I’ve just returned from a wonderful conference in Vienna of European and African (plus one Malaysian) Design-Expert® software users. Afterwards I spent the weekend in Budapest. First off I must marvel at the chances of a magnificent river such as the Danube just happening to wind its way through these two great cities, as well as Bratislava and Belgrade—all four being capitals. Surely this fortuitous routing of the waterway evidences a higher power. ; )
My knowledge of the histories of these regions in Austria and Hungary increased many-fold, but of course I must acknowledge starting with a very low denominator on this ratio. The tour of the private quarters of the Habsburg Emperors went far too much into the sad story of Sissi—the beautiful Empress who lived like a beautiful bird in a gilded cage and ultimately died at the hands of an anarchist run amok (he actually meant to kill another royal, but settled for her). See the sordid details here.
The history of Budapest was laid out nicely in a display I stumbled across in the Royal Palace on Castle Hill. Via a series of a dozen or so placards with associated artifacts, this stroll through time told a story of repeated destruction. It starts with the mid 13th century construction of a walled town to fend off the Mongol hordes. Then in another hundred years it continues with the building of a keep by Prince Istvan the Angry (a royal pain—I am sure). After some further hundreds of years the Turks came in and the Turks came out. The story told at the church on the Hill is that their ammunition exploded and a statue of Virgin Mary burst out of the wall that they’d plastered over when converting it to a mosque. This catalyzed the successful end of the siege by Christian forces. Holy Mary! Coming to the 20th century things get even worse with the two world wars and the cold war, which of course resulted in various occupations by unwanted outsiders. But all is good now, I think, other than the armies of Americans and other tourists coming left and right on Viking longboats for four-day forays around the town flinging forints (the Hungarian currency) to the local shopkeepers and restaurateurs. It could be worse!