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Budapest: A Rambler's Memories


Where Gumbo Was #384

This spring and summer have been seasons for traveling in memory, for revisiting photo archives, and through them favorite places we've been. Sometimes it's just a stroll down memory lane; sometimes I find I am seeing things in different ways, making different connections.

This week's puzzle clues were a mix of such images, mostly from 2003, with a few from later trips. The city was quickly recognized by Professor Abe, George G and PortMoresby.

One of my first sights in Budapest was definitely not very 'local'

It was my first trip behind the so-called Iron Curtain other than a visit to East Berlin in 1961; I was aware that most of the Communist-era statues and images had been banished to a 'Memento Park' outside the city, but I found there were still a few hints. The Aeroflot office had the only hammer and sickle I could find in the city, but the sculpture below, on a building facade, evidently escaped the expulsion order. 


This one, my favorite at the 'Statue Park' was a fairly recent piece; I'm still taken with the sense of masses of people in an energetic mass movement.


The exile didn't leave Budapest without statues, of course, some of them quite large and impressive, especially those honoring the carefully-curated 'heroes' of Hungarian nationhood. These horsemen represent the chiefs of the Magyar tribes that overran the area in the ninth century and created Hungary. In the usual mode, no statues for those who lived there before.


The statues in the niches behind them at Heroes' Square represent other 'heroic' figures of Hungarian history have shifted from time to time with changes in the narrative of history. Most are Hungarian kings, including several very unsuccessful ones, losers of international and civil conflicts.

The square was built in 1896 to mark 1,000 years of Magyar dominance, but for two hundred years it had been under Austrian Habsburg rule. After World War I, two Habsburgs were replaced by Ferenc Rakoczi, leader of an 18th-century peasant revolt and Louis Kossuth, hero of Hungary's attempted 1848 revolt.


Speaking of Habsburgs, they built this exuberant fountain and quite a bit more grandiosity in Budapest in the late 19th century; one of the outcomes of 1848 was the Austro-Hungarian empire, with Budapest as a twin capital to Vienna. So of course, Budapest felt entitled to the newest and best. It even got the world's second subway (after London) with a line built for the Millenium celebration and still in use. It's gotten new trains and equipment, but the stations on Line 1 still show their origin.


While quite a bit of late 19th-century civic building went on, there were also new shows of wealth and influence by private groups, too, including the 'modern' wing of the city's sizable Jewish population. As in Vienna and other cities, the wealthier built a magnificent synagogue; this one is the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It was spared destruction by the Nazis, it is said, because they had earmarked it for a museum about Jews.


As grand, or grandiose, as it is, it's far from the biggest product of the city's 'edifice complex.' That honor goes to the Parliament Building, said to contain the most rooms of any building in Europe. Construction started in 1885 and only finished in 1904, although it was far enough along to be occupied in time for 1896.


A few more buildings worth noticing (and we did)... The Kunsthalle (still with its German name 1896) houses modern art exhibitions. I didn't make note of the one after that, but I was taken with the appearance of its upper half, which seems as if it should be the base.


A landmark on the Buda side of the river, the Gellert Hotel also houses one of the city's best-known public baths. Below that, one of the city's most unusual buildings, the Cave Church. 


Built into a natural cave in the 1920s by Paulist monks inspired by similar structures in Lourdes, France. In the centuries before that it had been a natural spa and later home to a family of peasants. The monks built a church-like facade and turrets at the entrance. In 1951 it was sealed off by the government, and only restore in the early 1920s.


Since we're at the river, some pictures featuring the Danube, historically the boundary between hilly Buda and relatively flat Pest, separate cities until 1873.

The Elizabeth Bridge is a focus of waterfront life, both with small boats and large river cruisers.


But the Elizabeth bridge's modern lines don't have the old-Budapest flavor of two older bridges. The Chain Bridge, built in 1849, was Hungary's first permanent bridge across the Danube; it's become the kind of civic symbol the Brooklyn Bridge is.


The Freedom Bridge, with lovely ornate ironwork, opened in 1908 as the Kaiser-Franz-Josef bridge.


Near the Chain Bridge, an elegantly-done funicular is a shortcut to the castle, which is on the Buda side. The beautiful Matyas church is there, along with this row


A few decorative touches and quiet corners...


An eerie sculpture on a building near the Zoo, and the Zoo's entrance kiosk.


Two street scenes... and a puzzle. What does that sign mean?



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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