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No ‘i’ in Parlament

A long threatening came at last. For five years now, I’ve been walking by the line of tourists queuing up for a tour of the Parlament Building and each time I’ve made a mental note to self to do it. One day. Needless to say, I never got around to making the required reservation and left it to the inimitable MI to surprise me one Friday.

I’d heard from SJ that the place was amazing and even though I know this particular North American not to be given to wanton bouts of exaggeration, I wasn’t at all prepared for the sheer grandeur of the place. We were deluged with the facts and figures that these types of tours depend on for their sustenance. The only one that stuck in my brain (and is probably somewhat indicative of the type of brain my head houses) is that this particular chandelier has 205 lightbulbs and to change one, technicans have to enter from the outside through the roof.

Constructed between 1884 and 1904, the building was designed in mock Gothic style has has many similarities to the Palace of Westminster, in London . It’s the third largest parliament building in the world. It has 691 rooms (200 of which are offices) and so plenty of room for a guest or two. About one thousand people were involved in the construction, which used 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kg (81 lb) of gold. Pehaps shaving some of the wallpaper might help reduce the national debt. Just an idea. And I can’t say that I wasn’t tempted.

One of the oddities of the place (and there had to be a least one) is the numbered cigar holders outside the voting chamber. Delegates would go inside to vote and leave their cigars outside, taking note of their numbered slot. Should the speech go on so long that their cigar burned out, it was said to have been ‘worth a havana’. I wonder how many political speeches these days would even be worth a Silk Cut?
It truly is a magnificent building and well worth the 45 minutes it takes to tour it. Holders of an EU passport are allowed free entry. All others need to cough up a hefty 3500 huf ($15 / €12). The system outside is a little crazy but then what bureaucratic system in Hungary doesn’t have ‘mental’ somewhere in its descriptive. You book on line and print your reservation – then you skip the first queue and go inside to get your ticket. Then you come back out and join the second queue for your tour – French, English, German – whatever is on offer. One to be added to the ‘what to do with visitors’ programme.

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