Heroes Square, Budapest: Where Gumbo Was (#48)

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Lynn Millar and MAD Travel Diaries both identified where Gumbo was: Heroes’ Square, or Hosok tere, in Budapest. This giant square has served many kinds of memories and movements, beginning with its construction beginning in 1896 as a centerpiece for Budapest’s expansion and its role as one of the twin capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—an empire many Hungarians wished to no longer be a part of.

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So, in the beginning, the huge monument in the center of the square celebrated both the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of the Hungarian state by St. Stephen, and the desire of the Habsburg emperors to seem part of Hungary’s heritage. That’s why the monument features the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars (the eastern tribes that moved into what is now Hungary), a number of important Hungarian kings, and (in the beginning) five Habsburg emperors. This image is St. Stephen.

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During the repair of World War II damage, the Habsburgs were discarded and replaced by figures important in the history of Hungary’s struggle for independence, such as Louis Kossuth.

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The Magyar Chieftains, by the way, were mistaken in the guessing for Genghis Khan; both groups having come west from Central Asia, some resemblance is not surprising! Here, from the Colonnade, is another view of St. Stephen.

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The building of the square and the monument were part of a big public works project that also included the construction of Andrassy Ut, a broad leafy boulevard to connect it to the older town center, and the building of the first line of Budapest’s Metro—the oldest electric subway system in continental Europe. It’s the only subway in the world to have been declared a World Heritage Site. While the cars have been updated, the stations on Line 1 have kept their original appearance.

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The first line ran from Deak Ter in downtown Pest to the City Park just past Heroes Square. Behind the colonnade, it emerged from underground for the last leg of the trip; today it has been covered. Here's an 1896 picture of a train emerging from the tunnel.

 

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And an 1895 photograph of the original type car, not yet in service.

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The monument and the park are not the only attractions in the area; the square is flanked by the Museum of Modern Art (below) and the National Museum of Art.

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