Wednesday, August 8, 2012


This summer has not been a good one for home repairs.  We had to replace a bunch of leaky water pipes in the yard, a leaking gas line, and a broken toilet.  Our house will be 50 years old next year.  As far as houses go, that's pretty old, and we have just about replaced or remodeled every inch of it in the twenty-one years we have lived here.

REALLY OLD, however, is the neighborhood on Castle Hill in Budapest. Most of the current buildings--a church, some homes, and other buildings--were constructed between 1450 and 1850.  The first royal residence was built there in 1265, and it's been rebuilt a whole bunch of times since then.  I don't even want to know what their annual repair bill is.  However, it's the frequent remodeling of Buda Castle over the last 130 years that has really got me looking at my old sofa and thinking it's time for a change.





Nowadays, Hungary doesn't have a king and queen, and so the complex is being used for a history museum and two art galleries.  We never made it inside.  I guess we'll just have to go back someday. Right, Bob?
Although it's called Castle Hill, it's really not the Castle that everyone goes up there to see. The big tourist site is the Matthias Church, built in the late 14th century and extensively restored in the 19th century.
Its official name is "Church of Our Lady," but it is known by the name of the king who ruled Hungary from 1458 to 1490.  More about him later.

As in so many old European cities, I could almost believe I had gone back in time when walking down the cobblestone street to the church.  (There are those slight problems of cars and electricity, however.)  Why don't we have cobblestones in California?

There are several other interesting things on Castle Hill, including this statue, which is a memorial to the 1848-1849 Revolution, in which Hungary fought off invading Austrians and won the Battle of Buda on May 21, 1849 (although they eventually lost the war).   May 21st is now National Defense Day, a Hungarian holiday.  We happened to be there on May 25th, just four days after what looks to have been a big celebration with lots of ceremonial wreath-placing.
Thanks to my niece and tour guide Julie for figuring out a) what this statue is, and b) why it is adorned with flowers.
The former Ministry of War building, which is also on Castle Hill, proudly bears its bullet holes from World War II (or perhaps from the 1956 Revolution--my sources don't agree).
The Holy Trinity Column was erected in gratitude in 1713 by citizens who survived the Plagues of 1691 and 1709:
Here he is, King Matthias, considered by many to be the greatest king Hungary ever had.  He was also King of Croatia, King of Bohemia, and Duke of Austria. Under his leadership, Hungary became the first European country to adopt the Italian Renaissance:

I like this frieze and the caption "Stephanus Rex" on the base of the statue.  Maybe I'll start calling Bob "Robertus Rex."

There is an interesting raven motif that we saw repeated in several places.  See the raven perched atop the far right steeple?  He has a ring in his mouth.

The story is that while 15-year-old Prince Matthias was away in Prague, two kings were murdered in quick succession. Matthias's mother saw an opportunity for her son and sent a raven with a gold ring in its beak to fetch him.  The raven flew non-stop to Prague, found Matthias, and gave him the royal ring.  Matthias sped back to Buda and, in spite of his young age and lack of experience, managed to get himself crowned king.  Well-educated, he was the perfect king for the Renaissance.  He was renamed Matthias Corvinus (which means "raven"), and the raven was added to his family crest.

By the way, Matthias was born in what is now Cluj, Romania, the city where Julie and Alex are currently living.  Awesome.

One of the things Matthias did was expand and remodel 100-year-old church to include a big bell tower.

When the Turks conquered Hungary in 1541, the church was turned into a Mosque. When the Turks were thrown out in 1686, it was returned to its original use. It was extensively remodeled in the 19th century, when its beautiful tile roof was added.

Europeans are really good at making scale models to help tourists get some perspective:

The Gothic interior, of course, is beautiful.

The "usual" beautiful stained glass windows:

I think these VERY old frescoes are the ones that had been painted over during the mosque years:

Every ceiling in my house is white, but I really love these patterns and colors on the church ceiling.  Hmmm...
I quite like the wall decor as well:

One nice feature that sets this church apart is the Ecclesiastical Art Musuem.  Guess who was there?  Sisi, she of the long, lovely locks who resided in the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna!  Yep, she and hubby Franz Joseph, King of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, liked to hang out at that royal palace just down the street.

Funky 17th century angels:

These 18th century statues are not my favorite depictions of Christ.  Those things coming out of his head look more like bad special effects than rays of light.

Behind the church is an area known as "Fisherman's Bastion," built in 1895-1902 for viewing the Danube. It gave me some great ideas for remodeling our deck:

It has seven turrets that represent the seven tribes of Hungarians who settled the area in 896.

It also offers an amazing view of the Pest side of the city on the other side of the Danube:

The magnificent Parliament Building:

Somewhere on this Castle Hill, Chris and I both purchased a beautiful tablecloth with hand-crocheted edging and a unique ribbon embroidery.  It was nice to have Alex doing the bargaining for us.  We ended up paying the equivalent of about $9.00 each for them, so little that I feel a bit guilty!

The woman selling them, however, seemed very happy to be selling two.


  1. I feel guilty about the low price we paid for our beautiful handmade tablecloth, too--but not so guilty I don't enjoy it.

    Somehow I missed CeCe. I guess Stan and I need to go back, too.

  2. I love looking at the pictures. One day I hope to see all that stuff myself.