Budapest Bug

The former Hungaria Bath

There is a house in Dohány Street, where the inscription over the door - Hungaria Bath - has long lost its validity; thirtyfive years have passed since the last bather left. Actually, only this inscription, the doorway reliefs, and the Zsolnay ceramics, here and there still found in the interior, and remainders of the drinking fountain hint to the former bathing life; though, this bath complex, formed of the first, Reform-era hath-house involved half of the block in its heydays at the beginning of this century.

Still in 1826, a named András Gamperl, citizen of merit of town Pest, made an important resolution: to huild a bath, a thermal bath for his ailing fellow citizens. He had an empty lot in the outskirts of the town, with a deep well renowned of yielding chalybeate water. So he decided to build a bathhouse to properly make use of the chalybeate spring. The bath became immediately popular. It was descrihed by Feldmann in 1844 as: “Almost half of the rooms facing the courtyard are occupied by the bath itself, to the left are apartments for the bath operator and the personnel, while the remaining part accommodates a garden and pavilions for the ease of bathers” Essentially, Gamperl’s chalybeate bath had been a tub hath with bathrooms and guest rooms, open, however, only for part of the year, from May to October.

Designs for the Hungaria Chalybeate Bath cannot be found any more, but to realize it is helped by subsisting designs for a reconstruction in 1922, relying on the original drawings. The details taking shape are completed by a contemporary description in Pesti Hirlap: “From the doorway the path leads across a beautiful, majolica-decorated hall, first to the steam bath. Here there are three basins, the warm one is 18 m long by 7 m wide, the lukewarm 7 m long by 7 m wide, and the cool 5 m long by 5 m wide; there is an inhalation room, a drying room, two steam chambers, a shower room and a room for gymnastics; there is also a finely furnished lounge with eighteen enormous couches for after-bath rest. The first floor comprises 50 tub baths, with three kinds of tubs: china, English fayence and metal. All of them are finely equipped, comfortable, and highly practical. Other fine tub baths are in the basement. The laundry is in the attic, and there are also large, power-driven fans - thus, everything is equipped as practically as possible”.

Soon, the bath starts expanding. In 1904, Ringer brothers bought it and applied for a permit to transform to a larger public bath, wit swimming pool (with openable roof) and steam bath. The Public Bath functioned up to the mid’20s, only the steam bath section operated till 1952. The swimming hall of Hungária Bath and the women’s steam bath are the most important works of Emil Ágoston architect (1876-1921), who died at a young age, but handed down sevcral high-standard buildings, like Hotel Astoria. Rather than to its ingenious exterior and interior alone, the building of Hungária Bath merit lies in the daring reinforced concrete structure meeting unique, novel demands. “It bears the stamp of the spirit of modern times; it is giant by conception and dimensions; its execution meets illimited requirements, and its means range over all the novel feats of engineering” wrote the architects’ journal Építő Ipar on 23rd May 1909.

Sopron’s Theater

A regular theatrical scene in Sopron exists since the 1730’s. Hungary’s second permanent theatre was built here in 1769. At that time the language spoken in Sopron was mainly German and the theatre had its directors and actors recruited from Vienna. The first Hungarian speaking drama brought to the scene was „László Hunyadi” in 1792.

In the 1830’s the magistrates of the town decided to publish a call for competition in respect of a new theatre building. The winner was an Austrian architect named Franz Lössl, who designed a harmonious classicist building, the construction of which was completed by 1842. This date meant the beginning of the age of permanent companies in the theatre. From 1905 onwards the six months long season has been dedicated to Hungarian performances.

In 1909 the theatre was renovated and modernised; it was at that time that the facade of the building gained an Art Nouveau style decoration with folklore motives and the interior structure and engineering, the acoustics and the illumination was fully streamlined, by the plans of István Medgyaszay.

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Kapisztory house, Buda

The Kapisztory house of Buda is not only the most enchanting Baroque building on the Fő street, but also the oldest original one. Its history goes back to the times of King Matthias’s reign. The little, modest peasant house was enlarged and rebuilt in the beginning of the 18th century, after the siege of Buda Castle.

The house’s last rebuilding in its present form occured in 1811, by by a newsettler Greek vendor family. Joseph Kapisztory was a Greek merchant, who comissioned András Dankó local mason master to create an accomodation for the family in Buda. Dankó designed a closed, semicirular loggia, like a turret on the corner of the first floor – the house is the most famous for even today - , and copf style ornaments above the windows. The most interesting parts of the decorations are the reliefs on the facades, depicting mitological animals, manifested phenomens, plants, flowers, tiny people doing their everyday’s business (mainly merchandize of course) and – quite suprising – little chinese figures (suposedly vendors) too.

The panels follow the history of the house: after the Kapisztory family the building became the property of Count Ferenc Brunswick in 1829. Later, in 1850 Ferenc Ede Friedl’s confectionery operated here, whose tradesign was Flora, the godess of flowers and spring (maybe the floral oramentations originate from here). Part of the original biedermeyer furniture of the coffee still can be seen inside the house. During WWII the house was almost totally destroyed, its restauration started at the end of the 1950’s. Today the house hosts the Pavillon de Paris French restaurant, which is partly a garden restaurant.

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Easter in Hollókő

Can I water this flower?

“Through the greenwood going / I saw a blue violet growing / I saw it start to wither / Can I water this flower?”

Small boys learn this rhyme when they are still in the kindergarten, and they sing it to girls on Easter Monday. They promptly sprinkle the girls with eau de cologne — without waiting for an answer, of course. Many young men, even older men, do the same, though the range of verses at their disposal is rather wider, sometimes more sophisticated, occasionally more spicy.

This practice goes back to an old country custom. On Easter Monday, young farmhands are allowed to throw a bucket of cold well water over girls of marriageable age; and even to dip them in a stream. The girls scream and resist, but are secretly delighted. Now eau de cologne has mainly replaced the water. A few splashes, rather than a costly bucketful, suffice. The ritual now involves women of all ages, married or unmarried, with female relations just as much a target as girlfriends, neighbors and work colleagues.

The day still has special significance for unmarried women and girls. They wear pretty clothes and await the unannounced arrival of their admirers. Girls take a pride in attracting many visitors and “waterers.” After the boy has carried out his ritual role, he is offered gaily painted eggs, home-baked cookies, and an alcoholic drink. He is then free to go on to the next girl. The sprinkling with water and the gift of Easter eggs is a pre-Christian fertility symbol far older than the celebration of Easter.

The fabolous blue print

The indigo print or blue print arrived in Europe from the Far East. Printed textiles have been known in China, Japan and India for thousands of years. The representatives of India brought these textiles as presents to the French court where they immediately became fashionable among ladies and the nobles in the 17th century. A number of countries tried to ban it. It could even bring the death penalty, since such fabrics became serious competitors to the domestic textile industry. It was also banned by the Church as the Devil’s work, because experiments with acid resulted in a number of accidents. However, these goods conquered Europe via Dutch harbours.

In Thuringia and France, the plant Isortistunctoria L was found that could replace Indigo. Thus, skipping the dangerous process, blue-print could reach Hungary via Thuringia, Czechie, Slovakia and Austria. Besides its typical blue- white colour combination, yellow, green and red colours were also used. It gained ground mostly in rural areas among farmers and provided a basis for folk dresses in particular areas.

Blue print guilds were established in the 18th century all around Hungary with the leadership of mostly regions where the German language was spoken. As blue print guilds belonged to the most well off tax payers, in each town intended to establish this new industry in its territory. More than a hundred workshops operated at the turn of the century with a printing technology and patterns that were top secret within the particular guild. This beautiful profession and the workshops were gradually wasted by the international economic crisis, mass production from Austria and the World Wars. Most of the workshops were closed during the Soviet occupation and the patterns were lost.

This beautiful old-new handicraft is under revival nowadays, and you find them all over the country. The only blueprint museum in Central Eastern Europe can be found in Pápa, Hungary. An old and famous workshop was rebuilt for this purpose and hundreds of patterns are exhibited besides a number of tools and machines.

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