself, also working for free, designed all of the interior decorations and the furnishings himself.

Next door to the church is the Imre Makovecz Mortuary Chapel, which was originally built in the early 1930’s. The chapel was destroyed during World War II, and was eventually rebuilt. The building underwent full refurbishment in 1991 and resembles the inside of a human chest. The ribs are made of hardwood and coffins are placed where the heart would be. There was a funeral occurring when I was here, and I wanted to be respectful of the family, so I didn’t take any photos.

I took the bus back into the city and walked by the Turkish Bank House, an Art Nouveau style building, which was designed by Henrik Böhm and Ármin Hegedűs in 1906, The facade is almost entirely glass-covered, and in the upper gable it sports a Secessionist mosaic by Miksa Róth called Patrona Hungariae, which depicts Hungary surrounded by great Hungarians of the past.

Close by was Gresham Palace. The Four Seasons Hotel (Gresham Palace) is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture style. It was constructed in 1906 as an office and apartment building, but is now used today by the Four Seasons Hotel chain. It is located right along the River Danube and looks absolutely stunning. During World War 2 it was used as a barrack by the Red Army. It became fairly run down and was used as an apartment during the People’s Republic of Hungary. After the fall of communism in 1990 the national government turned the property over to the city. Oberoi Hotels entered into an agreement to manage a hotel in the building in 1991, but due to legal battles it never happened. In 1998 Gresco Investments acquired the building. Together with the Four Seasons the building was renovated in its original Art Nouveau architectural style for about $85 million. Building ownership again changed in 2001 (Quinland Private of Ireland) and 2011 (State General Reserve Fund of Oman), but the Four Seasons continues to operate and manage it. In front of the hotel area few statues, which include Count Istvan Szechenyi, and Ferenc Deak.

It was then time for lunch so I stopped in at the First Strudel House of Pest, which was opened in 2007. It features a really unique Split Flap Display, similar to what you would have seen at an airport decades ago, and you can watch the staff make fresh strudels all day long. I had a savory strudel, and a coffee. If you end up visiting here make sure to checkout the bathroom; it’s pretty neat!

After lunch I walked by the Dohány Street Synagogue and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial. The price for the synagogue was more than I would have liked to pay, so I didn’t go inside.

The Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial was designed by Imre Varga in 1991. It was paid for by the late American actor Tony Curtis for his Hungarian-born father Emanuel Schwartz. The memorial stands over the mass graves of those murdered by the Nazis between 1944 and 1945. The names of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims are inscribed on the metal leaves.

The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe, with a capacity for over 3000 people. Designed by architect Ludwig Förster, it was built between 1854 and 1859 in a Moorish Revival architecture style. The building suffered extensive damage during World War 2 bombings and was not repaired until 1998. The restoration took 7 years! I forgot to take a daytime photo, however here’s a night time photo I took on my first night.

The final, and what I think was the best stop of the day, was the Aviation Cultural Center Museum (Aeropark), located near the airport. I took the express bus 100E back to the airport, and walked to the museum. Fortunately there was nobody else at the museum so I received a private tour from a wonderful man named Zainko Geza. He worked with Malev Hungarian Airlines for 47 years as an aircraft mechanic. If you like old soviet era aircraft I highly recommend checking out his website. The museum featured a bunch of old Soviet era aircraft including Lisunov Li-2, Ilyushin Il-14T, a pair of Ilyushin Il-18V’s, Tupolev Tu-134, Tupolev Tu-154B-2 (which resembles a Boeing 727), a pair of Yakovlev Yak-40E’s, Antonov An-2M, Mil Mi-2, Antonov An-2R, and a Let L-410 Turbolet.

My personal favorite was the Tupolev Tu-154, which closely resembles that of a Boeing 727, however looks much beefier. The plane was produced between 1968 and 2013, and 1026 were made. This plane was the workhorse of many Soviet era airlines from the late 1960’s until the mid-2000’s. The aircraft was capable of cruising at 850 kph for 5300 kilometres, and even had the unique capability of operating from unpaved and gravel airfields, hence the 12 main wheels, as opposed to Boeing’s 4 main wheels on their 727.

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