Today we decided to remain in Buda and check out all the museums and ruins that were on the southeast side of the Castle Hill district.
Castle Hill (Várhegy in Hungarian) acquired its name from the Buda Castle (or Buda Royal Palace) that was built on top of it. The Buda Castle was first completed in 1265, after the Mongol invasion. The Castle has had a long somewhat convoluted history. According to the web site visitbudapest.travel, the Castle “was extended in the 14th century, becoming probably the largest Gothic palace of the late Middle Ages. Construction continued in the 15th century…The palace was completely destroyed when liberating Buda from the Turks. In the 18th century, a small Baroque palace was built, which is identical with the core structure of the present-day palace…The process of rebuilding the Royal Palace continued in the 19th century, and it was finished in 1904. At the end of World War II, the palace was badly damaged. It was rebuilt once again, in Neo-Baroque style, using many original parts.” Today, the Buda Castle houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Széchenyi Library.
Bill and I began walking southeast from our hotel. First we stopped at an outdoor market area that was just past the city park beyond the Matthias Church. It was full of lots of separate stalls where you could find just about any souvenir you wanted. I bought a few magnets, and Bill bought a silver flask for Mike W. (for taking care of Rio while we were gone). He had it engraved with Mike’s name on it.
Then we continued on. I made mental notes on which museums and places at which I wanted to stop on the way back, but right now we were headed for the Buda Castle.
We walked over to where the funicular (cable car) station was located at the top of the hill. There were some breathtaking views from there.
The we walked down some stairs and onto the Castle grounds. I turned around and took a photo of the mythological Turul bird (Turulmadár) statue. The statue was sculpted by Gyula Donáth in 1905. The bird, which is believed to have been a kind of falcon, “appeared in a dream to the wife of the Magyar leader Ügyek and told her that she would be the founding mother of a new nation,” according to wikitravel.org. It was a part of the legend of how the Magyars (early Hungarians) settled the Hungarian homeland. (As you’ll recall, there were also some Turul bird sculptures perched atop the Liberty Bridge.)
Now we decided to enter the Hungarian National Gallery, which is located inside the Castle. The large museum was featuring an “Homage to Arnulf Rainer” at the time. The museum also contains “Late Medieval Wooden Carvings and Panel Paintings,” which were very interesting, “Late Renaissance and Baroque Art,” permanent exhibitions of “Nineteenth-century Art” and “Twentieth-century Art before 1945,” and a display titled Shifts, of “Hungarian Art after 1945.” We enjoyed the exhibits, though it was becoming quite tiring by the time we got through most of the museum, so we decided we were due for a couple of lemonades from the museum café.
We continued walking around the Castle grounds after we refreshed ourselves.
The Matthias Fountain is located at the western forecourt of the palace. It shows King Matthias Corvinus and some other hunters together with their hound dogs, the deer they had killed, Galeotto Marzio seated and holding a hawk on his arm, and Szép Ilonka with a doe. The fountain was sculpted by Alajos Stróbl. According to Wikipedia, “the dead deer was modelled upon a majestic stag killed in 1896 by poachers in the forest owned by Stróbl.” The fountain was damaged during WWII but was restored afterward.
Lions Court is “guarded” by two pairs of lion statues. They are the works of János Fadrusz in 1901. According to Wikipedia, “the animals standing on the outer side of the gate are menacing, while the inner ones are calm and dignified. One lion was broken in two pieces during the war, but it was recreated in the 1950s.”
The bronze statues standing on either side of the entrance to the Budapest History Museum are called “War” and “Peace.” They were made by Károly Senyey, and both are represented by angels. One angel holds a trumpet, and there is a dead Ottoman soldier below. The other holds an olive branch, and there is a returning soldier under it. Which one do you think is “War” and which is “Peace”?
After that, we turned and walked northwest again, up toward the Zsolnay porcelain exhibition that I wanted to see. On the way, we walked past the old ruins of the previous medieval castle. I thought I had taken photos of the ruins, among other sites, as we were walking along here but, unfortunately, my photos were somehow deleted. So I have included a few from some other web sites.
After viewing the ruins, Bill and I walked back to a museum I had noticed earlier where they were featuring an exhibit on the famous Zsolnay porcelain ware. Hungary is famous for two different porcelain makers–Zsolnay and Herend.
The Zsolnay factory was established in 1853 by Miklós Zsolnay in Pécs, Hungary. Ten years later, his son, Vilmos, joined the company and became its manager. The company earned several awards, including in two World Fairs. In 1893, the Zsolnay company introduced the “eosin” glazing process for their porcelain wares. According to Wikipedia, the Eosin process “results in a light red iridescence of the first prepared hue, hence the term eosin (Greek eos, flush of dawn). Different eosin colours and processes were developed over time.” The eosin glazing is a secret process that causes the porcelain to appear iridescent metallic.
We bought our tickets and entered the museum, where we watched an historical video about the origin of the Zsolnay factory in Pécs, Hungary, and viewed many rooms full of gorgeous Zsolnay porcelain ware. Their pieces are not all done in the eosin glaze, there were many different styles from throughout the years displayed.
In 1886 Zsolnay first began to produce ceramics made from pyrogranite. “Fired at high temperatures, this durable material remains acid and frost-resistant making it suitable for use as roof tiles, indoor and outdoor decorative ceramics, and fireplaces.” (from Wikipedia) In fact, the lovely majolica tiles covering the roof of the Matthias Church are Zsolnay tiles, as are the tiles on the Gellért Spa building.
The other famous porcelain company in Hungary is Herend, which was named after the city in which the company was founded in 1826, Herend, Hungary. This factory is now one of the largest ceramic factories in the world. It specializes in luxury hand-painted and gilded porcelain ware. According to Wikipedia, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Duchess Catherine Middleton were given a special painted Herend Porcelain item as a wedding gift from Hungary on April 29, 2011. As you can see from the photos, both Herend and Zsolnay have their own distinct styles.
As we were about to exit the museum, we walked through a small gift shop, which contained several Zsolnay pieces for sale. I was hoping to find a beautiful small bird to take home for my collection, but they only had a couple of birds, and they were too expensive. So I hoped I might be able to find one later at a gift shop in town, nearer the hotel.
Bill and I returned to the hotel to drop off our souvenirs, and then we went back out to the main street (Tárnok utca) to find a good place to eat a late lunch. We decided on one of the oldest restaurants in Budapest, the building of which dates back to the 14th century, though it was restored in the 1950s. We chose Tárnok Café.
We each ordered the special, which was a type of Hungarian soup (not goulash) and salad, and our choice of dessert. Since this was a café and also a bier garden, we each ordered a Hungarian beer called Soproni.
The café was quite crowded, but we were not in any hurry. We enjoyed our lunch and even took the time to snap a few photos on Bill’s iPhone.
After our nice lunch, we walked a few doors down to the Tárnok 10 Galéria, where a very lovely lady was selling all types of beautiful porcelain items, paintings, engravings, and other Hungarian art. I picked out two or three gorgeous little birds that I liked, including one that was a Herend. Finally, I decided on this one. It’s not the Herend, but I absolutely loved the colors, and I knew it would fit in well with all my other little birds I’ve collected during our travels.
Now Bill and I meandered back to our hotel. We needed to pack up our things so we’d be all ready to go home early in the morning. We had just spent a fantastic eighteen days on one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.
And now, as I’m sitting in my office writing this blog post, I am dreaming of our next trip. We’ve been earnestly saving our sky miles. Where shall we go this time? Japan? Peru, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands? Or maybe Scandinavia? Hmmmm, we’ll see…