Mummified Hand of a Saint and Hot Baths in Budapest!

With one last day in Budapest, Brooke and I hit a couple of remaining “can’t misses” that were still on our list. One of those was a visit to the nearby St. Stephen’s Basilica. The Roman Catholic church is a prominent feature of the Budapest skyline and just around the corner from our hotel. It’s true, we’ve seen a bunch of churches so far throughout Europe. It’s almost hard not to; they are often the most stunning, old buildings in town and encourage visitors to swing by for free. Each of these cathedrals really has been worth checking out so far. In other words, we’re pacing ourselves with visits and we’re not nauseatingly tired of them yet.  St. Stephen’s stood out because it has one of the larger, more gilded domed interiors we’ve seen. The nave and transepts (oh, that’s right) are loaded with statues, paintings and lots of natural light. The church offered more of a tranquil, relaxing vibe than some of the darker Russian Orthodox complexes. We decided to spend a few forint on a 302 step climb up spiral staircases to the outside walkway that circles the dome. Our reward for the walk up? One of the best views of the city from what has to be the highest points on the Pest side. We walked a narrow platform around the edge of the dome which is actually much higher than the church itself; the dome is empty inside with the actual roof of the church peeking out a bit below. It was the perfect place to break out the camera and just enjoy this magnificent moment. And, yeah, we took the elevator back down.

Brooke and Phil On top of Budapest!

St. Stephen's Right Hand.All of that was really fantastic, but that’s not what made our visit to St. Stephen’s remarkable. Yesterday, if you had asked us about the strangest thing we’ve seen on the trip, it would have to be the enshrined, dead body of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. But after today, I think we have a strong contender to take that title: the mummified right hand of St. Stephen. Stephen, who died over a thousand years ago in 1038, was the first king of Hungary and, as you might imagine, kind of a big deal around Budapest. So, clearly, what better way to honor him than to display his hand in a ridiculously ornate, jewel encrusted carrying case located in a chapel that’s part of the basilica. To make things more interesting, you have to pay a church worker a couple of bucks to turn on the light in the case so that visitors can get a better look. Yup, that’s a shriveled, decomposing old hand and it is a prized possession of Hungary. We’re told that this kind of thing (finger of a nun, toe of a priest) can be found from time to time in European churches. Wow.

Many people told us that a trip to Hungary is not complete without a visit to the famous hot baths fueled by local hot springs. Since we’re not ones to argue with the masses, we made an evening trip out to the Szechenyi Baths. A quick metro ride on Europe’s older underground Subway system got us out there quickly. It was easy to follow the small crowd to the sprawling complex. These particular baths have been popular with locals and tourists for about a hundred years. The collection of yellow buildings at Szechenyi is, not surprisingly, just as lovely as anything else in Budapest. The main outdoor heated pool was closed, but there was a perfect spot waiting for us at one of the inside pools. Sitting around the edge of the shallow pool with water around a hot 102 degrees Fahrenheit, I found the time in the water relaxing, inspiring, reflective and fun. We had a similar experience in Rotorua, New Zealand. I’m not so sure about the supposed healing powers of the water, but nothing beats a good soak. We ended the night with a dinner at a local pub for British & American ex-pats and one, final lovely and romantic walk along the Danube and down the Chain Bridge. Just…perfect.

The Royal Palace on the “Buda” side at night. Man, I can’t believe my camera captured this. What a photogenic city!

So, as we pack our bags and snag some of the fine toiletries from the hotel bathroom, we put beautiful Budapest in our rear view mirror. Our whirlwind tour of Europe continues! We can place thumbtacks on our imaginary map of locales we’ve visited since early September: Denmark, sundry day-stops at four Baltic capitals, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and now Hungary. Where does the biggest adventure yet go from here? Our next stops include Croatia (Dubrovnik and Zagreb), Germany (Munich) and ten days in Scotland and England. Since it’s worked quite well for us so far, we’re traveling with only a loose outline and general idea of what we might want to do. Plan or not plan, our gut and experience tell us that it’s probably going to be pretty great. We welcome and encourage any suggestions, input or comments on what we should do in these place! Let us know! For now, we’re going to hop on a six hour train ride leaving beautiful Budapest behind and heading down to Croatia. New passport stamps await.

-Phil

Some of the amazing detail inside of Saint Stephen’s. We found these two statues particularly stunning.

Our farewell photos from Budapest!

The top of the dome at St. Stephen’s that we walked around! Look closely and you can see the walkway!

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Categories: At Night, Churches, City Visits, Diversions, Eastern Europe, Europe, Exploring, Hungary, Relaxing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Mummified Hand of a Saint and Hot Baths in Budapest!

  1. Thank you, we are glad you enjoyed Szechenyi Baths!

    • The baths were really great and should be a “must stop” on anyone’s itinerary! Next time were in Budapest, we’ll visit when ALL baths are open so that we can get the full effect. Also, someone on your staff said that the best time to visit is in February- apparently cold winter air mixed with hot outdoor baths is an unbelievable experience! Finally, those wristwatch-locker-key dodads are a very cool piece of technology for your guests to use. Great stuff all around!

  2. Hi Phil, I wonder why you were advised to visit Budapest in Feb, when there ae not so many things going on.
    I would rather advise mid September, when the crowds of tourists are more or less gone, there are lots of good things to eat and drink (ripe, full, fresh) still lots of sunshine, but not heat waves, and there are good festivals (some of the best gastro festivals -wine, chocolate, etc. – in the Buda Castle)
    Christmas is also popular: http://budapestchristmas.com/ and beautiful. Getting mulled wine and a nice vibe from the Xmas markets AND enjoying the warm pools outside at Szechenyi are unforgettable. February is somehow less spectacular I’m afraid.
    Actually the baths are open even on national holidays, like the upcoming Oct 23, or Nov 1, or Christmas.
    Thank you for the nice words!

    • Well if you could afford it, obusivoly flying would be best because it is the safest method of travel, plus all of the bags arrive on time. If not, then consider train travel but it might not be so comfortable if you have so much luggage. Trains can be a pain, and since you are going long distance, you might consider what might happen on a train.One trick I liked doing was, if i knew what hotel or place I was going to be staying at, I would actually put all of my clothes and items into a box and send it to the location. That way, all of my valuables stay with me and when I arrived, the package would be waiting for me there. Furthermore, you can be assured it will get there, but if it doesn’t, you can have insurance and purchase some new clothes. That way I saved a lot of money when I traveled since I didn’t want to pay the horrible fees of traveling with such a big bag. Good luck.

  3. I’ve had many long weekends in Budapest. If you’re only tknhniig food, sightseeing and taxi fares then 50-60€ per person should be more than enough. I’m speaking from experience, both when staying at hotels or at a friend’s place. Even that may be too much. Also, I’m talking average restaurants, cake shops and sightseeing. It is cheap on the whole. We never had any restrictions, but since we also did some shopping, this is the most accurate figure I could come up with.Have fun:)

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