No Squirrels Were Harmed in the Making of This Building

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We’ve been through the Parliament Building on a couple of occasions already, but when an opportunity arose for a “behind the scenes” visit to spaces that aren’t on the standard tour, we jumped at it. If you’re ever visiting Budapest, the Parliament Building is one tourist attraction that delivers from the inside as well as out. Just magnificent.

The benefit of our special tour immediately became obvious — we were allowed to walk right up to the case containing the original crown, sword, scepter and globus cruciger dating to the coronation of Szent Istvan in 1000 AD. Here is the illegal picture I took of it. Don’t tell anyone.

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(In my defense, we were told outside that we simply could not use a flash in the rotunda. But, it wouldn’t be a visit to a major tourist attraction for me without setting off some sort of alarm.)

It was a fun time. Our host was one of the deputy speakers of the house, and rather than give what I assumed would be a hello-and-gotta-run speech at the outset, she actually stayed for the duration, engaging guests in animated conversation, and really making everyone feel welcome. The view of the Danube from the riverside balcony is just stunning — as good a reason as any I’ve seen for a representative to run for reelection. But the highlight was the commentary from the head of the security service — imagine getting the history of the White House from a Secret Service agent who moonlights at the Laff Stop:

“There are 691 rooms in the Parliament building, so we need to get moving. Quickly.”

“Because this building was constructed during a time of great affluence here in Budapest, the budget for the building was expressed in one sentence: ‘Whatever it costs.'”

And my personal favorite: “The gold leaves were painted with a special brush made from squirrels’ tails… but no squirrels were harmed in the making of this building.”

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