What a VIP.

Don’t worry, I don’t have an overly-inflated sense of self – I’m not the VIP in question. (As one of the guys who frequents the same dog park as me frequently reminds me, I’m “just a housewife”. Yeah, I’m not friends with that guy.) But as it so happens, being “just a housewife” has allowed me the free time to meet some pretty fantastic people, and because of them, I got to experience a little bit of the VIP lifestyle a few weeks ago with a private tour of the Hungarian Parliament.

The entrance hall of the Parliament
The entrance hall of the Parliament

How did this come about? I’m a member of the North American Women’s Association here in Budapest, an organization designed to support expat women living in Hungary. This organization has a great relationship with the local government, partly because one of our long-term members is married to a Member of Parliament. (The story of his political career and life in Budapest is amazing.  He came and spoke at one of our events about his life, including how he was arrested by first the Nazis, then the Soviets, on trumped-up charges around WWII. If you’re interested, you can read about him here). He was really gracious to us and invited us for a private tour of the Parliament after-hours. As part of the tour, we also had an art lecture from a local art historian about the different paintings by Károly Lotz, who made paintings for the Hungarian Opera House and the castle as well as the Parliament.

The balcony of Parliament overlooks the Danube.
The balcony of Parliament overlooks the Danube.

We started our evening with champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert in one of the lounges. The lounge has access to one of the balconies of Parliament facing the Danube, so we had a great time taking pictures and waving to people on the tourist boats as they passed. Both the lounge and the balcony are off-limits during the public tour, so this was a part of the building I’d never seen before.

The hallway leading to the House of Commons
The hallway leading to the House of Commons
One of the committee meeting rooms
One of the committee meeting rooms

The public tour takes you through the wing formerly occupied by the House of Lords, because that house no longer exists and the wing is only used for special occasions and conferences. Our private tour took us through the House of Commons, which is the one that still exists today. We were able to go through it as our tour started after all of the MPs went home for the day 🙂 Although the two wings of the building are very similar, we were able to visit a few more rooms than the public tour allows, including another lounge and a committee meeting room.

The House of Commons main room
The House of Commons main room – this is where today’s Parliamentary votes take place.

(Sorry for the super yellow tint to the photos, by the way – there’s so much gold leaf on everything that, combined with the lighting, I couldn’t figure out how to take pictures inside! It’s too bad Richie was out of town for a work trip because his photos would’ve been much better.)

We had a wonderful tour guide and several people from the Parliament went out of their way to make it a special evening for us. I particularly loved the art history part of the evening – that was my favorite college course and I really enjoyed refreshing some of my long-lost knowledge. It was definitely a night I’ll never forget. Here’s to being a (temporary) VIP!

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