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The City and The Víziváros Area

A Complex Landmark in the Underground – a Bench and a Poem “Upon my soul / More Desire / I don’t have Just / I wish I had / a Bench / Down / at the Metro Station / Named after / János Arany.” This poem is written on a clumsily designed brass plaque over the copy of a late-19th century bench in the Arany János utca metro station. It is named for János Arany (1817 – 1882), the great 19th-century epic and lyric poet, critic, moral authority, secretary of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Letters, etc. The plaque cites a poem, Hiúság (“vanity”), by Sándor Kányádi (born 1929), which was written in 1983. In the poem he tells his son that his greatest ambition is to have a bench at the metro station named after János Arany. This bench was unveiled by the city on May 14, 2003 on the poet’s 74th birthday. It was proposed by some retired literature teachers who love poetry. Open Society Archives (OSA) 9N V. Arany János utca 32., www.osaarchivum.org ••• One of the most prominent private academic institutions is partly an archive, partly an exhibition space – basically it serves to maintain the proper historical memory of Hungarian society. One of the means to this is its incredibly complex website, which is continuously being further developed. It is a great example of the democratisation of know­ ledge. Despite that, it is worth visiting the building. On the facade a large sign says: “Goldberger”. The pre-modern building was erected for the staff of the company called Goldberger Samuel and Sons (Dávid Jónás, Zsigmond Jónás, 1911.) The central space of the building is called Galeria Centralis. It aspires to show things that have hitherto seemed impossible to present in a sensual and physical form. Fruccola 9N V. Arany János utca 32., www.fruccola.hu ••• To the left of the archive’s entrance there is a high-class, very original salad and sandwich bar (open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday). It has a nice website (only in Hungarian) that gives its mission statement (unusual for a salad bars): “Our mission is to prepare the yummiest juices in the region, to win prizes, and to become famous in order to get a banana-shaped yacht painted yellow

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to live on. And we would have a great time!” It is not a weird place for nerds and bluestockings, not at all. It provides the best serious magazines in town, from The New Yorker to A10 and Monocle. Bank Centre 10A ••• This office building is located between Bank utca, Sas utca, Arany János utca, and Hercegprímás utca. When the architect, József Finta, showed me around, he said that it was the first building for which he’d been allowed by the developer to choose the quality of materials that he wanted. Finta argues that the city should grow upwards by two or three floors in this area. The glass-walled higher levels are deceptive: this is a bigger building than it appears. You can walk through the building, which also has some fine shops and the finest wheelchair lift in Central Europe in the lobby. The cafeteria/restaurant in the basement is an affordable and nice place for a rest. The restaurant only serves lunch on weekdays, but the building is open all day, until late in the evening.

Walk TWO

Walk TWO

her hand. This missing lance refers to the subtitle of a television programme anchored by the maverick Mihály Ráday, president of the Budapest City Preservation Society: “Our Grandchildren Will Not See It, OR THE LANCE IS SOMETIMES STOLEN FROM THE HAND OF PALLAS ATHENE”. I told you it was a complex landmark. See also Mihály Ráday’s “Budapest Bests” on page 60. (Pál Kő, sculptor, 1990)

The City and The Víziváros Area

Hungarian National Bank (Magyar Nemzeti Bank) 10B V. Szabadság tér 8 – 9., www.mnb.hu ••• The stately bulk of the National Bank (Ignác Alpár, 1905), which was originally the Austro–Hungarian Bank, shows how eclecticism was already lightening up under the influence of art nouveau. Between the first-floor windows a fine relief shows people working, from peasants to mint workers to a tycoon signing a cheque. On the southwest corner, towards the square, you can see Hamlet pondering whether to be or not to be, actually holding the skull of “poor Yorick”. The bank’s president is elected by Parliament for a term of six years, which is to avoid immediate replacement after changes in the government. Some analysts say that the term should be made similar to that of the president of the National Audit Office (Számvevőszék), which is 12 years. The inside of the building cannot be visited, except during the European Heritage Days (the third weekend in September). But the visitor’s centre can be visited free of charge daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (until 6 p.m. on Thursdays, groups more than 10 should register in advance.) It’s partly a museum and partly an interactive educational centre with a cinema and a playhouse. You can watch a detailed film on the interior and exterior of the bank, and you can print out a banknote with your own portrait on it. A Statue to Think About ••• In front of the Bank Centre, towards the National Bank on Szabadság tér, there is an abstract statue by Ádám Farkas, professor and former dean at the Academy of

2011.04.20. 15:49:20

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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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