A Walk in Pest

My friend A. and I spent a day walking through the edge of the Pest section of Budapest, near the Danube river. (Budapest is actually two old cities, Buda and Pest, which were combined into one city in 1873.)

We began at the large old market hall which is two stories high plus an Aldi store installed in the basement.

The large old market hall is located at the edge of the river, just off one of the principal bridges. It’s filled with fresh food and items designed to appeal to tourists.

Those are peppers piled up beside the shopper.

Here, from another stand, a peck of peppers. The price is a bargain: about 40 U.S. cents for two and a quarter pounds.

From there we strolled through a popular tourist area, then on to the mercantile town center.

The splendid Cafe Gerbeaud, a Viennese style café and bakery serving Budapest since 1858.

Two little curious shoppers, tempted by something good.

When we stopped to visit the Basilica we were briefly entertained by a band of young musicians from Friedberg, Germany.

A lunch time concert from the visiting band with the facade of the Basilica behind them.

The basilica is richly decorated. It’s in the Greek cross shape, that is it has four arms of equal length, making an X shape. As with many (most?) of the public buildings in Budapest, it has a beautiful dome.

From there we walked on toward the Parliament building, which is very large and very richly “dressed,” much like a flamboyant French cathedral.

In the course of our walk we passed many people, many shops and stores and sidewalk cafés, many old buildings – some recently restored, some still in need of restoration.  I hope these pictures give you a bit of the sense of fascinating Budapest.

A tourist having his picture taken with a statue of Ronald Reagan.


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My long-time friend (whom I will call A), a native of Hungary, and her American husband (I’ll call him B) invited me to join them in Budapest recently. They have the apartment that A’s family has owned for 70 years. It’s located a short walk from the Danube in a very interesting and attractive neighborhood. While we were there the temperature passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit one day and 96 degrees another. We wandered around the city through the heat each day until this blogger could go no farther.

The delightful Parliament building, the Danube and one of the towers of the famous Chain Bridge.

Budapest is sometimes called the “Paris of the East.” I think, given the number of truly spectacular buildings, that it may be even more beautiful than Paris. Most of the famous buildings were constructed during the Austro-Hungarian empire when Vienna and Budapest served as joint capitals. A monumental palace stands on a hill overlooking both sides of the city, Buda and Pest. Two magnificent churches – one the cathedral on the Buda side of the river and the other a basilica on the Pest side – are crowning jewels. The parliament seems to be made of spun sugar. Three bridges with tall towers overhead cross the Danube just blocks apart. Parks abound, including on one an island in the middle of the river. The architecture, mostly late 19th and early 20th century, consists primarily of highly decorated office and apartment buildings of fewer than ten stories.

The castle glowing in the dark. Look closely to see a river cruise ship docked just under the palace. Many river cruises begin or end in Budapest, on the Danube.

Because there’s so much to see and photograph in Budapest I plan to write several posts and to share many photos to allow you to see more of this fascinating city, beginning with some of the best known places along the Danube.

Located near the palace at the top of the Castle Hill, the cathedral is graced by a very tall tower and a multi-color tile roof, much like the cathedral in Vienna.



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An 800 Year Old Lighthouse

Near the place where I am staying this summer in County Wexford, Ireland, is a small peninsula called “Hook Head.” Abandoned old homes and churches are found often along the narrow roads that lead to the end of the peninsula and Hook lighthouse. The lighthouse is the second oldest functioning light in the world. It was built around the year 1200 on the orders of William Marshall, a member of the English royal family whose name is connected often with the history of this region.

Here are a few of the many photos I’ve taken on the Hood peninsula. I hope they will tempt you to visit southeast Ireland.

The coastline of the peninsula is rugged, cut deeply. It’s a popular area for biking, hiking, and kayaking.

Just a mile or so before the end of the peninsula and the lighthouse is a tiny village comprised of the remnants of very old houses and some lovely new homes. The road is narrow and lined with flowers, some naturally occurring wild flowers and some planted by people whose homes are along this road.

This house is slowing being taken back by nature. It’s next to the house shown above and directly across the road from the church ruin in the next picture.

This church is likely the ruin of a very old monastery, known to have been created here ca. 500 AD. The Knights Templar were in this area in that era and are believed to have installed a monastery here. The site noted below provides a simplified history of this region that explains this in more detail.

A mile or two from the lighthouse is a tiny village called Slane which is the site of this medieval castle. It is not the only castle on the peninsula but it is the most complete.

Just in front of the castle in Slane is this small protected harbor.

Loftus Hall is a bit farther up the peninsula. It’s been abandoned for a long time. The current owners are slowly working on restoring it. Today the grounds are being used as hay fields. All over Ireland in July these huge rolls of hay are harvested and piled up on slow-moving tractors for removal to winter storage places. (Wish you’d seen the piles on the tractor wagon I saw yesterday!)


P.S.  Tintern Abbey and Colclough Gardens (which I wrote about here very recently) are also on the Hook Peninsula. In New Ross, the nearest large town, a project of depicting the history of this region and William Marshall in original tapestries has been ongoing for more than ten years. Read about it in this post I wrote last year:

This is a simplified but good site for learning about the history of this area.  Read more about this area here and here (this site has a video)

This is NOT a picture of your friendly photographer:

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Tintern Abbey Chapter 3: Colclough Walled Garden

In the early 1800s the Colcoough family (pronounced Coke-Lee), residents of Tintern Abbey for centuries, created a large walled garden about a kilometer away from their home. Little remained but the brick walls and 30 giant Sitka spruce trees which had been growing for a couple of hundred years. In 2010 the Hook Tourism Council began recovering the garden. Today a magnificent garden delights visitors throughout the year.

Led by professional horticulturalist Alan Ryan, a team comprised of staff and volunteers has made this 200-year-old garden spectacular. Divided by a brick wall, the front half of the garden has deep perennial borders on three sides.

Recently historical surveys uncovered footprints of diamond-shaped flower beds in the center of the space which have been restored and filled with red, yellow and blue annuals.

In 2016 I discovered this garden during a visit to the abbey in May. Although the weather was cool, many plants were large and blooming.

Apple trees and other fruit trees grow on or near the walls all around the garden. They were in bloom in May.

When I returned to the garden in early June this year I was really surprised by how advanced the plants were so early in Ireland’s cool summer. I asked what type of fertilizer was used.  Mr. Ryan explained that the garden is entirely organic, that the soil is very rich as a result of being abandoned for so long, and that now all dead plant material is left in the garden as mulch. He also pointed out that the brick garden walls soak up the heat of the sun and raise the temperature in the garden by several degrees.

By mid-July the garden was in full bloom, bursting with color.

This spectacular acanthus plant was a new discovery for me.

The garden is divided by a brick wall. The back half is a kitchen garden, as it was in the 19th century. A tall man made of wicker stands guard at the entrance. An enormous variety of edibles is grown here, ranging from apples to artichokes.

Everything flourishes in this garden.  Irish weather, famous for being damp and cool, irrigates the garden naturally.  Everything, including herbs, grows well here.

I try to return every week or two, watching the changes in Colclough Garden. It’s been a delightful learning experience.









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Tintern Abbey Chapter 2: A Springtime Walk in the Woods

Acres of woods surround Tintern Abbey. In 2016 my friend Bee and I discovered a walking trail that is one section of a long-distance walk in County Wexford, Ireland. The walk begins at this old stone bridge protected by a tower. We were there in May, when it seemed everything was in bloom and when the brook was rushing by. A mild aroma of garlic filled the air because the land was covered in blooming wild garlic. We were even welcomed by a fairy!

Our “fairy.” A young girl in white came running toward us just as we arrived. She was celebrating her first communion with her family by having a picnic in the woods.

We found an ancient “castle” as these common old stone tower-houses are called. This one has been extended by several rooms on the ground but it’s all a ruin now.

A fine path lined by blue and white flowers runs alongside a rushing stream.

Blue English bluebells bloom abundantly all over Ireland in late spring, and in this woods they are surrounded by the white flowers of wild garlic.

The woods are dense with the freshness of spring.

A walk here feeds all the senses: the newness of spring is a treat for the eyes, the aroma of the woods in spring for the nose, the sound of the stream rushing by, the touch of fresh green leaves and flowers, and the taste of a bit of wild garlic taken home for a salad.


This year I returned in early June to the place I love in County Wexford and to Tintern Abbey. I walked in the woods again and I discovered something entirely new to share with you.  That’s coming up in Part 3. I hope you’ll come back in a few days to see it.



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Tintern Abbey – Chapter 1

Ireland has a great many abbey ruins that date from the 12th and 13th centuries. At one time the monks living there were very wealthy, very pious, very close to Rome. When Henry the 8th dissolved the abbeys and persecuted the monks, the great estates and the monastery buildings were given to important Englishmen who had been loyal to the king. Tintern Abbey in County Wexford, Ireland, was one of the richest and largest of the abbeys. Today much of the original building survives.

You may have heard of Tintern Abbey because of the famous poem by William Wordsworth, and if so you may be confused because you think it’s in Wales. There are, in fact, two Tintern Abbeys. The Welsh abbey is older and larger and much better known.

A view of Tintern Abbey as it stands today, after much restoration work by County Wexford. The large window space filled by wood painted gray would be much nicer filled with glass.

There’s a very good history of this place on a site called Megalithic Ireland dot com. Because I think the creator of that site likes to share Ireland’s history liberally, I’m going to quote liberally from that site which tells the story of Ireland’s Tintern Abbey much better than I can.

“The first Cistercian abbey in Ireland was established at Mellifont in 1142, but it was not until the early part of the 13th century that the abbey at Tintern was founded. The Anglo-Norman Knight William Marshall, first Earl of Pembroke, was the patron of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire, Wales. On his return to Ireland, with a new title, Lord of Leinster, his ship ran into a storm. Marshall vowed to establish a monastery wherever he landed safely. After landing at Bannow Bay in Wexford he bequeathed 3,500 hectares of land for the foundation of a Cistercian abbey. The abbey was named after the one in Wales and also colonised by monks from there. To distinguish them from each other, the abbey in Wales was known as Tintern Major and the Irish one, Tintern de Voto-‘Tintern of the vow’.

“The abbey was built to the usual plan for Cistercian monasteries. The church was originally cruciform in shape with small chapels in the transepts for private prayer. What we see today are the central aisle of the nave, the crossing tower, the chancel and the Lady Chapel, which was part of the south transept. The rib-vaulted chapel was originally divided into three separate chapels by screen walls. All these structures date to the 13th century when most of the original buildings were replaced. Like most monasteries very little remains of the cloister or the domestic buildings. There is a corbel table on the the north and south walls of the chancel. This table features 18 grotesque head carvings, some of the heads that appear on the south side of the table are pictured below.

“Shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 the abbey and it’s lands were granted to Anthony Colclough, an officer in Henry VIII’s army. The Colclough family converted the tower into a family residence. One of the upper rooms was divided up using a heavy oak framework that was infilled with panels of wattle (Woven sticks)and daub (Mud). Oak panelling or wainscotting, popular in the 16th century, was also discovered during conservation work.”

At the abbey there’s a display of drawings that illustrate how the abbey changed over the centuries. This one shows what a grand home the Colclough family made of the abbey.

Tintern Abbey became a very grand home. Members of the  Colclough (prounced Coke-lee) family lived here until 1959. There are excellent photos of the abbey on the website being quoted here. The photos on this blog are mine.

There are two other good reasons to visit Tintern Abbey in Ireland. I’ll tell you about them in my next two posts.

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Porto: A City of Many Faces

One reason I love to travel in Europe is discovering the various cultures of each place. No two are really alike. There’s the sophistication of Paris, the multi-culturalism of London, the history of Rome — and the appreciation of its past shown in every city by the care and protection given to its old structures. Like many European cities I have visited, Porto Portugal displays its history on its streets — the centuries when the city was rich and and the ones that were not. Here’s a quick archaeological tour that displays Porto across many centuries.

I saw no visible signs of Roman Porto, nor did I read of any I might have missed seeing.  The romanesque cathedral, shown above, is said to be the oldest building in the city.  It was begun in the year 1110.

The tallest structure in the city is the Torre Clerigos. It’s attached to a church built ca. 1750. Visitors climb the 240 steps to the top for spectacular views — although not I! I did have a glass of wine on the terrace of the modern shopping mall seen at the bottom of this photo.

This rococo beauty is a church that proudly announces on the carving above the door that it was built in 1750.

In the mid-1700s artistic tile work became very popular in Portugal. The word for these tiles in Portuguese is “azulejo.” Usually blue and white, images are painted on each tile and put together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They are still seen on a great many building, both grand and humble, all over the city.

Shown here is the exterior of the block-long, 3-story market I wrote about a few days ago. It was built ca. 1850.

The San Bento train station, built in 1903, is considered by many to be the most beautiful station in Europe because its walls are covered in azulejo tiles. (This photo borrowed from packafork.com, a travel blog.)

In 1903 the famous Lello bookstore was created. Long a favorite of visitors to Porto, it has become a very famous site since it was featured in a Harry Potter movie. Now anyone wishing to see the interior (which is spectacular) must buy a ticket for €5.50 and join the line at the door.

Porto’s beautiful city hall is shown here. It is sited at the top of a blocks-long plaza which was brought into the 21st century a few years ago.

On either side of the plaza before the city hall grand office buildings and banks line the way. This picture shows only a one end of one side of these buildings. These buildings and the city hall were built in the 1920s.

In the latter years of the 20th century Porto began to grow and to build new housing and business buildings. This view from the steps of the Cathedral is of the south side of the Douro River.


As the new millennium began, Porto celebrated the opening of the symphony hall named Casa da Musica. New age, new look. (This photo from VisitPortgal.com)

This building with the sun shining on it caught my eye as I walked out of the marketplace. It appears to be an old department store. I felt sad that it was abandoned. Later I walked on the back side of this block and discovered it was all in the process of being demolished.

Porto remains filled with old, really old, homes. I have read that in the recent past the population of the old city has dropped by 100,000 people as young families move to newer homes on the edges of the city. I saw so many abandoned homes but I also saw a great many that appear to have been updated. I hope many of the beautiful old homes will survive for another hundred years.

The “Ribeira” section of the city along the waterfront has many old apartment homes, as it has had for centuries.











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