March 1, 2016
My sister posing with the Pumis in front of a subway musician. The guy probably finished the Liszt Ferenc Conservatorium.
Dog shows, meetings, breeding dogs, exercising, eating, visiting family…pretty much thats all that I could do during the first two weeks in Budapest. Time flies fast. Finally, Sunday my sister convinced me to forget the Pumis and dragged me to the City. I did not oppose and there we went.
My buns are perhaps growing from the delicious food , however, they turn into buns of steel during the spin classes I’ve been taking in the nearby gym.
Budapest is a humungous size city with a population of over 3 million people within 203 square miles of land. This area is strictly the 22 districts of the City of Budapest without the greater metropolitan area. (compare it to New York’s five boroughs with over 8 million people on 305 square miles of land .) About 1/3 of Hungary’s population of 10 million lives in Budapest.
Checking out street vendors in the Jewish quarter
or not to spin
We aimed the famous Erzsebetvaros, or Elizabethstadt in German or in English simply Elizabethtown, the VII-th district (7th district). This area was the outer edge of the City of Pest prior to the 1873, unification of the three independent cities, Buda, Pest, and Old- Buda. During the 1800s there have been gardens, small agricultural plots around this area with one and two story houses where the jewish population started moving in to the city from the countrysides in search for a better life.
Cobble stones, narrow streets, old buildings…
The turn of the century (1900) has brought an incredible urban renaissance to the area. Eclectic high-rise buildings and wide boulevards, were designed and built that surrounded the perimeters of the largest jewish quarter in Budapest. During this time, the area’s vernacular name has become “Csikago” after the City of Chicago in the U.S.. The nickname drew a parallel between the rapid urban and economic growth of the area and the American metropolis. Ironically, during the Great Depression, the name stuck with the district, but at this time because of another parallel drawn between the two cities, the growth in crime rate.
Shut up visitors !
Near the end of WWII the jewish population has been systematically decimated by the retreating German military from the Russian front and the Hungarian National Socialists. After the war, during the rebuilding of the City, the center of Elizabethtown, the “ghetto,” as it was unofficially called by the communists, got very small attention. It has remained one of the most dilapidated, poorest and crime ridden part of Budapest, hidden behind magnificent edifices.
City bikes to avoid driving around tipsy in the neighborhood. Hungary has ZERO (0) alcohol tolerance for drivers of automobiles. Consequently, Hungary has the strongest “Drunk Drivers Against Mothers” movement. (OK bad joke…)
During the 1960s’ Communist integration policy, the Gipsy (Romani) from the countryside, was forced to move under the urban relocation programs into the district’s abandoned and battered buildings. Lack of infrastructure, sanitation, policing and available jobs, turned the area into a hotbed of urban crime again. During the 1970’s and 1980’s’ communist gentrification, a slow, however, steady wave of “bohemian artistic crowd” moved into the area that has become the beginning of the second urban renaissance of the district.
Memorials for the members of the Swiss Embassy who saved the Jews of Budapest during WWII
Today, Elizabethtown is a huge tourist attraction with street vendors, artisans, galleries, restaurants, bars, micro hotels and great apartments for rent. We spent pretty much the entire Sunday in the area wondering around. One of the greatest attractions are the “Ruin pubs” that open up in abandoned buildings and empty lots with good food, wide selection of beers, art works for sale and music.
The entrance of one of the “Ruin pubs” in the district. The fundamental idea is to rent or occupy an abandoned building and set up shop using second hand furniture, weird art work and thrift store clutter. Serve alcohol with no regular hours and no permits and move on when the neighbors complain or the authorities are after you.,
The “Madach Building… in retrospect one of the most ironic architectural piece of the area build in 1938 right on the perimeter of the “ghetto.” Its style suspiciously reminds me to Nazi and Fascist architecture of the era.
Although most of the area has been restored and sanitized to entertain tourists, the ghosts of those who perished during the violent past, have been and will be present in the air, the bricks of the buildings, the cobble stones of the streets and in the reflections of leaded glass windows of the synagogues.
The arcade of the Madach building. It is a fine piece of representation of the era. The apartments in the building must worth a fortune. Location location location…
in the Jewish quarter, outside of the Main synagogue
The famous six-story “Hussar Building,” the former home of the iconic “Film Museum.” The entry was on the first floor and the theater itself was on the basement level, way under ground. It was very difficult to get tickets there. We have watched some of the greatest movies of cinema’s history here with Laszlo. Fellini, Bergman, Fassbinder, Herzog, Schlondorff, Bunuel, Truffaut, Godard, Cocteau, and the like… In my opinion, the program of the Film Museum had a significant role in the collapse of communism….