Tag Archives: sculpture

Hungary, Budapest – A river runs through it part 2 – the Pest side of the River Danube

Having only briefly covered Pest (pronounced Pesht as ‘s’ on its own is ‘sh’ whereas if you want an ‘s’ sound you need to have “sz” which probably explains why Hungarians learn English and not the other way around!) in my earlier blog on the synagogues and Ruin Bars – I thought it appropriate to finish my visit with a tour of the Pest side of the river – the much more fun and lively side!

Everything in Budapest is about the river – what on either side, getting across it, boating down it, walking along it and even the trams trundle by.

Although there is loads of construction going on in the city and especially in some of the large squares there is still lots to see around and about the holes in the ground just be wandering around and discovering squares, fountains, sculptures and statues.

On the topic of sculptures – these are some of my favorites from the Pest side and I know there are many more I did not find – a good reason to come back.

The Fat Policeman below is keeping an eye on the apartment across the street and is based on the artist’s grandfather. Everyone likes to rub his tummy. The girl with the dog is very popular and I was very happy to capture her with a real man with his dog!

A selection of sculptures in Budapest including the Fat Policeman and the Girl with a dog

The Little Princess below is very popular and I think the Ronnie Reagan one is pretty good. The weirdest though is Will Shakespeare (actually outside the Starbucks of my hotel). This is a replica of a sculpture whose original is in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia (yes honestly). The original sculptor was a Hungarian born Australian and the replica was unveiled in 2003 and meant to represent close ties between Australia and Hungary. I get all that – but why William Shakespeare? Weird enough that he is in Ballarat but then again in Budapest? What has he got to do with either Australia or Hungary?? (Answers on a postcard please:). I am perplexed…….

More sculptures in Budapest including William S?!?!

The saddest sculptures are the famous shoes along the Danube which was created to honor the Jews and others killed by facist Hungarian militia in 1944/5. They were ordered to take off their shoes and then shot at the edge of the river so that their bodies would fall into the Danube and be carried away. Several of the shoes were stolen in 2014 – no one knows by whom or why.

Memorial Shoe sculpture by the River close to House of Parliament

There is also a burgeoning street art scene especially around the Jewish quarter. Below is the beloved Empress Sissi and the Rubik cube (which was invented by a Hungarian) as well as a commemoration of a 1953 World Cup match in which the Hungarians beat England. It was a big deal apparently which is in the memories of all Hungarians as strongly as 1966 is for Brits. Like us, they are still basking in that reflected glory. Time to let go, I say…….

Street art in the Jewish Quarter and living in the past football success!

The Time Magazine cover is a reproduction of an actual cover at the time of the ill fated Hungarian Revolution against Soviet communist rule in 1956.

Street art in Budapest

The National Gallery , which is located in the spectacular Heroes’ Square, is now split between the Pest side and the Buda side – I have to say I was underwhelmed by the collections there but I did like these busts by Messerschmidt dating back to the 1770s.

The magnificent Heroes’ Square

Messerschmidt sculptures in the National Gallery

The chain bridge is one of quite a few that straddle the Danube in Budapest and it is probably the most photographed as it resembles the Eiffel Tower in design – but as a bridge – if you know what I mean?

The Chain Bridge from every angle!

Don’t think I didn’t eat while in Budapest – of course I sampled all the local specialities.

Grazing around Budapest

Craft beer one minute; rooftop cocktails the next

Fore gras fantasy, stuffed cabbages and sour cherry and poppy seed strudel.

A visit to the Houses of Parliament by the river is a must. The exterior is stunning – apparently based on the design of the Houses of Parliament in London – and so is the interior (which is only half used)! This is because it is perfectly symmetrical and was built to house the equivalent of the Houses of Commons and Lords and to be exactly the same as each other – but of course there are no more lords in Hungary so the bit we get to see is the space that is no longer used for politics – which is really a bit of a waste when you see how plush it is.

Luckily someone had the sense to ensure that all the stained glass windows were taken out and hidden as WW2 started to accelerate. They also took 600 detailed photos of everything so were able to recreate the interiors perfectly after the war,

Exterior of the House of Parliament – day and night

The Golden Staircase and interior corridor in the House of Parliament

The main chamber in the House of Parliament and beautiful carvings of every profession that exists

Just outside the House of Parliament is an underground memorial to those who were killed at the time of the Hungarian revolution against Soviet communist occupation in 1956. It is a sombre memorial to remember the many young people who went to the square outside the Houses of Parliament to peacefully protest two weeks after the initial uprising. But by then, the Russians had returned and they fired indiscriminately at the crowd killing many people and this violent approach continued in a brutal fashion across Hungary for the next year until all insurrection had been quashed. Over 200,000 Hungarians fled the country at this time and were taken in by a variety of other nations (those were the days when we took care of people in need). The Russians stayed in Hungary until 1990!

The Hungarian Revolution Memorial

St Stephen’s Basilica is at the Centre of Pest and while I didn’t like it as much as the more unusual Mathias church in Buda it is pretty spectacular from the outside and inside.

Exterior of St Stephen’s Basilica

Unusually at the altar it is not Jesus you see but St Stephen is is very important to the Hungarians. I believe they had to have special dispensation to allow this to happen.

Interior of St Stephen’s Basilica

As ever in European churches, they do a pretty good job with domed roofs!

Domed cupolas in St Stephen’s Basilica

Although it is summer season I did manage to visit the Vigado Concert Hall to enjoy an evening of Hungarian symphony, operetta, ballet and gypsy violins. It was great!

Exterior of Vigado Concert Hall

The art nouveau concert hall just before the Hungarian Gala evening began

And so farewell to Budapest………

Israel, Jerusalem – the Israel Museum

I started my visit in Jerusalem in one museum and ended it in another – this time the amazing Israel Museum which has something for everyone. We got onto a free tour which lasted two hours and was fascinating. The docent managed to cover the history of mankind (really, she did!) as she took as around the evidence from archaeological digs to the first signs of man to their move from hunters to settlers and farmers to developing thought processes to plan for the future. She was brilliant and was able to carefully cover the perspectives from the bible and clarify what people believe to be true, what they have proved to be true and also said that a lot of unanswered questions still remain.

For instance on the top right below is what is believed to be the remains of the very first fire place (first sign of people staying put and starting to farm and eat food in one place) and the remains on the bottom left is a girl cradling her dog (first sign of domestic animals). Note whenever you see bones they are casts of original bones as Jewish people do not believe in showcasing real bones of people.

Below top right is the oldest known fragment of the written bible. It predates the Dead Sea Scrolls which is the oldest known complete written bible. Top left is one half of the fortress gate at Hazor during the time of King Ahab. Below right – the gorgeous sculpture of a head was only found in 2017. It is an elegant style so they know it must be a distinguished person – probably a king but it was found on the border of 3 different kingdoms – they just haven’t figured out who yet BUT they do know it dates back to the 9th Century BC.

And then humans very early on began to like aesthetics – how things looked had to be just right – and this was well before the selfie era! This is reflected in the intricate carvings on the mummy, the first known use of gold (about 6000 years BC) – probably a form of ingot rather then jewellery but very pretty nevertheless and also as people started to stay put they realised the importance of things like weather to their ability to survive and so amulets started to appear for good luck and protection.

The docent then took us to a fabulous section of the museum on Judaica – where the best of the best is on display from Jewish communities all around the world. Some of the clothes worn on special occasions from Eastern Europe and the Levant and Arab world are below.

The museum also has four synagogues in it – 3 in very good condition that have been shipped over and reconstructed in the museum. I loved the fact that they came from very different parts of the world and have adapted their design to that used in the country they were created but as the pointed out the contents of the Torah never change – she described it as “Same prayer, different melodies”.

The two synagogues below are from Italy (baroque style abundant) and India (Cochin) where the Indian woodwork design prevails. And when the Indian one was built they were into listening to females speak publicly so the upstairs section has a place where they could read from the Torah!

The synagogue immediately below is from Suriname and designed in the Dutch Protestant style (as they were colonising this part of the world at that time) and it has sand on the floor – something I had seen in Caribbean synagogues – and no-one knows why for sure. The least good condition synagogue was the one from Bavaria which is where my mother came from so I immediately recognised the style of adornment.

They also have some beautiful embroidered coverings and wedding gifts in this section of the museum.

Outside the main buildings – and there are a lot of them – is a full scale model of Old Jerusalem as they believed it to be during the time of the 2nd Temple – using a scale of 1:50 – really fun to walk around having been to the real thing (sadly without the 2nd temple of course). On the right is the place called the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed – no inside pics allowed.

Aside from all the anthropological and historical and Judaica items – the Isreal Museum has a pretty good selection of international and Israeli art. I chose these four Picassos.

And the building and gardens around are impressive and house some excellent modern and contemporary sculptures including Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Upside Down.

If I come back to Jerusalem I will definitely return to this museum. We stayed nearly 5 hours without a break.

Portugal, Guimarães – a day a trip from Porto

On a very rainy day I took the suburban train from Porto Sao Bento to Guimares (the place where Portugal first began to exist – allegedly). If I thought it was rainy in Porto I was about to see a lot more of it in Guimarães.

Like all old towns – at least the ones I grew up with in the UK – this has a proper castle and a palace that used to belong to the Duke of Braganza (one of the most powerful nobles of the town).

Even though it was raining it was quite fun to clamber around ramparts and castellated architecture – kind of like some of the school trips I used to do (including the rain).

It is actually a “real” castle of its time and so I thought I would play around with the photos to show it off in different ways.

The Duke’s Palace was again typical medieval – large halls, heavy furniture and lots of stairs!

There used to be a very old and large chestnut tree by the palace which came down recently in a storm, so the authorities asked a modern sculptor to repurpose it for posterity. I think he did a brilliant job – it was my favourite thing that I saw all day.

The old town was what I was expecting with more rain – yes I am whinging a bit!

Finally I noticed that one of the good things about rain is that flowers look especially lovely afterwards and certainly Spring has sprung here so I discovered a few new tricks with my iPhone camera and took theses which I am quite proud of!

I think Guimarães is a perfect day trip from Porto – just over an hour away and Euros 7 return but because a lot of it is about being outside choose a sunny day!

Next stop my 104th country!