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Gellérthegy and The Old City

7. Behind the gate, the surprise is another door and some fine statuary. This walk took me five and a half hours and that was without going into the National Museum. Before I collapsed at the lions of the fountain on Vörösmarty tér, I had a quick bite at a snack bar on Aranykéz utca on

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the ground floor of the parking garage. It is called “Főzelék faló” – a name of which both parts are untranslatable. Food is cheap here, and the place is great for advanced people watching. Stage hands from the theatre opposite are checking out entry-level bank tellers, overheard by foundation directors and practical day-dreamers (the author of this book, for instance).

BUDAPEST

For nearly half a century, I lived on Attila út (then utca), which is at the bottom of Castle Hill bordering Krisztinaváros (Christina Town) and overlooking Vérmező (the “Bloody Meadow”), which was named for the late 18th-century execution of the leaders of an anti-Habsburg uprising, which took place at this very site. When my family built the house in 1937, Vérmező was still surrounded by small, provincial-looking buildings and it functioned as a military training ground. The chief celebrity of the area was Archduchess Auguszta, granddaughter of the Habsburg Emperor/King Franz Joseph, who regularly took her horse down from her Buda palace for exercise there. She may not have noticed how she provoked the barking of author Sándor Márai’s clever dog, Csutora, at the corner of Mikó utca as she rode majestically by (this was immortalized in his splendid dog novel, Csutora). Márai’s sad, poorly executed, and misplaced bust stands in front of the building. This neighbourhood on the slopes of Castle Hill had a countryside feeling, like a small town in a bygone-era. This was where many eminent early-20thcentury authors and poets lived, seeming to enjoy rediscovering the aura of their birthplace and their younger years, which were so far from modern Budapest in terms of time, space and lifestyle. The long list includes the poets Mihály Babits and Dezső Kosztolányi, the poet and film-theoretician Béla Balázs, the novelist Sándor Márai, the literary critic Aladár Schöpflin and the art historian and aesthetician Lajos Fülep. It must have been nice to find there – in the completely changed world of post-World War One Hungary – the ambiance of calm and the illusion of peace and happiness of what was once the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy as it had existed in cities such as Kassa, Szabadka, Szekszárd, Pozsony and Szeged. This part of the growing metropolis continued to be parochial in the 1920s and 1930s, surrounded by orchards and vineyards, inhabited mostly by the Biedermeier professional middle-class-elite, and still visited weekly by the iceman and the tinker. An unchanging 18th-century relic, the primitive, colourful and challenging Tabán

PARK_Budapest_belivek_v065.indd 206-207

district was just a short walk away, until it was demolished for sanitary reasons in 1934. The place had its legends. Countess Teréz Brunswick, once loved by Ludwig van Beethoven, founded the first kindergarten in Hungary here (at Attila út 81), which was called “Angels’ Garden”. Her pretty bust is seen as you climb the Castle steps. A statue of 19th-century author and parliamentarian Károly P. Szathmáry had resided here many years before. His memorial was rumoured to have been placed there because his daughter lived next door in Mikó utca and she wanted to experience her father’s glory on a daily basis. Szathmáry’s noble and manly features turned originally to the southwest, while the inscription below proudly quoted him saying: Dumb is he who looks at the sun setting. There night approaches. I only watch it rising, waiting for the Hungarian dawn to emerge. When it became time to find a place for Countess Brunswick in the area around the Angels’ Garden, the spot occupied by the now completely forgotten Szathmáry was desirable and so he was moved to the top of the stairs at Lovas út, where he now looks to the east (though his vision is blocked by a castle wall). His stony image may actually never see the rise of Hungary’s sun. The Castle area was wrecked as a result of the Soviet siege of Nazioccupied Budapest, in the ghastly winter of 1944-1945. As a child in the early 1950s, I saw how the worst fears of the great poet Dezső Kosztolányi came true a mere ten years after he prophesied them in 1935: The house is also sleeping, dead and dumb, As when a hundred years have gone and come, Weeds overgrow it, it collapses, And nobody could guess Whether it was home to animals or us. After World War Two a small railway had to be built to carry all the rubble from the once proud hill of the Hungarian kings down to the erstwhile military training ground, which became several metres higher as a result. Vérmező became a large park. Trees and bushes were planted on those ruins, becoming both a cemetery and a living monument to the vanished lifestyle of bygone generations, forgotten values and forlorn hopes. (Poems of Károly P. Szathmáry and Dezső Kosztolányi translated by John Ridland)

Walk THREE

Walk THREE

Tibor Frank, historian, autograph collector, Budapest patriot

BESTS

2011.04.20. 15:49:41

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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