Custom Search

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jewish Budapest

Since I first came to Budapest in 1994, the Jewish neighbourhood has been one of my favourite places in town. Between 2001 and 2006 I used to live nearby so walking there was quite usual. Although now we live on the other side of the Danube, I like getting back there very much.

In April with Jelica we decided to have a childless walk there and some of the pictures were taken at that time. Yesterday, I decided to go on a lonely biking image hunt while everybody else was sleeping.

Biking slowly in different Budapest neighbourhoods is something that I like doing a lot. It is quite a nostalgic exercise as my thoughts go like that: in 1994 I walked this street, a friend of mine lived here in 2001, I used to come to this restaurant in 2002, etc.

This is the Budapest Great Synagogue or otherwise known as the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest functioning one in Europe and second largest in the world. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and such a colourful spot in the middle of the town with its red and yellow hues. The synagogue is built between 1854 ans 1859 in a Moorish Revival style. Those who have been to Alhambra, Andalucia can see the similarities.

Budapest synagogue

Aiming to the skies, it looks like the perfect shell for travelling towards the depths of one's soul.

Budapest synagogue close up

Only the trolley lines and the tree leaves are new on this picture. Isn't every present moment born from the constant interplay between old and new: old memories and new impressions or old buildings and new modes of transport?

You can't avoid the trolley lines

This is the cemetery in the back yard of the main synagogue. 1945 is the year of death on most of them.

Cemetery plates

Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was born next to the synagogue. He was the first to imagine a separate state for the Jews in his book the Jewish State, 1896. He saw this as a solution to the rising Antisemitism in Europe. He did not necessarily envision the new Jewish state to be based in Palestine. Argentina was one of the options. If his ideas had been implemented earlier in the 20th century some lives could have been saved.

Theodore Herzl birth place
was next to the synagogue

This is the Rumbach Sebestyen street Status Quo Synagogue, located not far from the main one. This is a smaller but very elegant synagogue built in the Romantic style in 1872.

Rumbach street Status Quo Synagogue

And.....the derelict entrance to the synagogue. I wonder why it is in such a state.

Same synagogue, door

It is obvious from this picture of the towers of the synagogue that mosques and synagogues are not that far apart from each other from an architectural point of view, kind of second cousins. I am not sure but I imagine that this architectural cross-fertilization took place in Moorish Spain rather than in Palestine lands.

Towers of Rumbach Synagogue

This monument - Tree of Life (weeping willow) - is dedicated to the victims of holocaust. It is located behind the main synagogue, in a park named after the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews by providing them fake Swedish passports. There are 30,000 names of Jewish holocaust victims on its branches.

Raoul Wallenberg tree

And, of course, there aren't only synagogues in the Jewish neighbourhood. This is a residential house on Dob street in the art nouveau style. You can see the beautiful metal balcony and Jewish symbols on the windows.

Dob street house

The Kazinczy street Othodox Synagogue stands like an ancient temple on a treeless winding street. What is there behind the corner?

Kazinczy Street Orthodox Synagogue

There was a period in 1944-45 when the Danube was clogged with dead bodies.

Picture: Dennis Leaf

In contrast to the other, emotionally-laden pictures, this is a picture of a weeping willow on Hollo street, meaning Raven in Hungarian. I took the picture as I made the association with a famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe , the Raven in which the raven, an uninvited guest keeps repeating 'nevermore'.

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

horizontal space


Lorac said...

I really love blogging for just this reason, seeing the world through other peoples eyes. As I have never been there I have no idea what it is like. Your pictures have helped to inform me. Wonderful pictures and info! Thank you!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I visited Budapest about 5 years ago but really did not have enough time to really see the city. Even though I visited the Main synagogue, your post has helped give more dimension to the place and the people. Again, a wonderful travelogue and I can see how Budapest neighborhoods are great for cycling trips.

Jelica said...

Thanks for visiting us, Lorac!

Squirrel--yes, indeed, Budapest is great for cycling (which Ruslan can confirm from experience, being the cyclist in the family) especially Pest (where the Jewish quarter is situated) because it is flat and has good bike paths. Buda is definitely more challenging with all the hills!

I_am_Tulsa said...

Thank you again for this lovely trip abroad. I usually get frustrated when I see telephone lines in my pictures, but you have put the situation nicely! The meetings of old and new can be an interesting and sometimes beautiful thing!

Polly said...

Thank you for this trip around Budapest, it reminded me why I think it's one of the most beautiful cities in Europe! The synagogue built in a Moorish Revival style is a fascinating object of inter-religious communication, don't you think? And I love that Art Nouvea house, I love this style.

Did you find it hard to hearn Hungarian?

Anandi said...

This was absolutely amazing!

I loved the photographs, trolley lines included! Especially the Tree of Life.

Jelica said...

Tulsa--there's no escaping telephone lines or trolley lines. If I were proficient in Photoshop maybe I could remove them somehow but I prefer more authentic pictures.

Polly--yes, it was hard, and we never learned it fully. We can have simple conversations and certainly get by, but not more than that.

Anandi--I also like the Tree of Life, it is the one hopeful thing amidst the tombs of the cemetery. And it commemorates a very brave man who saved many lives but, unfortunately, was captured by the Russians when they liberated/"liberated" Budapest and vanished without trace somewhere in Soviet camps.

I_am_Tulsa said...

Jelica, I agree 100 percent! That is why I like what you and Ruslan post! It's the next best thing to actually being there! But one of these days...! ;-)

NicoleB said...

Oh wow, thanks for this awesome tour!
I see I need to go and visit Budapest again.
So many hidden corners and so much to see.
Greetings from the Southern corner of Hungary :)

A Cuban In London said...

I loved this post so much. From the tour you gave us of your home to the closing lines with that timeless Poe's poem (one of my favourite authors, mind). Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Ruslan said...

Dear Nicole,

You are in the south of Hungary and still haven't visited the hidden Budapest? Get ready for a trip.

Cuban in London, thanks for the compliment. The link between the name of the street and the Raven was a bit farfetched but I was looking for a reason to publish a link to it so I found it :-)

NicoleB said...

Grin, it's still a two hour drive from us, so I have kind of an excuse ;)