Saturday, June 21, 2014

Budapest - Buda Castle

Date of visit: 10th April 2014

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, been originally named as Royal Palace and/or Royal Castle. Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District, which is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings. It is linked to Clark Adam Square and the Szechenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular.

Buda Castle is the result of many palaces built and destroyed over the centuries, after numerous invasions and attacks on the Hungarian nation. It was built by King Bela IV in the 13th century, enlarged in a Gothic style by King Zsigmond of Luxemburg and expanded upon with a Renaissance flair by King Matyas (1443-1490). It was then reduced to debris when Buda was liberated from the Turks by the Christian forces in 1686.

Terrace in front of National Gallery with Nova Resfita, a cheerful Indonesian girl!

Later, a new smaller palace was built by the Hapsburgs in the Baroque style (1715-1748), but this was burned down during the War of Independence (1849). Soon afterward, it was reconstructed (1850) and greatly enlarged on a neo-Baroque style by Alajos Hauszmann (1875-1912). During World War II, the Palace was made the German army’s centre of operations but, unluckily, it was bombarded by the Russians. The subsequent reconstruction has retained Gothic and Baroque elements, as well as medieval sections discovered during reconstruction. 

Turul, the mythical bird stand proudly guarding the palace

There are two main entrances to Buda Castle. One is just few metres to the left of the upper station of the funicular railway. You can’t miss the ornamental gate, adorned with the impressive Turul that looks as if it’s guarding the Palace. The Turul is a mythical bird that resembles an eagle. It is the symbol of the Hungarian Nation. If you are coming southwards from the Old Town, you will easily find the other entrance to the castle, the Corvinus Gate, which you’ll see straight ahead from Disz Ter on Szent Gyorgy utca or SzĂ­nhaz utca. On the right hand side, you’ll see the excavations of the remnants of Old Castles built in the Middles Ages, that are still taking place and on the left, you’ll see the Castle Theatre and the Sandor Palace. At the end of the flagpole-lined promenade, you’ll find a web-like black gate. On top of the gate, there is a raven with a ring in its beak (the raven was the symbol of King Matthias). This way leads you to King Matthias Fountain and then to the Lion Courtyard. I'm sharing almost all photos of the buildings as mentioned, so, it will be easier for you to spot them on. The castle is a part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, which was declared a Heritage Site in 1987. At present, the castle has been converted and use for the following functions and purposes:-

The Hungarian National Gallery: It is the gallery that have largest public collection, documenting and presenting the rise and development of the fine arts in Hungary. It contains an enormous collection that includes approximately 6,000 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, 3,100 medals, 11,000 drawings and 5,000 prints. The Hungarian National Gallery was opened in 1957 in the building that today houses the Museum of Ethnography. It open from Tuesday to Sundays 10:00 am- 6:00 pm, close on Monday.
The Hungarian National Gallery
Fishing Children by Karoly Senyey
The Budapest History Museum: The museum displays fascinating permanent exhibits of Budapest history from early tribal settlements to modern urban life. There are several collections of items of Roman and Medieval-era pieces such as weapons, jewellery, pottery and day-to-day life objects. The basement of the Museum contains restored Gothic-Renaissance rooms of the mostly destroyed Medieval building. The archaic walls, the Gothic room and the Royal Chapel, built by Nagy Lajos (Louis the Great) in the 1360’s, recreate the atmosphere of the Old Buda Castle. For those who wishes to know about in the exciting and turbulent history of Budapest can visit the Castle Museum seated at the southern part of the Lion Courtyard.

The Budapest History Museum
Matthias fountain before an entrance to the History Museum

National Szechenyi Library: The library is the National Library of Hungary, founded in 1802 by Count Ferenc Szechenyi and features temporary exhibits of exceptional books and historic documents. It currently contains 10 million items, among which is the first book ever printed in Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, published in 1473) as well as an ancient texts belonging to King Matthias. From the time of its creation, the library’s task has been to collect all works published in Hungary, in Hungarian or foreign languages, all works written abroad by Hungarians, non Hungarians or with the collaboration of Hungarians and all works published abroad in foreign languages related to Hungary. The entrance to the library is in the Lion Courtyard.  

National Library of Hungary

Castle Theatre: The Castle Theatre is the only 18th century theatre building in Hungary which still functions as a theatre. This former Carmelite church was converted into a theatre in 1784, during the reign of Emperor Joseph II. The first play performed in the theatre was the "Monk of the Carmel Hill" on October 17, 1787. In the beginning, all of the plays were performed in German and it was not until 1790 that the first play in Hungarian took place. Today, the Castle Theatre is well known as the National Dance Theatre, where a great variety of dance genres are featured. There is a small gallery dedicated to outstanding Hungarian painters. The theatre is located on Szinhaz utca 1-3, next to Sandor Palace.

Castle Theater in yellow building

Alexander Palace (Sandor Palota): This Classicist style palace, designed by Mihaly Pollac, was built at the beginning of the 19th century. It was almost totally demolished during World War II. The Palace was renovated at the beginning of this decade and once served as the residence of the Prime Minister, but now houses the Presidential Offices. Once a year, in the third week of September, the Palace is open to the public as part of the National Cultural Heritage Days program. The Sandor Palace is located at Szent Gyorgy ter 1, right next to the cogwheel station (Siklo) and in front of the Buda Castle main entrance. 

Alexander Palace

Buda Castle main entrance, with Turul & it's grandeur gate

Source of reference: Wikipedia and other Budapest local tourist website.

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