Churches

Final Reflections on Dubrovnik

Hello from Munich! Land of glockenspiels, ratskellars, lederhosen and haufbrau houses. We’ve closed the door on Dubrovnik and we’re ready to explore this German city, but before all that, we thought just one more post on our last beautiful stop was needed. Partially because we’ve gotten a handful of e-mails and comments asking about Dubrovnik and partially because we took so many quality pictures, many of them are worth passing along.

Between daily stops at our new favorite bar and long dinners, we certainly tried to make the most of our time in Dubrovnik. We managed to make our way over to Fort Lovrijenac situated just across from the more well-known Old City. The 16th century fort was mostly empty of other visitors (the half-awake guard told us many are deterred by the steps needed to climb up to the fort) so the four of us had the place to ourselves along with a small handful other intrepid explorers. Much like Old City, the Fort was in immaculate shape and you’re encouraged to walk all over it. In fact, we decided that the fort rivaled the city wall tour in views, appeal and general awesomeness. It helped our budget that our ticket for the wall tour also let us into the fort. Each corner, much like Dubrovnik as a whole, brought another angle with another tremendous view. Running around, we felt like protectors of the city, scanning the ocean for any possible enemy ships. All we found was a small, party sailboat; not really worth breaking out the hot oil and cannons.

Later in the day, we took the Dubrovnik Cable Car,or funicular if you’re feeling European and fancy, to the top of Mt. Srd. The ride was only about three and a half minutes long, but the reward at the top was the ability to feel like you’re above it all. As a bonus, we were there just as the sun set over the city and the sea. It was a magical, serene and perhaps even spiritual moment. Not every day you get a sunset like that and one of the best I’ve seen on the trip. Even cooler when you have some friends to share it with.

We ran into a little bit of rain along the way, but somehow it only made the city look better. I know we’re wearing our love for Dubrovnik on our sleeve, but it was a little bit of a thrill every time we crossed the gates back into Old City. At one point, John proclaimed his disbelief at what a white, glimmering city Dubrovnik is. And Jack said we had unlimited, Mediterranean bliss.  After three days, we were still seeing new parts of the city. We suggest you book your flights down to this part of the world now. Actually, on second thought…don’t. We kind of want to keep this gem just to ourselves.

-Phil

Feel free to click to enlarge any of the pictures to get the full effect…

Church for Old City

Check out Dubrovnik In Detail!

Another amazing shot of Dubrovnik

High above it all

What a way to end a day

Categories: Churches, City Visits, Croatia, Eastern Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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!

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

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