Budapest Trivia: The Bridge That Never Was

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If Buda and Pest were pieces of fabric, its bridges would be giant iron stitches that hold the two pieces together. Like London and Paris, San Francisco and Florence, Budapest is famous for its bridges. When visiting the capital, one of the first things you learn is the names of the big four: Margit Bridge, Erzsébet, Szabadság (Liberty) and the Lánchíd (or Chain Bridge). But had a man named János Ruppenthal gotten his way, there’d be five on that list. Continue reading

Budapest’s National Gallop!

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When I was a kid, I will never forget sitting in front of the TV, watching Charlton Heston’s chariot tear around the track in Ben Hur. I wished I could have been there. Well, now I can!  The mighty Chariot Race is only one of the adrenaline-pumping events to take place at Budapest’s annual National Gallop, a rather new Hungarian invention. On September 19, Heroes’ Square will be transformed into a spectacular racetrack covered with over 6,000 square meters of sand. Young jockeys, modern day Hussars on horseback, will race à la Charlton Heston in front of grandstands of cheering crowds, competing for the 21.5-million-forint cash prize, a glittering sword, and national glory.  Continue reading

A Weekend in Budapest!

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Sometimes think I should change my name to Rick Steves. I’ve become a travel agent. All year long, I hear from people around the globe who will be traveling to Budapest. They ask me what they should do and see and eat. I’m happy to help. Today, I’m going to share my top 10…scratch that…13 ways (I couldn’t whittle this list down to only ten!) to discover the Pearl of the Danube. If you live in Hungary, or have been to Budapest, what would you add to the list? Continue reading

1,001 Back to School Nights

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In the next couple of weeks, millions of parents around the world will walk into their children’s classrooms for Back to School Night, sit in their kids’ seats, and open the desks that their children cleaned earlier that day. What parents don’t realize is that just hours before the Back to School Night presentation, the teachers were frantically cleaning their desks, too. Continue reading

Budapest’s First Rubber Duckie Race!

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Remember that old song that Ernie sang on Sesame Street called “Rubbie Duckie”? Believe it or not, back in the early 70s, it sold over a million copies! Well, I wonder if I can find it in Hungarian. Next week, I’ll need it! On August 31, thousands of yellow bathroom toys will race down the Danube, starting at Margit Bridge, in Budapest’s first ever Rubber Duck Race. I can’t wait to see that!  Continue reading

Europeanness

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Europeanness. I like the word. The dictionary defines it as the quality or characteristic of being European, but I don’t think that captures the meaning at all. Europeanness is one of those words like love and beauty and home that can not be defined in a single sentence. It’s so many things. Europeanness is bicycle baskets and faded shutters, wobbly coat racks and storks’ nests atop telepone poles. Europeanness is stone fences, bistro tables, weathered window frames, and garden gates tumbling with morning glory. Europeanness is noon church bells, musty basements, gazing at stained glass windows, and merchants with dried-apple faces selling hand-picked vegetables at early morning markets. Europeanness is the smell of burning leaves in autumn, swirling iron balconies, waiting on a country road behind a lazy horse and carriage, and June cornstalks so shiny in the afternoon sunlight that they look like they’ve been varnished. Continue reading

A Gift for My Readers: My Book is FREE on Kindle Today!

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Dear Readers, this post is not about Budapest, but it is about something very dear to my heart. Today, my new book The Charms of Miss O’Hara: Tales of Gone With the Wind & the Golden Age of Hollywood from Scarlett’s Little Sister, a biography of MGM starlet Ann Rutherford, is free on Kindle! Why in the world would I give the book away for free? you may ask. I had one goal in writing this memoir — to let the world know about the most incredible woman I have ever known. Miss Rutherford and I became friends in the last years of her life, during which she shared her amazing history with me. I couldn’t let her stories die — hence the book. If you love classic Hollywood, the Golden Age of film, or Gone With the Wind, I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Charms of Miss O’Hara. To learn more about the book and read early reviews, click here. Enjoy and Happy Reading! Continue reading

The Lotz — My Favorite Sunday Sit!

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I like places with surprises: hidden courtyards, secret gardens, unexpected details. There’s one place in Budapest that always surprises those who see it the first time. It’s the Lotz Hall, or Lotz Terem, on 39 Andrássy ut. Entering the building, you’ll find nothing special, just a bookstore. But take a ride on the escalator and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Continue reading

Wednesday Walk — The Liberation Monument

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Budapest is a city of statues, and one of my favorites is the Liberation Monument, known as Felszabadulási Emlékmu. (Try saying that five times fast!) Standing 14 meters high atop Gellért Hill with her hands stretched upwards, she looks like she’s about to jump off the high dive into the Danube. The monument, designed by Hungarian sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi Stróbl, was originally intended to honor the memory of a Hungarian regent’s son who disappeared on the eastern front. Continue reading

Have I Taught Them?

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The school year has come to an end. I know my students will forget how to multiply over the summer, and next year’s teacher will show them how to do it all over again. I know my third graders will forget the difference between an adverb and an adjective, and how to spell spaghetti. But have I taught them that it is better to tell me that they did not do their homework last night than to lie? Have I taught them that it is better to include someone in a four square game than to tell him he cannot play? Continue reading