I headed again to Hungary this weekend to visit Nora and her family. Lily (Nora's sister) was graduating, so I went to her graduation party on Thursday night, which was fun. There were a lot of people there and many did not speak English. However, some spoke German so I was able to talk to them for a bit which was kind of cool! One girl probably about my age spoke just a little German and English, so we just sort of yelled words at each other, which we both found rather hilarious. On Friday, it was May 1 which is a holiday here so we went to a couple of the festivals in Budapest which were interesting. They were incredibly crowded, but they seemed to sell everything! There were also some rides and things but we just looked. I saw some baby ducks which were quite cute.
We then went to the Jewish synagogue, which is called the Dohány Street Synagogue. It's the second biggest synagogue in the world, second only to the one in New York. On Sunday, I went inside and it was amazing!! It really is gigantic. It was designed by Christian architects, so it looks like a cathedral in design but is obviously a Jewish Synagogue when looking at the decorations. I learned that it survived WWII because it was inside the walls of the Ghetto in Budapest, so the Allies didn't bomb it. The Nazi's didn't bomb it either because the Gestapo was stationed inside the synagogue. As a result, very little damage was done to it during the war. I also learned that 600,000 out of the 800,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, even though the deportation didn't start until 1944! But that number means that out of every ten people killed in the Holocaust, 1 was Hungarian. Our guide said that 25% of the people killed at Auschwitz were Hungarian. which was quite horrible to learn. There's even a mass grave in the gardens of the synagogue because they had to bury those that died in the ghetto (about 3,000 I think) somewhere but the Jewish cemetery was outside the ghetto walls. So they buried them in the gardens, which was against anything they would have done in normal circumstances. There's also a memorial garden that has the names of people who saved Jews during the War. Their name's were on the wall if they saved anyone. If they saved 1 person they were in the wall next to someone who had saved thousands. It was quite the wake up call to see all of that in person.
In happier news, On Saturday we went into the countryside of Hungary. We drove through a town called St. Andrew (except its in Hungarian so Szentendre) through the countryside to a town called Visegrad. We went up to the castle there which had an amazing view! It was of the Danube and the bends with hills and trees. The castle was very cool too and quite old. There was also a lizard there. Then we got some soup in the town. Then we drove to Esztergom, a town on the Danube across the river from Slovakia with a gigantic and very beautiful cathedral. We went inside the Cathedral which was great (see pictures) THEN we drove across the river into Slovakia to see the cathedral as it was meant to be seen (from the river). So I have now officially been to Slovakia for a full 15 minutes. We then headed back to Budapest, stopping at the weird architecture at the Catholic University (a tilted dome)...we had dinner that night and went to bed relatively early. Oh and on Friday night we watched Twilight. Which is still cheesy. But that's ok.
Sunday after visiting the synagogue I took the train back to Vienna. Good heavens it was FULL! I asked a girl in the hallway if it was always that full and she said that she'd never seen a train that packed before It about 30 people in the hallway at LEAST. Luckily I reserved my seat!! I ended up in a compartment with 5 guys from Austria, who I think heard me speak English with one of the girls in the hall and didn't realize I also spoke German. That meant I could understand them when they were speaking about the girls butts and how hot the women were who walked by our compartment. It was rather uncomfortable slash hilarious. I watched The Devil Wears Prada on the way back, along with Bend it Like Beckham. In other news, my new German teacher said to me today, "You speak perfect German." That's all.
Pictures of Hungary: http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a353/LaurenHillard/Hungary/