Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

Our Second Day at Budapest

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
Our second day in Budapest, Travis and I went on walkabout.  When our bus was driving to the hotel the night before, Narada and I saw an awesome square that we wanted to find in the morning, but he ended up not being able to come with me, so Travis offered to “guard” me as I walked the crazy Budapest streets…we didn’t want another Jenn-gets-lost situation like the day before!
Travis was in charge of the map, and we walked by many cool buildings, including this building below, which works with social services to assist the homeless, etc…
…as well as some churches, including Arpad St. Margaret Church…

To the right of the picture you can see the first Apostolic Cross of Hungary that I’ve seen.  The most ancient element of the Hungarian coat of arms is the “double cross”. The history and the tradition of the double cross goes back to the early Egyptian Pharaohs.  Throughout the ages it always signified power and authority. The Holy Roman Catholic Church used it from near the beginning. For a long time, it was thought to have been given to King Stephen (Saint Stephen of Hungary) from Pope Sylvester II for “the royal dignity and the power, demonstrating his determination to honour of God, the exaltation of His Church and to Christianise the people of Hungary and establish episcopal sees for promoting the glory of God and the good of his people”. Today, the most accepted theory is that it derives from Byzantine influence, as the cross appeared around 1190 during the reign of King Béla III, who was raised in the Byzantine court. The cross appears floating in the coat of arms and on the coins from this era. The symbol is also used in the coat of arms of Slovakia.

I thought this sight was funny…imagine the prices set in American dollars!  Hah!  Let’s hope this NEVER happens!!!
After about an hour walk, Travis and I arrive at the place we all remembered from the bus drive, HEROES’ SQUARE (in Hungarian, it is spelled Hősök tere).
Budapest’s grandest square closes off .  The square lies at the end of Andrássy Avenue (with which it comprises part of an extensive World Heritage site), next to City Park.  The Millennium Monument construction started on the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar settlement, with statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century and other outstanding figures of Hungarian history.  The construction was finished in 1929 and the square got its name then. This monument was awarded Grand Prize at the Paris World Exposition in 1900.   When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was a part of the Austrian Empire and thus the last five spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty. The monument was damaged in World War II and when it was rebuilt the Habsburgs were replaced by the current figures.
Again, I’m the ant in the middle of the picture above.  I know you can’t really see me, but it’s fun to know I’m there, yet in the presence of structures that make me so small!
The bronze statue of Archangel Gabriel stands in the middle on a 36 meter high column.  In his right hand the angel holds the Holy Crown of St. Stephen (Istvan), the first king of Hungary. In his left hand the angel holds a two barred apostolic cross.  Remember I defined that kind of cross earlier?
Also in the middle of the square is the Monument Of National Heroes (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, though it is not literally a burial tomb). Several memorable events were held on the square: the Eucharist World Congress (1938), the service before the re-burial of Prime Minister Imre Nagy (June 16, 1989-a crowd of 250,000 gathered at the square for the historic reburial of this martyr, who had been executed in June 1958), and a holy mass by Pope John Paul II (1991).

The seven mounted figures of the Monument of National Heros represent the Magyar chieftains who led the Hungarian people into the Carpathian basin. In the front is Árpád, considered the founder of the Hungarian nation. Behind him are the chieftains Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, and Töhötöm (Tétény). Little survives in the historical record about these individuals and both their costumes and their horses are considered to be more fanciful than historically accurate.

The back of the monument consists of two matched colonnades. Topping the outer edge of the left colonnade is a statue of a man with a scythe and a woman sowing seed, representing Labor and Wealth.

In the corresponding position on the right colonnade is a statue of a man holding a statue and a woman with a palm frond representing Knowledge and Glory.

At the inner top edge of the left colonnade is a male figure driving a chariot using a snake as a whip representing War…

…while on the facing end of the right colonnade is a female figure in a chariot holding a palm frond representing Peace…

This is a list of the statesmen who are portrayed by the sculptures in the semi-circular arcades of the monument. The topic of the relief below each figure is given below the name:
St. Stephen receives the crown from an emissary of the Pope
St. Ladislaus slays the Cumanian abductor
Coloman prohibits the burning of witches
Andrew leads a crusade
Béla rebuilds the country after the Mongol invasion
Ladislaus IV defeats Ottogar at the battle of Marchfeld
Louis the Great occupies Naples
Matthias with his scholars
Hajdú soldiers defeat the imperial forces
Bethlen concludes a treaty with Bohemia
Rákóczi returns from Poland
His relief depicts when Kossuth rallies the peasants of the Great Plain.
Travis and I spent a while meandering around these great statues and reliefs, before we really focused on what was behind the monument…City Park, which has a CASTLE!  Yes!  We love castles:)

Vajdahunyad Castle, or Vajdahunyad vára, was built between 1896 and 1908, to facilitate the 1896 Millennium Expo’s exhibitions, and also to show Hungary’s dominant architectural styles to visitors. Its best known part was modelled after the largest knight’s castle in historical Hungary, the Hunyad-castle in Transylvania, also called Vajdahunyad, but all parts of the castle are copies of other buildings in Hungary, in order to display Romanic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles.

The castle was originally constructed mainly from wood and cardboard, due to tight deadlines and the lack of funds. Due to its skyrocketing popularity, the whole complex was rebuilt from stone between 1904 and 1908. The main architect was Ignác Alpár, whose largest project was the castle.
The Hungarian Agricultural Museum occupies most of the interior of the building.  The contemporary press had the following to say about the event: ‘It will be one of the biggest museums in the world and an apt reminder of its duty to represent the greatest industry that was decreed by nature’s will to an agricultural country’. Its founder, Minister Ignác Darányi, said the main task of the museum “is to present everything which is interesting and important for Hungarian agriculture, and from which Hungarian agriculture, horti- and viniculture and forestry can draw dependable and practical lessons”.  
Many agricultural publications were also conceived here. Among these are the international bibliography of agricultural history, the museum’s proceedings and the Agricultural History Studies, but the museum also edits the Agrarian History Review, published by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Here I am chillin’ with the statue of Sándor Károlyi, an economist, in the courtyard…

The statue of Anonymus is also displayed in the castle court…

“Anonymus” represents the author of the Gesta Hungarorum (Latin for The Deeds of the Hungarians), which is a record of early Hungarian history by an unknown author who describes himself as Anonymi Bele Regis Notarii (‘the anonymous notary of King Bela’). Anonymus was schooled at the University of Parisand was employed at the time of writing as a notarias, presumably in the court of Bela III of Hungary(1172-1196).
The chronicle was written probably between 1196 and 1203, though some scholars claim that its author wrote the Gesta earlier in the 12th century. Gesta Hungarorum is preserved in a manuscript from about 1200.

Superstition says that by touching his pen you will receive good luck…

My 1st attempt to take a picture of the face of “Anonymous” resulted in a creepy darkness of nothing, which I believe is more appropriate than…
…the ACTUAL face that showed up in my 2nd attempt!  Now that’s what I call “Ominous Anonymous”!
Travis and I crossed the back bridge out of the castle and headed around the park to the next big building, the Szechenyi Bath and Spa…
Budapest can rightly be called the city of spas, and the Szechenyi Bath and Spa was its first thermal baths on the Pest side. At the time, back in 1881, it was called “Artesian Bath”, and was only a temporary establishment. In 1913, it was converted into a permanent bath, and received its present name and most parts of its pretty yellow building complex. In 1927, beach sites, as well as public bathing departments for gentlemen and ladies were added. In 1960, another expansion added a group thermal section (for use in bathing suites), and a daytime outpatient hospital. The year of 1999 saw a complete reconstruction of the swimming pools. Water filtering and circulation devices were added, and the fancy bath received high standard equipment and modern elements. The renovation and reconstruction work continues, partially closing down different sections each year.
This bathhouse’s significance is not merely on the basis of its medicinal water…the sculptures and glass mosaics decorating the building are creations of Hungary’s most considerable artists.

Second to last stop, the City Park Pond (Városligeti-tó), used as an ice rink in winter, the largest outdoor skating-rink in Central Europe (1926).  Travis and I rested near the steaming waters where the ducks rested and people fished.

The area was formerly called Ökör-dűlő, meaning “Oxmeadow”. The first mention of the name comes from 1241 in the archaic form, Ukurföld. In the 18th century the area was called Ochsenried in German. Around 1800 the official name was changed to Batthyány-erdő (Batthyány Forest) after its tenants, the Batthyány family.  The first trees and walkways were established in 1751 and after the public park was created in the first decades of the 19th century the present-day name, Városliget (and its German version, Stadtwäldchen) was accepted.  It became the first public park in the world!   To the left of the ducks (pictured above) is the ice rink.  To the right is the zoo, our last stop…

Actually, we saw this big boulder-like structure in the distance, walked towards it, and found out it’s the zoo, which is one of Travis’ favorite places to visit.  Alas, we had no money, so poor Travis had to squeeze his face through the gate bars and mourn the animals he won’t be seeing on this tour.  Let’s all have a moment for Travis’ loss…

…Alrighty then!  That being done, so is my newsletter!  Whew!  Lots going on in Budapest, and like I’ve recently said, I didn’t even see half of the monuments, bathhouses, and other amazing sights to behold in Hungary!  But I had a very memorable walk, absorbing what I saw every step of the way:)

Next stop, Regensburg, Germany…this was the place we rested for about a week.  It’s the first German town we’ve stopped where the streets in the old section are very small, cobblestone, and buildings are quite close together.  But even there…there was a McDonald’s!  More on that soon.

Love and miss ya!


Enjoying Budapest, Hungary

Monday, January 25th, 2010
I know Budapest of one of the most well-known cities in Hungary, and I don’t disappoint with the pix I’ll be showing you in 12A or 12B, but even though I had a good three days to walkabout and see what I can see, I didn’t even scratch the surface of what’s here!  I try to explain, to people who look at me funny when I decline the sightseeing bus tour to wander the streets for 2 hours, that I absorb the whole experience of sightseeing better if I have to WORK to get it!  Walking to maybe 1 or 2 sights in a city leaves so much more of an impact on me than driving by 10 and not having time to really take in the environment.  Also, I know God leads me to what HE prefers I see, and I trust that completely!  On that note, I present the first half of my Budapest newsletter.  Enjoy my tiny journeys and random stories…they’re mine and I’m so happy you enjoy them too:)
Our buses are parked in the back of our venue, and as you exit the bus you can immediately see the looming structure of the neighboring stadium, pretty much unused these days, but still circled daily by passers-by on their way to the ice rink or gymnastics lessons. I climbed the many steps to take a look into the stadium, which is only a few yards away from our buses.  I had no idea I’d see all the way in with no challenge!  The all-seater stadium officially holds 68,976 but,  due to the bad condition of the concrete structure of the upper stands, no more than 44,000 are allowed in.
Stadium Puskás Ferenc (Hungarian: Puskás Ferenc-stadion) is a multi-use stadium in Budapest, Hungary. On the off chance it is in use, the event is usually football matches, which means soccer for you Americans:)  If there was any question about whether my research really meant football vs. soccer, the statue below settles the argument:
The stadium is named after Ferenc Puskás, Hungary’s greatest ever footballer, who was the star player of the national team during its glory years of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The stadium was renamed in his honour in 2001 from Népstadion (“People’s Stadium”).  It was built between 1948 and 1953 using many volunteers and even the army. Less than one year later, on May 23, 1954, England suffered its worst ever defeat here.
Below, beyond the football/”soccer” statue, is the stadium’s (Népstadion’s) foregarden.   It looked like a rehearsal field to me.  Is that term EVER used in sports?!…”rehearsal field”?  I suppose they practice field.  Regardless, it’s across the street from the stadium, as you can see the stadium light towers in the distance…
I walked down the middle of this oval field, and took pictures of the statues lining the surrounding track.  Here are only a few of these statues.  You can tell from the rude jogger’s bike contribution to this piece that they are much bigger than life size.
This statue garden opened at the same time as Népstadion,
The pieces of art describe mainly sport scenes, but some of them reflect the everyday life of a Stalinist country with the artistic means of socialist realism.
There were debates of removing the whole collection a few years ago…
Discussion of the demolition of this stadium and building a modern, contemporary one has been going on for more than twenty years.  It is assumed that constructing a new stadium here will be the end of this garden.
Out of the venue property I found a big building and headed for it.  The “Budapest Sportaréna”, looking like a black space ship, is pretty huge!    It is named Papp László Sportaréna in Hungarian, after boxing great László Papp. The arena is the largest hall in Hungary.
The new Sportaréna reopened in March 2003 after the original Budapest Sportcsarnok built in 1982 burnt to the ground in December 1999.  The arena has hosted a number of concerts since its opening, including those of Beyonce Knowles, Shakira, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, James Blunt, Britney Spears, Anastacia, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Ricky Martin, & Kylie Minogue.
In front of the arena’s vast “front porch” are a few tents selling odd and ends…I was really missing my earmuffs this morning, so I almost bought this delightfully shaggy hat…till it started shedding all over my coat.  Yeah, I left all my pet fur worries in Orlando, so it’s a no for this purchase!
And now the first scary foreign adventure of my tour life begins!  I returned from exploring the “left” of the venue, picked up my earmuffs from the bus, and started to explore the “right” side of the venue.  On the other side of the vast Puskás Ferenc-stadion is a big, vividly-colored building I very much wanted to see up close…
I walked halfway around the stadium, only to see the building in the distance, but to find none of the gates to the adjoining sidewalk open!  I tried 8 of them!!!  So I continued around the stadium (towards the left of the above picture), found an open gate, then made a not-so-safe choice to walk down an empty ally.  I came upon a set of vine covered old stairs.  At the top, a significantly smaller, equally abandoned second stadium was revealed by the overgrown trees around it.  The oval area was bordered with concrete stairs, which probably served as seats for past crowds.  A modern white tent system was set up in the middle.  I couldn’t tell what for…no signs and no people.  But it was quite mysterious and cool to find myself in a place no one else from my group had found…I was sure of that!  If you’d like to see more of this Secret Stadium, check out my videos on my Facebook page.
The back way I’d stumbled upon, an adventurous attempt to gain shortcut access to the vivid-colored building, was nothing much to look at in general, accept it gave me a backyard view of some homes, one of which had a cool view…
This backyard looks pretty good for the dead of winter!  The lady statue is actually mooning us a little!
I found a stairway down from Secret Stadium, to the left of this yard, and out an open gate that led to the street with the prize:
The Geological Institute of Hungary (Földtani Intézet)!!!
The building was originally the home of the Hungarian Geological Society, which was established in 1869.  A registered monument, the building is the most significant Hungarian secessionist creation. It was designed by Ödön Lechner and was handed over to the public in 1908.
Like many other of his buildings, this one also has the blue Zsolnay ceramic roof, along with the historic Hungarian figures of the past, balancing a huge globe on their shoulders.
The royal decree founding the Geological Institute was issued in 1869. It was founded to map all the country, to perform geological research for the Hungarian State, its economy and its science, with the help of the Hungarian Geological Society.  Its library and collections are the largest in this field of science in Hungary.  The National Geological Museum (Országos Földtani Múzeum) is also found here. Its collection consists of minerals, prehistoric footprints, general info on Hungarian geology and its history, and an exhibition dedicated to the building’s architect.
Ahhh, a good find:)  And now to go back through the gate and take the shortcut back…um…10 minutes ago the gate was wide open…and now it’s closed and LOCKED!  Now that’s, first, very creepy because no one is around, and no one was around when I went through the gate before.  Second, it’s scary, because now I have to figure out how to get back to the venue…which is directly on the other side of the Puskás Ferenc-stadion…which I can see but can’t reach from the side of the institute!  I have to go in the exact opposite direction to try to find a way there!
Well the short story is that I went the opposite direction, made a few lefts, and found the original gate I exited at before my creepy back-ally adventure began…so I continued around the other half of the huge stadium and made it back to the venue, in time for mic check even!
Our Budapest venue, The SYMA Event Hall, was built in 1999 after the fire in the former Budapest Sportcsarnok.  Concerts and cultural events can hold from 3000 to 6000 persons, depending on the space the stage takes up.  In our case, between our 2 days of performing in the venue, we had over 5,000 people in the audience.
I took a different house angle pic this time, since the place is so big…
You can see our stage to the right.
And here’s my mic perspective…
Our first Budapest show was awesome!  We had about 5 cameras, including a crane, taping the show for future promotional material.  The cast was worried we would run into camera men all night, with all the entrances/exits/gymnastics/and, let’s face it, “punch choreography”!…we didn’t know who would get more injured in the collision…the attacking cast or the guys holding metal and glass close to their faces!  But no one got hurt, security let the audience line the front of the stage during the 2nd act, and the house was going wild!
However, our 2nd show we had a rumored mediocre MJ impersonator trying to steal the attention house left during our 1st act.  I was more disappointed in the audience members who left their seats to run over to the house action and hoot & holler for a guy who wasn’t even SINGING, much less drawing attention from the cast of instrumentalists, dancers, singers, costumes, and lights working so hard for them!  But that was maybe 100 people out of the thousands who were there, so I don’t want to bash the whole audience…but put yourselves in our shoes onstage, doin’ our thang and trying our hardest not to glance over at whatever distraction is making everyone ELSE look over in front of us.  I remember thinking, “Get this act over with…I want to get offstage as quickly as possible!”  It wasn’t a good feeling to have in front of so many people.
It was sort of a letdown after such a successful show the night before, but whatever bad press we got in Hungary regarding the audience drama, it did some good too because we got lots of hits on our websites!  So thank you, Hungary press!
More on Budapest soon…
In Christ,

Our First Gig in Hungary

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Today we play our first gig in Hungary.  The city is called Szeged, and I believe it takes an average of 3 days to pronounce correctly!  It breaks down like this:  ”s-che-ged”.  And there ya go…

The Tisza River has lured human inhabitants to the Szeged region since the beginning of time. The oldest remnants of humans are from mammoth hunters, who settled in the area around 24000 BC. As the ice expanded southwards during the ice-age, the mammoth hunters drifted to warmer regions of the continent. The first archeological findings of human inhabitants go back to the new stone-age (5000 BC). This is about the time humans gave up nomad life and settled down. Today, Szeged is the largest city in Southern Hungary, next to the Serbian border.  The Tisza River, second largest in Hungary, splits the city in two, the old and new szeged.  March 12th, 1879 brought Szeged’s darkest hour- the Great Flood. Both the Tisza and the Maros rivers were bursting with extra water caused by the melting of snow up shore. Shortly after midnight (taking everybody by complete surprise) the dyke near the outskirts of Szeged gave way and literally washed the whole city away. Of the 70,000 people living in the city, 151 died that day. Only 265 houses remained standing, and 5,458 were destroyed. It took four months for the water to dry up.

Narada and Jesse, the Owens brothers, accompanied me on today’s walkabout.  Narada has been dubbed “Night Scout”, due to his knack for walking around the night before and looking online for cool stuff BEFORE we start the afternoon adventure.  When I’m left to myself, I just choose the direction with the highest cool-looking building and start walking!  But today it is Narada’s path:

Below is the Kalvin Reformed Church.  As part of the Hungarian Reformed Church, it was founded in the 16th century. The teachings of Luther and Melanchthon were most influential in the German colonies north of Hungary, while the Hungarian-speaking people supported the teachings of the Swiss reformation, especially those of Calvin.

Foremost among the Hungarian reformers were Gal Huszar (traveling printer and preacher), Stephen Kis of Szeged (theologian), and Peter Melius (pastor of Debrecen). It was due to the exertions of Melius that the Hungarian Reformed Church became a separate entity in doctrine and organization. It adopted the Second Helvetic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism as standards of doctrine and religious education. However, worship retained elements characteristic of the Roman Catholic Church, such as antiphons and passion songs.

At present the Hungarian Reformed Church is the main link that EEFC works with in the organization of English language summer camps.

Across the street is the Anna Medicinal Spa.  Recently upgraded to four stars, the spa has been a haven for Szeged bathers since it was opened in 1896.

Let me just interject here that it would have been awesome to go into some of the bathhouses I’ve seen before and after this one, but the company has gotten paid since our advance before the trip, so none of us have any extra money to spare.  No fun money…just bill money!  It’s coming, but until then, I am enjoying the free gifts of these buildings’ exteriors:)

In The Szechenyi Square (Széchenyi Tér) is a memorial dedicated to Pal Vasarhelyi, the hydro-engineer who made the Danube navigable up to Budapest. In 1829, as a shipping engineer of the Lower Danube, he was commissioned to lead the surveys of the Danube. In 1833-1834 he accompanied István Széchenyi on his study-trip to England, and then became a part of the greatest environmental transformation brought about through river control projects and moor drainage in the 19th century. Based on the plans of István Széchenyi and Pál Vásárhelyi, the Danube was made navigable to the Black Sea between 1834-1896.

Here I am chillin’ on the back of the memorial’s canoe. Vasarhelyi’s coworker doesn’t seem to mind.  Did I ever mention that I love the absence of gates, roped off areas, and English signs telling me not to climb on things?

The town hall is Neo-baroque and an especially elegant building graced with a tall tower and beautifully tiled roof.  Its stone foundation was laid in 1799, designed and built by István Vedres and János Schwörtz.  In 1883, it was redone by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos after severe flood damage.

In front of the City Hall are situated the symbolic statues known as “The Blessing” ( Áldáshozó) and “The Devastating River Tisza”, made of bronze.  

These, along with the fountain between them, commemorate the Great Flood.

On the western side of the square next to the City Hall stands the classical style Zsótér House built by the famous Zsótér merchant family.

Also in the square is the statue of King Stephen and Queen Gisela, by Sándor Kligl. King Stephen (or St. Istvan) helped in the Christianization of Hungary.

Upon Googling the words on this monument, I only found that it represents national pride, but no specific person came up in my research…

Next stop is the Dugonics Square which existed before the Great Flood as well.  For the 100th anniversary of the Great Flood (1979) the city produced a beautiful water and lights show via fountain, and held a concert in the square.

A statue of Andrew Dugonics stands near, holding “Etelka’s Creations”, the first Hungarian novel.

And now, my favorite stop:

The Votive Church, commonly known as the Cathedral, was rebuilt in the neo-Romanesque style close by the Tisza River after the flood. The townspeople swore that if Szeged rebuilt it after the great flood, the would be church built for God’s glory.

You can catch me right in the middle of the steps in this pic.  Narada and I waited for this guy to move, but since there were no rocks handy to toss, we just had to include him in the pic!

The “Dom” has 93-meter-high towers. Hungary’s fourth largest church was  consecrated on October 24, 1930.

The “Dóm tér” or National Pantheon of Szech embraces the cathedral, with statues and reliefs of 80 notables running along an arcade around three sides of the square. The Dom Ter contains Szeged’s most important monuments (it’s a crash course in Hungarian art, literature, culture and history!) and is the centre of events during the annual summer festivals.

Closing our walkabout this day is Roosevelt Square, very close to the bridge which begins this newsletter.  During the reconstruction of Szeged the library at Roosevelt Square (or Tér) was built in the Classical style.  Known as the “cultural palace”, this building houses not only the municipal library but also the Ferenc Móra Museum, named after the popular Hungarian writer of youth literature, and researcher of ancient history, Ferenc Móra.  He started working at the museum in 1904, was appointed director in 1917, and served in that post until he died in 1934.

Now on to the show!  Here is our Szeged venue:

…basically a big sports arena.  I think we played for an audience of 1,100.  Fun show!

I believe this was the first gig, maybe ever, that the side fill speakers weren’t onstage, nixing the megarumble between us and “them”.  Rodney and I were filled with joy AND dancing room!

Next newsletter is Budapest.  LOTS of interesting stories there!!!

Just so you know, sometimes these emails take way too long to compose because the internet is very…moody…over here.  Between the bus, venue, and hotel connections, it’s a miracle I can research anything!!!  But thanks for being patient, and I look forward to getting the Budapest newsletter OUT OF ME!!!

Love you all:)


P.S.  Just in case you didn’t catch it on Facebook, here’s a fun pic of me trying to obey the sidewalk signs…

When in Hungary…:)P