On the 20th of August, we celebrated “Szent István ünnepe” or St. Stephan’s day. Otherwise known as the Hungarian national day (think 4th of July, minus the barbecuing and dressing in all of those patriotic colors). In Hungary there are actually three national holidays: March 15th- Memorial day of the 1848 Revolution (independence from the Austrian Empire), August 20th- St. Stephan’s Day- Honoring St. Stephan, Hungary’s first king and also the Foundation of Hungary, and lastly October 23rd- Memorial day of the 1956 Revolution (departure of Soviet troops from Hungary/ free elections).
I can’t say it for myself, as I have only been in Hungary for about 2 months now, but I hear August 20th is the main national day. The day they really go all out in their Hungarian pride. In Budapest many museums were open free to the public throughout the day. And at night a firework display over the Danube river.
The day before August 20th, I moved into my new temporary apartment for the month. Shout out to my teammate and ex-exchange sister Vanda for helping me move all my bags, you’re the bomb! Luckily for me (and some friends), I have this amazing view of the Hungarian parliament building and skyline. Vanda and I thought it would be a great idea to watch the fireworks from my apartment instead of going up to Gellert Hill or down on the banks of the Danube to watch the show (where it would be overly crowded). We ran it past a few of our teammates who we were planning on spending the day with, and it was set.
We started off meeting at my apartment. I made American pancakes for everyone, my speciality. Then we headed off to the parliament building, which had free building viewing hours. We walked the short 30 minutes over the Margit bridge, in a light rain. Other than that the temperature was nice.
Click to enlarge, scroll over to see caption.
The line to get into the parliament was long- it wrapped around the whole side and front of the enormous building. We discovered that it was moving pretty quickly though. Turns out all you have to do is go though a small metal detector and your allotted permission to go inside. A breeze compared to getting into an American parliament building.
The viewing wasn’t much. Just of the royal crown which was kept inside a box in the parliament. That was it. Was it worth the 30 minute wait? Who can say. But from the small section we saw of the building, I was awed. It was absolutely extravagant with gold everywhere with accents of rich red and forest green. Much like the buildings exterior, which is a beige with the same red and green detailing if observed close enough.
Next, we took a short walk into Deák Ferenc tér (the center of town) to grab a bite to eat. As to be expected, no one could agree on what food to get, so we all split up. Petra and I went to Vapiano’s, an Italian fast-food restaurant. Thought it should be noted that I had spaghetti carbonara, absolutely delicious. After we were stuffed, we tried to meet up with the others at St. Stephan’s Basilica. They were holding an outdoor mass there, and proudly boasting St. Stephan’s hand in a glass case for all to see.
The mass attracted quite a crowd, so by the time Petra and I arrived, we were pretty far in the back. The others had a nice spot, and they were the ones who were truly interested to see St. Stephan’s mummified hand.
Eventually Petra and I got uninterested and she invited me back to her house. I met her mom and she is the loveliest person I know. She insisted I try this traditional Hungarian meal she just made, so even though I was full, I had to. If you know me, you know I am not one to turn down food. And then after I was offered ice cream. I’m helpless around food, I really am. Petra also had a huge piano in her room. I made her play it for me, and she is so good at it!
Eventually, we headed back towards my house and met up with the others again. We hung around my place watching videos on youtube and drinking wine until the fireworks started. Honestly, we had the best view in the city. We were able to watch fireworks being lit off on both sides of the parliament. It was a magical show and at the end, I think all of us foreigners felt a little bit more Hungarian.
It was a great day, I might even call it my best day here in Budapest so far. A great time with friends/teammates and celebrating Hungary!