Thanks to Board Member & Traveler, Diane Greenberg and our Staffer, Elayna Weisel for providing this travelogue for the AACI blog.
A short trip to Budapest, but packed with lots of memorable moments…Enjoy!
Early in the morning, 40 bleary-eyed members of the AACI travel group arrived in Budapest for a 4 – day intensive tour of this amazing city. This is the 2nd city in a specially designed series by AACI of the great cities of Europe. All tours are kosher and put an emphasis on both the general and Jewish history of these cities all in a warm English speaking group. Once safely on our bus, we were soon wide awake, listening to our Israeli and Hungarian guides discuss the history of the Jews in Budapest as they pointed out the sights. We stopped in Heroes Square, saw the elegant Andrassy Avenue, the Opera House and the House of Parliament. Despite spectacular development, Budapest has preserved its old charm and magic.
One of the highlights of our second day was a visit to the Dohany Synagogue, the 3rd largest in the world,
which in recent years has been renovated, after tremendous damage during World War II. Behind the Synagogue stands a metallic weeping willow tree with names of victims of the Holocaust on each branch, and at the side lay mass graves of Jews killed by Hungarians at the end of the war. Our group stood together to recite “Khal Harachamim” in memory of all of those killed.
Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise on the Danube River, accompanied by an amusing and informative audiotape and free drinks.
The third day gave us a glimpse of times under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when we visited Godollo to tour the second largest Baroque Palace in the world.
The afternoon was spent relaxing in the famous Gellert Thermal Baths. The evening concluded with a lively performance by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble.
Our final day included a bus excursion through the stunning countryside just outside Budapest, stopping at several villages along the Danube Bend. A very disturbing experience occurred in the village of Esztergom, once the home to 500 Jews who were deported and killed during WWII. As we approached the front of the Synagogue to read the plaque identifying the building as a former Synagogue (now used as a cultural center), we were confronted with the ugly face of modern anti-Semitism in the form of graffiti “F— the Jews” and a swastika painted and etched into the front wall. Click here to view the disturbing photos of anti-Semitic vandalism.
Several members of our group marched angrily into the building and articulated our disgust and dismay to a staff member of the cultural center. During our week in Budapest we had heard about and had seen signs of the hatred towards Jews during WWII, yet this repulsive action of someone who that very week had expressed this kind of hatred was devastating. The staff person joined us outside and as she expressed her anger and shame at this act of her fellow Hungarians and apologized and hugged us, many of us were moved to tears.
We cannot end without a few words about the delicious food we enjoyed throughout the tour. From the private buffet breakfasts in the hotel, to the boxed lunches we received each day on the road (eaten in a beautiful park), to the glatt kosher, Hungarian style four-course dinners, to a special treat of cappuccino and apple strudel, we were well fed and satiated.
Future AACI tours include Russia in June and July, 4 Night Kosher Cruise in August, Italy in September, China in October and Southern Spain in November. For complete information call 02-566-1181 or check out our website www.aaci.org.il (straight to travel information http://www.aaci.org.il/articlenav.php?id=43)