Budapest. November 5, 2022

We got up around 8 this morning after a pretty good first night’s sleep. Let me say first off that we had a great day today.. The hotel has a very nice breakfast which we took advantage of. I did not take pictures of the food. I know that sounds unbelievable and there was some pretty interesting food. I am saving the food photography for tomorrow when Sarah and I have decided to eat everything you would not find on a typical American breakfast!

We have planned a visit to the Fine Arts Museum and Heroes’ Square. We need to take the Metro to do this. Figuring out transportation is always an adventure. There is a stop only about a block from the hotel. We go down the stairs and into the station but there is no ticket machine and the warnings are dire about traveling without a ticket. We trudge back up the stairs and look around, no ticket machine. Hmmm, what to do? We opt on heading back to the hotel where the nice lady at reception tells us that in order to buy a ticket at this particular station you must go across the street where there is an entrance to the station going in the opposite direction from our planned route. There we will find a ticket machine. So off we head again, cross the street, descend the stairs, buy the tickets, climb up the stairs, cross the street, descend the stairs again and catch the train. Guess whose bad knee is unhappy.

The reason for this antiquated system (which I just learned about) is because the M1 line is the second oldest underground railway system in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Thus no modern conveniences like escalators and elevators. It is all quite quaint with interesting tiling and lots of wooden features. So we are sightseeing without knowing it.

M1 station (taken from internet)

We arrive at Heroes’ Square and it is a short walk to the Fine Arts Museum. A very nice guide/helper makes sure we know where the elevators are and suggests things to see. There is an El Greco exhibition going on but we have opted to stick to their regular collection. We know what we want to see, Pre- and Early Renaissance Art!!

Budapest Fine Arts Museum

While we are down in the basement to ditch our coats we stroll through Roman, Greek, and Egyptian antiquities. The first thing to catch our eyes is a Cycladic marble figure dating to 2700-2400 BCE. Although it is a primitive burial figure it would look great on my mantle piece. The caption says these figures were the works of unknown European peoples.

Cycladic marble figure

I also enjoy these Gorgon’s heads, a symbol of deathly terror. They have gaping mouths with their tongues sticking out and the hair styling is of poisonous snakes.

Gorgon’s heads

Now we head upstairs. Along the way we come across a fresco of the Annunciation by Cola di Petrucciolo from around 1390. You can see how hard he was trying to get the perspective right. Often these works have a relative type of perspective where an object is in perspective in itself but not in perspective to the whole of the work. This is especially noticeable in the open cupboards door and the books inside. And what would happen to the BVM if she stood up? For sure she would hit her head on the ceiling!

Annunciation

A highlight for me is a late 15th century miniature diptych which depicts in part eight saints with their attributes in vivid color. From left to right they are St.Onophrius who is usually shown clad in leaves with long wild hair, St. Elizabeth of Hungary with her crown at her feet, St. Stephen painted with a rock on his head signifying that he was martyred by stoning, St. Bartolomew holding his flaying knife, St. Lawrence who was martyred on a grill by fire, John the Baptist in a hair shirt, St. Andrew with a long staff and fish, and St. George standing on the dragon he slew. Interestingly this diptych is attributed to Lo Scheggia who was the younger brother of one of the founders of Renaissance painting, Masaccio.

Diptych

Another great find is half of another miniature diptych showing the crucifixion with a small St. Francis at the foot of the cross. This was painted by an unknown painter around 1260. It still has a lot of Byzantine qualities to it in the stylized drapery and faces and the gold leaf background. But why is St. Francis so much smaller than the BVM and St. John the Evangelist? It could be because St. Francis had just died and been canonized about 25 years earlier and his relative standing next to two Goliaths of the Catholic Church had not yet been sorted out. Or it could be that St. Francis was becoming a cult figure, some calling him the “second Jesus Christ” and the painter wanted to show St. Francis as a less important figure next to the others.

Crucifiction circa 1260

Between the jet lag and my aching knee we decide to just look at the rest of the collection through Mannerism quickly, go take some pictures in Heroes’ Square, and find some lunch. According to Wikipedia, “Heroes’ Square is one of the major squares in Budapest noted for its iconic Millennium Monument with statues featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heroes.”

Millennium Monument in Heroes’ Square

Mary in front of the Memorial Stone of Heroes

Sarah and Mary selfie

We return on the Metro to the Opera stop and look for somewhere to have lunch. It is almost 3 PM or 15:00 as they call it in Europe. There is the nearby Callas Cafe named, we imagine , after the famous opera star, Maria Callas. We decide to eat two of the iconic dishes, goulash and paprikas.

The lunch is tasty and the wait staff is very nice. Since John is not with us Sarah must pose for the iconic beer picture. For John’s information she is drinking an HB Hefeweizen. I have a glass of Hungarian red wine.

Iconic beer picture #1 HB Hefeweizen

Now is the part of the day we have both been looking forward to, nap time! I think we have done a lot today and deserve a little lie-down. We immediately fall asleep at 4:30 and sleep until the alarm wakes us at 6. We are slow to arise but Sarah is interested in dinner around 8. It is chilly and rainy and the walk to the restaurant, Trattoria Cardinale, revives us. Service is slow because business is booming.

Iconic beer picture #2 Eidelweiss Hefeweizen

We get back to the room around 10 PM and immediately go to sleep. However I have been up since 2:15 AM and Sarah since 3. It is 4:20 now so I think I will get this posted and try to get some more sleep. Busy day ahead!

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