Tag Archives: street art

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………

Serbia, Belgrade – part 2

I have continued my travels around Belgrade over the past few days which of course included a food walking tour – such an excellent way of discovering a city, learning about the history and of course sampling the best of the local food as you go.

A brief visit to the former residence of Princess Ljubica. Mostly this is a furniture museum now but what makes it interesting is that it was built just as the Ottoman Empire in the region was starting to decline and Christianity was rising. As a result the design, furniture and clothes in different rooms are an eclectic mix of Biedermeier European influence and ongoing Ottoman style eg. the curved area for meeting guests and drinking tea.

Princess Lijubica’s former residence

We started the food tour at the ? Restaurant – one of the oldest in the city. The interior is pretty special and I especially liked the original oak carved tables and the typical Ottoman style “half chairs”. Of course the day starts with Turkish coffee plus a nip of plum brandy. Then the waiter mentioned that the the Burek (a filo type pastry with a local savoury cheese filling) had just come out of the oven – so of course it would have been rude not to try that. After that the ginormous Skadarskarlijska sausage – a bargain at less than two dollars and sold from the best hole in the wall in town.

The very old ? Restaurant and a fresh, hot and tasty burek for brekkie

Is there ever a bad market in any Balkan city or town? No – they always have the freshest and in season food and people still like to shop here rather than in a supermarket.

In season fruit and veg at one of the 22 Belgrade markets

More wandering around took me to past the famous Mockba Hotel and the parliament buildings. One of my guides told me that last year she was taking a group of 40 Iranians around and their translator asked that they have a ten minute stop at this hotel for pictures etc. She thought this was odd and it is not easy to stop there but she complied. Ten minutes later only 10 people had returned to the bus. The translator said they must have decided to walk to their hotel…..they never came back!

Hotel Mockba, a beaux arts building and the Parliament House in Belgrade

I also came across a little street art. There are two football teams in Belgrade – The Partisans and the Red Star. This area was a stronghold of the partisans and you can tell their street art as it is always in black and white. I didn’t get to see any of the Red Star work – they don’t operate in the same locales for obvious reasons!

Close to my hotel is the Saint Sava Church – one of the biggest orthodox churches in the Balkans. Stunning from the outside but I was disappointed to find that the interior dome was being renovated. But then someone said it was worth taking a look a the crypt which had just been completed. Well I’ve been to a few crypts in my time and they are usually dark and dirty and full of bones – and then there is this one…..wow! So glad I went down there.

Saint Sava church exterior

The stunning crypt in Saint Sava Church

Wall paintings in the crypt of Saint Sava Church

Next stop was the recently renovated Museum of Serbian history which was a mixture of archaeological finds (a big Roman settlement here as it was kind of at the edge of one part of their empire) plus Serbian artists and some European art. As usual I have picked some favourites – below are all portraits of strong and interesting women!

Susie’s selection of art from the National Museum of Serbia

I also really liked the work of the Serbian artist Uros Predic. These are Fugitives from Herzegovina and Boy at his mother’s grave

And I was totally wowed by this marble sculpture of woman with a veil – how do they do that?!?!

Veiled woman – in marble

Also close to my hotel was the Nikola Tesla museum. Of course being very ignorant about all things science the only reason I know his name relates to the electric car company named after him by Mr Musk. Actually he doesn’t have anything to do with cars really. He was born in Serbia although lived much of his life in the US where he was able to try and patent his ideas. His big invention was the oscillating transformer (you will need to look that up because even after the explanation I couldn’t understand it although I think one of the benefits is the ability for a washing machine to spin as fast as it does?) and he is also now also credited with the invention of the wireless. When Marconi claimed this invention Tesla sued on the basis that this belonged to him and eventually won the case BUT that was 40 years after he died so no-one remembers him for that. It’s a cruel world!

I did get a kick to see how involved he was with the Niagara hydro electric plant design (he worked for both Westinghouse and Edison) – as I have spent a fair bit of time in Buffalo in my time:)

Nikola Tesla Museum

Another unexpected place of interest was the interior of the National Bank of Serbia. I had not realised the degree of hyperinflation in Serbia between November 1993 and and January 1994. In November 1993 1 million dinar equaled 1 Deutschmark by January 1994 that 1 DM equaled 5 Trillion dinar! My guide remembered her mother carrying money around in a suitcase when she went out to buy bread. Apparently all this was caused by a corrupt banking system ……

The Serbian bank then decided to issue the best note of all – in my opinion…..I just wish they would produce more of them – many many more…..

Bulgaria, Plovdiv – 2019 European City of Culture

Plovdiv is a charming town in central Bulgaria and worth visiting but I think it can be done in two full days. Plovdiv is remarkably the oldest inhabited city in Europe but it is also gently modernising.

The main shopping street in Plovidv

It consists of an old town with an excellent Roman amphitheater and we were lucky to be able to watch an orchestra play on a warm sunny evening. A special treat.

Listening to the music at the Roman Amphitheatre

Visiting the Old Town of Plovidiv is a must. Full of quaint houses, a few shops and people practising old crafts – it has a quiet vibe and is a great place to walk around – with comfortable shoes.

The charming old part of the City

The Old town also has many revivalist homes that allow you to see what life was like in the early part of the 20th century as modernization was taking hold and the Ottoman Empire rule was declining. These houses have been lovingly restored.

The inside of Balabanov House

The Ethnographical Museum also in the Old Town was a beautiful building but sadly no inside shots allowed.

The Ethnographical Museum (with pesky children having their lunch)

The city still has a large mosque which towers over more ancient Roman ruins and it is a mosque you can visit inside so we did – it was splendid. I do enjoy the way there are so many layers of civilization in this part of the world. The deeper they dig the more they find.

The Mosque in Plovdiv perched above the Roman Forum

The trendy and arty part of town is called Kapana and is where all the bars and restaurants are plus some street art. I think this is where most of the events linked to European City of Culture will be focussed as the summer season gets into full swing.

Street Art in Kapana

Some good restaurants in Kapana and we were especially enamoured of Tam’s House – the chefs were Bulgarian and Peruvian who trained at a Michelin starred restaurant in the Napa Valley and now they are in Plovidiv. The food was amazing as was the local wine and the cost was just AUD50 a head for a meal that was top class and would cost three times that in Melbourne.

Tam’s House – strongly recommended if you can find it!

Israel, Tel Aviv – The hummus story and other food I enjoyed as I ate my way around the city.

Tel Aviv and Jaffa used to be quite distinct cities but now it’s hard to figure where one ends and the other starts. I am staying in an area of Tel Aviv called Neve Tzedek – which is great for getting to Jaffa Port either by walking along the sea front or cutting through the slightly more inland alleys. It is buzzing and life only really starts here around 11pm so if you are a light sleeper or not a fan of city noise – avoid this area. I like city noise – as I grew up with it and too much quiet freaks me out!

One of the reasons I was keen to visit this city is its reputation for food which seems to be growing by the day and of course as an Ottolenghi fan I have seen a lot of his TV shows plugging Israeli food. So the first thing we did was a five hour walking and food tour with our lovely guide Avi.

There are many local markets but we liked our local one Ha-Carmel – and you can see why. Even I might be tempted to cook more if fresh food always looked this good.

Avi wrote his thesis on the Hummus Wars and believes that while societal values in Israel are often proscribed top down that the impact food has is bottom up and that the local food scene was formed originally from poverty and necessity – you made the best of what you could get.

The hummus wars relate to Israel and Lebanon’s competitions as to who made the largest bowl and whose is best. At one point Lebanon sued Israel in the EU courts for cultural appropriation of their dish and while there is some commentary on the outcome – it is all a bit irrelevant since neither are EU members! I thing they decided it was a category of food rather than an actual dish – the word hummus does mean chick pea and the dish should just be chick pea, tahini, lemon juice and salt – and in Jerusalem they sometimes add garlic.
It used to be the equivalent of breakfast porridge for the farmers and is generally made by Arabs for consumption by Jews – for the Arabs this was something the could eat for free at home so why would they eat it in a restaurant? Also it is kosher, halal, vegan – so everyone can eat and share it.
In more recent times the Jews moved to making hummus a lunch dish and added things in the centre – meat in the middle or mushrooms. We visited Abu Hassan which has been around for years and generally wins the best hummus in the world competitions. As is typical in this part of the world – the father left his shop to his eldest son. The next two sons both opened rival shops opposite each other – the recipe is the same in all three – the sons are all suing each other – Go figure.
One the tour we also ate shawarma and cheese borek and falafel not to mention poppyseed cake, babka, Yemenite pancakes (from a hole in wall place near the market that Jamie Oliver visited recently – watch the show in September if you are in the UK) and Malabi – a kind of panacotta with rose water.

My favorite vegetable is aubergine or eggplant so I was delighted to try one of Tel Aviv’s favorite dishes – Sabich – again from a renowned place. Line outside the door for wholewheat pita with thinly fried eggplant, tahini, hard boiled eggs, potato and loads of spices and salads and pickles. Delicious. I also tasted a very delish eggplant melanzuna (on a bed of fresh tomatoes and tahini) for breakfast one morning. Swoon

We also got to eat at some of the new restaurants in Tel Aviv and particularly liked Kitchen Market at Tel Aviv Port – not cheap but super delicious, well designed food and great view to boot. The pretty appetizer are tiny rolls of raw tuna, carrot, beet root etc with the most fabulous picante sauce on top. The meat is pressed lamb. The dessert is upside down cheesecake.

In Jaffa – where our food tour started we also got to see a lot of the old city and walked a lot which is just as well given how much we ate. The views back to modern Tel Aviv show how close Jaffa Port is to the modern city but it also has plenty of history and a mish mash of Islamic and Jewish architecture – plus a bit of Roman.

It was just after Eurovision too so it was fun to see the posters about the event and a very cool of last year’s winner from Israel made out of beer bottle tops. She is a bit of an icon here and grew up around Jaffa I’m told.

And look – in my neighborhood near the nice boutiques on Sahzabi Street – I found another Banksy. He does get around.
Finally it was great fun to meet up with some relatives by marriage who live in Tel Aviv – that’s Ran bottom right (sorry the waitress chopped off half his face!) and his wife Aliza, his daughter and two grandchildren plus one boyfriend. I definitely had a “blonde moment”:). Lovely to meet this group for the first time.Thanks for dinner Ran and for following the blog.

USA, Miami – My Street Art fix at Wynward Walls – Vhils

Thanks to my friend Beth I have learned to admire the work of the Portuguese street artist Vhils and searched out his work when I was in Lisbon – there is not much as they keep pulling down the buildings he uses!

This artist started by etching into the external walls of large commercial buildings and creating giant faces in the process. No idea how he does that especially given the size of the works. So I was very pleased to find five new works of his at Wynyard Walls which he did for the 2018 Art Basel event and equally pleased to find a solo exhibition of his work on different media including paper and incredibly polystyrene!!

His original works in a nearby Carpark that I saw last year.

These are the new faces on the wall plus faces using the medium of paper.

And finally, who knew you could create with polystyrene?

Bermuda – friends, sea, sand and rum cocktails – and 99th country visited!

Always exciting to visit a new country and even better when you are getting together with old friends – Marjory from Vancouver Island and our hosts Beth and John who I last say 7 years ago.

Bermuda is a charming place to visit – although pricey since everything is imported. First day was a Sunday so the lovely Coral Beach was a must – and it has been ages since I’ve had a beachy lazy day. The weather and sea colours were glorious

Then a visit to St Georges – on another side of the island (which is about 21 square miles). It was the old capital so lots of nice buildings and churches. Also a chance to view some of the pastel coloured houses that are all over the island.

A glass bottom boat tour is a must – we ended up on a huge boat with just six of us – it is the end of the season although the weather was still warm. Shipwrecks and feeding fish were fun – apparently there are a lot of shipwrecks around Bermuda (that triangle had a lot to answer for)

Time in the capital Hamilton enabled us to visit the Hamilton Princess Hotel which has a superb collection of contemporary art – and a chance to see a Kusama pumpkin in a neutral colour.

And then to the Arts Centre which had a Sheridan Fairley exhibit – I have seen some of his street art around the world (Obey campaign) so was thrilled to see this and a very good video with him discussing his art.

And all good vacations include wonderful friends and good food and drinks by the sea – this was no exception. Thanks to Beth John and Marjory for making it extra special.

Spain, Malaga

We took a side trip to Malaga over the past few days. It actually had a nice feel to it and I think it is a town that is evolving into one with a personality and good vibe. We started to see the beginnings of a street art scene, ate at some good restaurants (including the famous El Pimpi where we indulged in the top of the range Iberian ham from chestnut eating pigs! ), we took a ride of the observation wheel, we walked the paseo along the oceanside, saw the impressive fruit and veg market and also visited the more traditional cathedral and the Alczabar. Great place for a short break.