Saturday, September 7, 2013

Musing on Museums and Macerating Munchies

The day started innocently enough. The alarm went off at 8am and we headed down to breakfast. Our plan for today was the Hungarian National Museum.

On the way back to our hotel last night we stopped at a small store to buy water. I know it seems ridiculously and improbably small, but this is the store.

Now while you are thinking "no possible way", I'll entertain you with a picture of the front of the store. That's right it's about 20 feet long and maybe 8 feet wide. Decorated in historic Hungarian village style, they sell convenience items and not much else. The sales counter and till is about 3 feet wide. But wait.....there's more.

Beside the store there's a second store that sells only fruit and vegetables and it's about half the size of the first....I kid you not. Here's the pictorial evidence.

As we walk to the metro we pass a small park in which there are trees getting ready to shed their leaves for fall. I don't know what type of trees they are although they are round in shape and bear an interesting flower.

These are the flowers, color now gone with the season as they are ready to split. Each contains 2 seeds or so, and they look similar to the Japanese Lantern Plant.

In the subway there is a poster of a fellow who is doing something either foolhardy or heroic, I'm not sure which, He looks the part though....yes?

We leave the subway at Deak Ferenc Ter. and catch a tram to Kalvin Ter. It is named for the Protestant reformer John Calvin who had a church here.

As we approach the museum there is a monument  On one side of the monument is the Hungarian heroic figure Miklos Toldi. He was long thought to have been a fictional character, but historical research has shown he was a nobleman who fought in a campaign for Louis the Great.

There is a representation of the royal Hungarian Turul on the front of the monument. It represents power, strength and nobility and is still used in the uniforms of the Hungarian Army.

This is a representation of Toldi's lover. She was Rozgonyi Piros the sister of one of Toldi's enemies who reputedly offered to off her bro, on the condition that Toldi would take her to wife.

Atop the monument rests Janos Arany, Hungarian literary great, storyteller and poet who wrote the trilogy, Toldi, Toldi's Love and Toldi's Night.

These are three epic poems that live in the hearts of all Hungarians. The first tells of Toldi's epic deeds of strength on and off the battlefield. The second details the huge love story of Miklos and Roz and the third details the closing years of Toldi's life and his reminiscences of his past exploits.

This is the facade of the museum. The building is relatively new having been opened in 1847. Prior to that the site was farmland on the outskirts of the city. Today it is basically downtown.

The basement is devoted to ancient stoneworks and cement monuments. This is a statue of Virtus from the 2nd. century

 This is the tombstone of Opius Lacpocus, a veteran of a Roman Auxiliary Unit who died around 50A.D.

This is the tombstone of a cavalry veteran Nertus, son of Dumnotalis who died around 50A.D.

|Another tombstone, this one of Tiberius Julius Facundus late of the early 2nd. century. Apparently posthumous recognition was big with these Romans.

 Another stone another Roman, Titus Flavius Bonio a cavalryman died 104A.D.

Finally a Hungarian, Marcus Coccius Florus son of Matumaras a tribal leader. it didn't take too long after that Romans showed up that ethnic Hungarians started to adopt Roman ways, names and customs.                                                                 

Glass vase recovered from a mercenary's grave in the 1st. Century.

This is a mosaic that was in the reception of a Roman Villa in the 2nd. Century. I'm guessing it was a huge status symbol and longer wearing than carpet.

With all these antiquities we were ready for some refreshment so stopped in the museum cafe for a piece of cake, mine mocha, hers lemon and a bottle of ginger ale.

Next stop Hungary in pre Roman times. There were skeletons resting beneath the floor as they were found along with the items which were interred to help them in the after world.

There were items buried with them intended to help them in their new lives on the other side of the veil. These items were recovered millenia later. Probably not too useful then I suppose.

Of course when the Romans arrived it all changed. Here are gold ornamentations excavated from various sites around Hungary. Apparently along with the Romans an unknown  number of goldsmiths arrived to help relieve the populace of their new found prosperity.

Oh yeah, along with the goldsmiths the armorers arrived. After all what's the point of having this gold if you can't defend it at the point of a well made sword?

One of the things I found surprising was the prevalence and effectiveness of the battle ax. I had always imagined them to be stout and weighty implements of destruction. I could not have been more wrong, those are the movie versions. In reality they were slender bronze articles, with a slim sharp end and a pointy weighted other end which mounted on sticks of no more than three quarters of an inch to an inch thick.

I suppose it makes sense though yeah?  If in fact they weigh little more than a modern day tack hammer, on a handle about a yard long, they can whistle through the air 15 or 20 times per minute, and one blow to the cranium of anyone on the receiving end, even if they had a light armored helmet pretty much settled the argument right then and there.

Here is a modern reproduction of the battle ax, this one with a flat end for bone breaking or roof repair. It weighs maybe a pound and a half?

Here is a golden stag found in the grave of a member of the nobility. This is a very popular motif in Hungary even today, as you see people with lapel pins and tie tacks depicting the golden stag.

The custom off cremation took off with the advent of Roman culture. After death the body was reduced to ash and buried in an urn with articles of value like cookware, jewelry etcetera.

The modern soldier or mercenary could be well turned out in armor of chain mail, imported from Roman sources of course. After all war is a costly business for those waging it, and a profitable one for those supplying it. It was ever thus.

"Along with the new uniform you probably need a new tunic.What size did you say you wear. I can probably have it for you next week" she said. "I have a lovely blue woolen cloth on the loom right now."

Of course ancillary industries sprang up. Clay from the Duna fired up well into crockery. "Where's that new set of cups I ordered a fortnight ago" says this fellow

Of course with industry comes profit and what better way to spend that profit than golden serving wear. "Just the thing to impress your guests."

Even on a mercenary's salary armor was available, though of the layered leather variety. "Keeps the sword thrust at bay, until you thrust the spear in all the way."

There is a representation of the average dwelling of these times. Very similar to construction of the Battery we saw in Jamestown in Colonial Virginia. Peeled poles were set into the ground, the interstitial space was filled with smaller sticks or bunches of straw bound into bundles, then the walls were mudded. The interior contained a fire a place for sleep and the attic was used for smoking meat and storage in clay pots.  The smoke rose from the interior and exited through a coarsely woven end wall.

The Basement and First floor having been dispensed with, our aching feet and tired bodies headed for the Second Floor. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, as they beggar description. They're just that good

Ceiling WOW!

Also ceiling. Also WOW!

Yeah! WOW!! Spot the Scooterchick for extra points.

Also WOW! Also ceiling.

Trim below ceiling. Historical mural!

Other wall, equally historic, equally WOW!

Top of stairs. Look son, fig. You will be eating fresh fruit in 3-5 years. Kid..."WOW!"

"Gaze upon my beauty. I am the keeper of the flame." Seriously I have no idea who this is either but it must be someone notable, the picture is 15 feet by about 30.

This is the ceiling of the dome. All around the wall are paintings of various regions (maybe counties) of Hungary. The dome has to be 60 feet across, tha's a lotta paint dude.

Here is a library carefully preserved. After all knowledge is power right? I've never heard such hogwash! Applied knowledge is power. How else do you explain so many PhD's driving cab and waiting tables in NYC.

This is the tomb of someone else important. By this time it's a case of who?  Don't know, care less. Still very artistic work though!

More gold, and there you have it.

This was interesting. it is a wall cabinet, ornately carved and all of 8-10 inches thick. It opened on a hinged panel and had an iron prop to reveal it's true purpose as a very functional desk. You could compose your letters upon it, and store all important documents within and when closed it was simply well-wrought art.

You'll never guess who we bumped into, That's right it's St. George. "Half a mo guvnor, ain't he the patron saint of Britain. That's right you clever lad (or lass)."

 He was elevated to patron saint off the Brits in 1415. any excuse for another feast day I guess, particularly if that feast is fish and chips and a pint yeah?

More assorted implements of death.

More gold, sheesh I'm really getting tired of all this opulence and death.

Really? Really?!

Finally we come to Hungary in the current age. Posters show the archetypal Hungarian, pushing royalty off his throne and pushing the Hungarian Royal Turul crest into a coffin. Throngs of cheerful Hungarian troops board a railcar to head off to war. 

At the same time other posters show the valorous Hungarian infantryman defending the Golden Forint representing Hungary against forces of other governments, children writing tearful letters to Daddies and Uncle serving the greater good (the greater good) and a grateful Hungarian populace giving unstintingly of their resources in furtherance of the war effort.

Another poster shows a spectral form, representing the German aggressor shoveling Hungarians into the breech of a great gun. Cannon fodder. how little did the brave combatants know. The facts when revealed,were appalling.

Another poster shows a Hungarian general in prayer for the troops who were losing life, limb and future in the war. When all was said and done, 2.8 million Hungarians fought in the First World War, and by the time it was over 75% of them were dead, crippled or imprisoned. As part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the real motives became less murky. Hungary ended up losing 71% of it's area and 58.5% of it's population to neighboring countries. The country and it's people were carved up without mercy as spoils of war. Then came the 2nd World War, the Soviets and Hungary only really got to be Hungary again in 1989.

A huge sadness accompanies the truth of Hungary's sorry past. The people though seem to look toward the future with warmth and bright prospects, although they are somewhat hamstrung due to their inclusion in the EU. We left the museum enlightened and encouraged for Hungary's future. Time will tell if she thrives or is treated as a pawn yet again in the game of international power. Pray for her.

By now we needed coffee, and the coffee shop was right next door, so in we went. This is the same outfit we patronized the other day. The coffee was....not so much!

We each had a piece of Cheesecake. My coffee was the larger of the two, but I was really looking for something the size of the ornamental one at the back of the table. Sadly it was only for show!

A domed building down Kiraly Utca visible from the entrance to Kalvin Ter.

We took the tram to the other (Buda) side of the Duna and thence along the left bank to Batthyany Ter. We decided to dine (you know it occurs to me that everry 6 pictures or so we are eating something somewhere else. That's a bit simplistic, but since we enjoy our chow, we think you should too. ed.) at the Vigado Restaurant.

Here is my beloved Scooterchick, ready to order. It's a  quiet neighborhood and nobody speaks English. Just our style, something new.

I started with Mushrooms stuffed with Roquefort, served with a lovely cream sauce, and served with rice. Succulent, saucy simply superb.

I followed it up with Veal in a Creamy Lemon Sauce with Potato Pancakes. Light delicate little morsels of delight. If this isn't heaven, at least it's gotta be the waiting room.

My beloved ordered Bass served with White Asparagus on a bed of Pan Fried Potatoes. She declared it to be delicious. I tried the fish and it was very good.

Last picture for today boys and girls. This is the Gellert monument and the Saint Gellert hotel. I actually checked the rates here before we settled on our hotel. At about $200USD/night I figured we could give it a pass, considering our choice was less than $350 for 6 nights.

Well. as we leave the St. Gellert, I leave you. This was our last full day in Buda, and in Pest for that matter. Tomorrow it is on to Bratislava. see you then....


Helen Marie said...

Hey there Chris...I'm still in Budapest haha...catching up on y'all's blogs. Wow was your square overflowing after that museum visit? Mine was :). It was sobering of heart to hear what Hungary went through in the war. Even tho not there myself, I feel a sense of connection with them...thanks. It also sounds like that meal you had was the best so far up to that point...sounded and looked yummy. Ok...see you in the next and next blogs :)

Scootard said...

Hey Swee'Pea:
The Hungarians are an enduring bunch that's for sure. Onward we go.