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Budapest, Prague and a mother-daughter bond


Life at just about any age gets hectic. Our schedules seem to get busier by the minute, and often our relationships with our children take a backseat. My adult children have careers, spouses, children, and dozens of weekly commitments. Yes, I (as the grandmother) am called upon to babysit and attend the grandkids’ many activities, but often this leads to bonding with the munchkins more than my own offspring. I’ve read tips on how to bond with adult children: learn a new skill together, volunteer together, start a garden together; but these all seem to shout out for more time than they have in their busy lives. And these activities might not be their favorite things to do. Instead, why not capture children for a while, one on one, and take them to a phenomenal place? I promise that you will be busy exploring the sites and, even better, coming to adore your very own offspring. A perfect place for this recipe is Central Europe, specifically Budapest and Prague.

First of all, I convinced my son-in-law that he was up to the task of corralling his and my daughter’s 8 and 3 year old sons for twelve days all by himself. It didn’t hurt that he often enjoys fishing trips with his dad and brothers so my daughter was due her turn. And it didn’t hurt that I mentioned that it’d give him an opportunity to accomplish a few “boy things” without any female interference, such as building a fish pond in their yard. After all, mom might have nixed the plans if she had been home. Plus, emails and phone calls daily soothed away the boys’ anxieties, or at least those of their mom. So, in mid-May we flew Los Angeles to Budapest to begin our mother-daughter sojourn.

We chose to stay in Budapest at The Parliament Penthouse. It is a small b & b with a beautiful view of the Parliament, river, castle and city from the rooftop. The room was a bit on the small size but clean and comfy. They have a Jacuzzi on the rooftop, but keep the water too cool to welcome any tired ol’ traveler. The tram stopped in front of the b & b every few minutes, and it was only a few more minutes into the center of the city. If we did our trip again, we probably would opt to stay at an Airbnb as many are available in the downtown area, and fellow travelers we met raved about their ample selections.

I had been to Budapest many years before, during its Communism era. It amazed me to see now this beautiful city, alive with spunk and charm. It was as if its austerity had fallen by the way side and it had come into its own, definitely a city of splendor. To a mother, this trait fits well a precious adult daughter. All children are bound to weather some bumps and headaches of growing up. Every so often our children might think that their plight is dismal. Little do they realize, perhaps similarly to the history of Budapest, that they are developing into incredible beauty. When a daughter evolves into a strong and beautiful adult, it is a blessing to behold. We toured the castle area with Discover Budapest, a tour group that specializes in small tours led by expert guides. We had only four in our group that morning, and we dashed in and out of ruins, chapels and coffee shops as we learned about life of centuries ago in the castle area. That evening we enjoyed an hour boat ride on The Danube Legend.
Lights illuminated the castle, hills, and monuments. The river glowed in beauty, as did its surroundings. And so did my daughter. To this proud ol’ mom, my daughter seemed right at home. I looked in awe at all, basking in happiness in this thing we call “motherhood.” (More information can be found at http://discoverbudapest.com)

Not only are sights beautiful in Budapest, but sounds of the city are too. Barkers in the market call out to show off their goods, especially their sausage, goulash and hand embroidered tablecloths. The tram and metro jiggle across town, making it a snap for anyone to traverse from one area to the next. We enjoyed an exquisite concert at St. Stephen’s Basilica, known for its expert acoustics. The soprano’s “Ave Maria” came alive in power and humility as I have never heard before. At our tour of the Parliament, a hushed whisper emanated all, as tourists stood amazed at the structure’s grandeur. (One tip: you will probably see on tour companies’ websites that tickets are not available for quite a few weeks. Don’t let this stop your attendance. Just go to the Parliament office in the morning and secure tickets for that day. The tickets will probably be for a few hours or so later, but it’s very easy to do something else and then return at your scheduled slot for the one hour tour. More information can be found at www.parliamentobudapest.com) City sounds, clomping of our shoes as we walked and walked, and traffic cues formed a delightful background to the non-stop jabber of mother and daughter. Best of all for me was hearing my daughter’s impression of her rather strenuous hike to Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill. I had stayed in the city center to visit the Jewish Quarter. My daughter loved her solo adventure that afternoon, raving about the view of the Danube and on to the Pest side. Her excited tale about the hike reminded me of when she was a child, coming home from school with news about a math problem she conquered or a friend getting a puppy. It always made me want to learn more from her, and now I was transposed to the same mode. I discovered that Liberty Statue was first erected in 1947 in remembrance of what was then referred to as the Soviet liberation of Hungary during World War II, which ended the occupation by Nazi Germany. When first constructed, the monument’s inscription read, “To the memory of the liberating Soviet heroes erected by the grateful Hungarian people in 1945.” Over the following years, public sentiment toward the Soviets decreased to the point of revolution. After the 1989 transition from communist rule to democracy, the inscription was modified to read, “To the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.” Great fun it is to learn from one’s child, no matter her age or location. And travelling is the perfect scenario for this continual education.

Taste and smell came to the forefront with our Tasting Table Budapest Tour. We gathered in front of the Fat Policeman statue and were soon off with our group to put on a few pounds ourselves. Sausages, spices, goulash, soups, breads, and meats let us know that we were in a country of heartiness. My daughter and I winked at each other, confiding that a hotdog is truly just a hotdog, but the soups and breads were good, and they create a rose design gelato just across from St. Stephen’s Basilica that could compete with any of Italy’s. It’s fun to realize that our taste buds are quite similar. This affinity adds nicely to our bonding. (More information can be found at https://secretfoodtours.com)

A spa visit with a daughter is always a treat, but Budapest’s spas are simply out of this world. My daughter splurged and treated us to Szechenyi Spa. It sits by Heroes’ Park, easy to reach via the metro. It houses 18 pools, ranging in size and temperature. If this isn’t enough, there are also steam and saunas to enjoy. Most of the outdoor pools are noisy with bachelor and bachelorette party goers parading around in costumes and merriment. We exploded in laughter at many of their costumes to commemorate the end of single status. In contrast, the massages were perfect, set away from the noise and crowds. All cares melted away as we ended our stay in Budapest and left the following morning via train for Prague. (More information can be found at szechenyispabaths.com)

We settled quickly into our hotel: Hotel Elite. We loved our courtyard room and scrumptious breakfasts. A tram was only half a block away, and walking to the Castle, Charles Bridge or Wencesias Square proved a perfect start the day. (More information can be found at http://www.hotel-elite.cz/ )Tours in Prague are easy to secure. We used Premiant for visiting the castle and Kutna Hora, and enjoyed the Free Walking Tour of the City with its excellent guide for an informative city stroll. The love my daughter and I felt for each other in Budapest continued to shine in Prague. The weather was a bit cold and rainy, but my daughter was completely up for role playing in our Night Watchman Tour. We met our guide and a few others at the Powder Keg Bridge. Our guide was dressed as the night watchman, ready to share his chores with us as we walked through Prague of the 17th Century. We followed the track of noblemen, common people, and colorful figures that made history, learning about wars and plagues shaking up the city. I was a bit tired and more than a speck wet, but my daughter engulfed every morsel of this tour, loving David’s, our guide’s, passion and reenactment of history. A mom could not be any more proud of her than I was. Her love for learning and embracing a new adventure spread to all in our group and I readily exclaimed to all, “Yep, she’s my daughter!” (More information can be found at www.nightwatchman.net

Stretching beyond one’s comfort level is bound to increase one’s bond with the “co stretcher.” This my daughter and I did with our day trip to Kutna Hora. There is a small chapel located in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic. It looks like an average old medieval gothic church. But once you enter the Sedlec Ossuary, you soon realize why it is one of the most amazing and unique churches in the world. More than 40,000 human skeletons decorate this church! No, you can’t swing on the big chandelier of bones that lies in the center; but you can count its bones and realize that it contains at least one of every human bone. Another impressive artwork is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenberg family made, of course, of human bones. My daughter and I exchanged enough glances to last a lifetime and were left pretty speechless by this experience, but definitely we will never forget The Bone Church.

The Bone Church

We furthered our experience by learning more about the Bone Church. How did all these bones end up in this small chapel? We learned that in 1278 the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. When the abbot returned, he brought a jar of soil from the Golgotha, known as “the Holy Soil.” Soon people from all over desired to be buried in Sedlec, thus the cemetery had to be expanded. In the 15th century a Gothic church was built near the cemetery and its basement was used as an ossuary. The bones stayed there for centuries until 1870 when a woodcarver was appointed to place the bones in order. Oh, what fun he must have had with his heaps and heaps of skeletons. And, my daughter and I couldn’t quite decide if their remains were exactly where the deceased wanted them to be or if “Rest in Peace” will never be fulfilled – maybe a blend of both. Kutna Hora has another WOW factor to visit: Saint Barbara’s Cathedral. It is an enormous and incredible gothic cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage Site. This church is a remarkable blend of secular and religious observance. Construction began in 1388, but because work on the church was interrupted many times, it was not completed until 1905. Medieval frescoes depicting Kutna Hora’s medieval silver miners sit next to religious themes of stained glass. Next to the Church lies a small building, more like a stone cottage, with acoustics that make every sound echo for seconds upon seconds. Enter and sing a song or two for an unforgettable experience, especially if it’s a duet shared with a loved one.

the bone church

We had visited Prague’s Castle grounds on a city tour and decided to return with Premiant to tour the inside chapels. The splendor is hard to describe: such wealth, color, size, history and glory. Our tour of four people was expertly guided. Prague Castle holds the Guinness world record for the largest castle complex in the world. Its buildings once housed kings, holy Roman emperors, and since 1918, Czech presidents. The interiors hold a variety of architectural styles, including Renaissance, Baroque, and Roman as well as the Gothic masterpiece of St. Vitus Cathedral. We thrilled at the Royal Palace and Vladislav Hall to the Roman Basilica of St. George. Panoramic views of the Prague skyline from multiple locations enhance the setting, winding down to Golden Lane and a visit to the former home of Franz Kafka. Definitely, it would be amiss not to tour these interiors. I couldn’t help but gaze upon my daughter as we toured and, in turn, realize how much there is for me to keep on learning and appreciating about her. I might be just a wee bit biased, but I think her presence enhanced the beauty of the castle. (More information can be found at https://www.premiant.cz/eng/)

Time to whoop and holler: mother-daughter bonding is, after all, about having fun. Swordsmen, dancers, fakir with fire, and live historical music enhanced our medieval feast at Kroma Brabant, Stredoveka krcma, located a few block down the hill from the castle at Thunovska 15. A dozen or so businessmen from Romania laughed, hollered, and danced with us in-between our devouring delicious steak dinners. At one point we all began to dance outside in the small avenue, but the management soon corralled us back inside, no doubt to preserve the sanity of the neighbors. (More information can be found at www.krcmabrabant.cz) My daughter and I appreciated the raucous evening and the break from somewhat “serious sightseeing.”

I am not claiming that I grew to love my daughter more from our twelve days together in Budapest and Prague. After all, I loved her with all my heart and soul from the moment she took her first breath—or probably more truthfully, from the moment I knew of her conception. However, our bonding to our adult children is something that takes time, rather it be to rekindle or simply keep aflame. Others might accomplish this by volunteering together, cooking together, gardening together, or crafting together. These activities really do not excite me or, for that matter, my daughter. But taking a trip, learning and laughing as we do, makes us know that we are pretty special to one another, that truly there is a bond lovingly labeled as “Mother-Daughter.”

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