Friday, 25 January 2008
Fő utca story
©LRM2007 Szent Anna templom
Fô utca, or Main Street, cuts through the Water Town district of Buda, running in a long straight line from Clark Ádám tér north to Bem József tér.
Fô utca was previously called Alsó Fô utca (Lower Main Street) in 1874, before 1695 it was Ország út (Land Strasse) and before that, around 1440, it was called Duna utca.
The busy traffic-crammed street begins at the nearly permanently blocked roundabout at Clark Ádám tér. The gaping hole where Miklós Ybl’s Budai Savings Bank building once stood is soon to be developed into an ultra-modern office complex.
Fô utca 1 on the right-hand side belongs to the Central Court of the Buda District.
It was designed by Ybl in 1867-69.
On the left-hand side at Fô utca 2 is a three-sided Romantic building designed by Hugó Máltás (1860-61).
It was built for the widow of Dutch shipbuilder J A Majson who came to Hungary at the invitation of Count István Széchenyi.
Fô utca 3 was also designed by Máltás in 1861-66, in a neo-Classical style.
The premises are now occupied by the Ferenczy István Visual Workshop, named after a well-known 19th century sculptor who had a studio here until 1834.
The next stretch of the street is well-supplied with food and drink. A sörözô, the new Belgian Abbey restaurant, Korean food at the Seoul House and the Ping Chinese restaurant all share a 50-meter length.
The laundromat at number 10 has an atmospheric old-style neon column advertising Patyolat (laundry) in blue and white letters contrasting with the yellowing tower on this elegant building.
The District I Cultural Center (Mûvelôdési ház) stands at Fô utca 11-13.
A plaque on the wall reads that a Polish team of doctors occupied this house and many were killed on March 19, 1944.
The building was designed by István Lánzbauer and built in 1880 for Count Gyula Andrássy.
At Fô utca 14-18 you can see an old portion of wall in front of a modern, all-glass building.
These are the remains of a medieval house which was reconstructed in the 17th century.
The French Institute, designed by Frenchman George Maurios and opened in 1992, stands at Fô utca 17, opposite the Jardin de Paris restaurant which is situated in the most beautiful building on the street, the historic Kapisztory House, built in 1811 for a Greek merchant.
György Békesy (1899-1972), the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and experimental physicist, worked and lived at number 19 until 1946, commemorated by a black marble plaque on the wall.
The Horgász Tanya at number 27 is a good place to enjoy fish dishes and opposite, at number 25, is a new coffee shop, the Soho Coffee Company (see cafe review on page 2).
Fô utca then opens out into the bare and muddy Corvin tér.
The church on the south side was formerly a Capuchine monastery in the 18th century and, prior to that, the original medieval church on this site was used as a mosque by the occupying Ottomans.
You can see a Turkish door on the southern wall.
At the north of the square is the Buda Vigadó building, built by Mór Kallina and Aladár Árkay in 1900.
This is the home of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and Civil Rádió.
Along the right-hand side of Corvin tér is the back of the Art’otel, occupying four fishermen’s cottages in custard, pink, pale green and sun yellow.
If you’re getting thirsty by now you can pop into the Ampelos Kisvendéglô at Corvin tér 6. Fô utca emerges for a few paces then disappears immediately into Szilágyi Dezsô tér.
The Hungarian-Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) was born at Szilágyi Dezsô tér 4.
Another plaque reveals the interesting detail that composer Béla Bartók lived in the same building from 1922-28.
Opposite stands the red-brick neo-Gothic Calvinist church whose roof is adorned with ceramic Zsolnay tiles from the Pécs factory.
The church was designed and built in 1893-96 by Sámuel Pecz, who created the Main Market Hall, also with Zsolnay tiles. There is a tiny statue by Béla Berán of Pecz dressed in medieval master builder’s clothes on a drinking fountain in the tiny park surrounding the church.
The building suffered bomb damage in the Second World War and was restored in the 1980s. Outside the church on the river bank is a memorial to the March 15, 1848 revolution with the message 'Hazádnak rendületlenül' (steadfastly for your homeland).
Fô utca leads onward to Batthyány tér and on the right is one of Budapest’s important Baroque monuments, the Szent Anna Church (1740-62). It was built for Jesuits by Kristóf Hamon, Máté Nepauer and Mihály Hamm.
Lack of funds and an earthquake in 1763 hampered the building work and consecration only occurred in 1805.
Batthyány tér was once called Bomba tér because a cannon and ammunition depot was situated here. In the 18th century it was the site of a market and thus called Upper Market Square.
Batthyány refers to Count Lajos Batthyány, the Prime Minister of the 1848 Hungarian Government.
On the left is Market No VI, now occupied by a modern supermarket.
Next door is Nagyi Palacsintázója where you can eat pancakes with dozens of assorted savoury or sweet fillings. (2004 -San Marzano, the Hungarian version of English pizza chain Pizza Express, have just opened their third Budapest venue next door)
Next to the pancake shop is a beautiful Baroque building with Rococco ornamentation at the lower level, marred somewhat by a neon "Casanova" sign.
Two hundred years ago it was the White Cross Inn, a popular place of entertainment to which a marble plaque in the bar testifies. According to legend, the serial seducer Giovanni Jacopo Casanova once stayed there when he came to Buda to take the water cure after many years languishing in prison.
Casanova is also famous as the place where high-pitched pop singer Jimmy Zámbó (who accidentally shot and killed himself at a New Year’s party at his Csepel home on January 2, 2001) began his musical career.
In 1795 stonemason Hikisch Kristóf built the house next door at Batthyány tér 3 for himself. This is also a three-story Louis XVI-style house.
On Batthyány tér the big red building on the north side was once a Franciscan Monastery, then a hospital run by nuns. It was built in the 18th century.
Outside it is a statue of Ferenc Kölcsey created in 1939 by the sculptor Ede Kallós. Kölcsey (1790-1838) wrote the Himnusz, the Hungarian national anthem.
Carrying on along Fô utca on the right, renovation is taking place on the pastel blue Wounds of Saint Francis church. Deemed a national monument, the church was built in Baroque style by Hans Jakab 1731-1757.
Fô utca crosses over Csalogány utca and there is a wonderful, leafy florist’s shop on the corner.
Opposite at Fô utca 68, a socialist constructivist relief shows three stonemasons struggling with a block of stone.
The street then reaches Nagy Imre tér where the Foreign Ministry stands facing the river.
The square was previously called Bolgár Elek tér, and one old sign is still in place.
The forbidding building on the north side of the square is a prison.
A gold-coloured plaque on the wall reads, "In this building operated the Buda uprising groups and the organizers of the new democratic, national revolutionary forces."
At the northwest corner another plaque commemorates the martyrs and heroes. On June 15, 1958, Imre Nagy and other martyrs were sentenced to death in this building.
In July 1999, Attila Ambrus, the "Whiskey Robber", escaped from an upper story window using bed sheets tied together.
Back on Fô utca the upmarket Kacsa Vendéglô, specializing in duck dishes, stands opposite the faded green peeling walls of the Király Thermal Baths, also situated down some cobbled steps at a lower level.
At Fô utca 88 stands an egg yolk-yellow church built in 1759-1760. Churches are this colour because it was Maria Theresa’s favourite colour. It was built with money from Antal Christ and given to the Greek Catholics. The church was found to be sinking and in 1937 it was raised by 1.40 meters by Fridrich Lajos.
Fô utca ends at Bem József tér.
The Polish General "Papa" Bem fought with the Hungarians in the 1848 Revolution against the Habsburgs, scoring victories over the Austrian and Russian armies in Transylvania.
The statue commemorates the Battle of Piski.
When the uprising collapsed, Bem fled to Turkey and died in 1854 bearing the name of Amarut Pasha after converting to Islam. In 1956, students rallied by Bem’s statue.
Article filed April 2002.