A Glimpse Of Budapest
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BUDA is on one side of the Danube, Pest on the other, and the bridges made the hyphen between, but recently the two became so welded together they rank as one city and the words are now written as one.
The firat thing one notices on arriving is the rapid driving of the fiacres. No automobiles are required for speed, for all one need do is to take a seat behind two horses, and before he has time to put up a prayer for the help of heaven, the destination, however far it may be, is °reached. . The next thing noticeable is the clean streets. They are absolutely spotless, and armies of men with hose and brooms work like Trojans every minute of the day. The hose has no little timid stream like ours, but a mighty torrent of water rushes out as though a whole ocean were being emptied. Budapest is so immaculate one expects to see a broom on the coat of arms.
The signs are another striking feature. Many of the shops have out on the front, large paintings of what they contain. For instance, a furniture store has without a highly-colored painting of a hospitable looking sofa, with a few polite chairs posed around it; a plumber pictures out for your gaze all the leaden pipes that turn to gold in his bill; the barber's picture shows a man so curled, combed and waxed that he would be out of place anywhere but in a bandbox; and a meat-shop displays a painting of a ham, sausage, and that indefatigable chicken, that as a poulel roll is ever with us at table d'hote, the world over, until it is surprising travelers do not attempt a boycott.
The exterior illustrations of a shop's contents must have originated from the difficulty the people have in understanding their own tongue. Hungarian is certainly the language in which to conceal one's thoughts, and it remains to be explained if they write their words upside down, or merely turn them wrong side out, for the Delphic oracle itself would have been puzzled to interpret them. Many of the private houses in addition to the long, flat pillows laid on the sills in the winter to keep out the cold, also hang small fur rugs across the lower part of the window, which gives them a look of barbaric richness.
There is no night in Budapest. The evening and early morning are the second day. The cafes are so numerous house-keeping must be an easy task, as no family takes three meals a day at home. They congregate in the cafes, visiting with their friends while sipping the delicious ices and drinking coffee, and with the delights of the Hungarian orchestras and gypsy bands a Hungarian's leisure hours areas systematically spent at a restaurant, or sauntering along the fine promenade by the Danube, called Franz Joseph Quai, as his busy ones are at his desk. Sulphur springs abound, people flock to the baths with the most rigid regularity, and who does not know the virtues of Hunyadi water?
The women are absolutely independent in dress and show a fine disregard of the current fashion that is unusual in this day, when to be out of style makes one shunned like a leper. The soldiers all wear skin-tight trousers, very high black boots and fascinating caps with cockades and bushy tassels, while the nurses in very full skirts stopping at the knee, handkerchiefs over the head, and high black boots, saunter along, always carrying the baby in their strong arms, whom they cover with a finely embroidered coverlet, pinned in front to their own shoulders and dropping over the child.
Budapest and Minneapolis are the flour providers of the world. En route to the former one passes through miles and miles of wheat fields through which very large oxen draw the ploughs, and the monotony of this flat expanse extends from Budapest in all directions. Elevators are numerous and freight boats on the Danube load grain in bags all day long, while the nervous little passenger boats dart in and out among them in an important way, as if pressed for time. Many of them go to Margaret Island a short distance above, which Archduke Joseph has given the people for a pleasure ground, and there parks, cafes, music and fun are accessible to all.
There are now seven hundred and fifty thousand people in Budapest. For many years the Turks reigned here supreme, and at every hand one sees relics of their sovereignty, but since throwing off that yoke this city has made such astonishing strides, Chicago itself can scarcely show a better record of rapid progress. Loyalty to everything Hungarian comes first in every native heart. In their royal palace and other buildings they want materials from Hungary only, and their statues they demand by Hungarian sculptors. Such patriotism has made the place the beautiful spot it is today, and on every mail-box and other government possession, does one see the Austrian coat of arms? No, only the crown of Stephen, part of their own Hungarian regalia that is kept in their royal palace, and they love it all the more for its crooked cross on top, for the legend says no less a person than their own St. Stephen, who was no docile weakling, but a man ormighty rages like themselves, in a moment of anger bent the cross in his own holy hands, and thus it haS always remained.
Their kingdom forms part of the Austrian empire, but jealousy of Vienna is in every Hungarian heart, and they expect to have the Emperor Francis Joseph spend quite as much time in the enormous palace they are ever beautifying for him, as he spends in the Hofburg in Vienna. The St. Stephen room in this palace is moorish, with rich wall mosaics of the Kings of Hungary, and the view from the palace window, of the terrace below, of the "beautiful blue Danube" that is really beautiful even if it isn't blue, and of Pest just across, is so magnificent one wonders that Francis Joseph does not tarry here longer.
The old citadel called the Blocksburg,-crowning a hill, towers above and adds picturesqueness to the whole city. St. Matthias' church, where the Emperor and Empress Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary in 1867, is reached from below by a most artistic flight of steps, with long colonnades called bastei, from 'which people never tire gazing upon the panorama below. The fine suspension bridge, House of Parliament, Palace of .Justice, Basilica, Rathhaus and splendid Andrassy street, leading out to the Stadtwaldchen or park, are worthy any traveler's attention, while the Museum and Academy have pictures well in keeping with the Hungarian pride in them. The late Munkacsy, of course, is their leading modern painter. His palette and many of his pictures are shown in the Museum, and it is regrettable that Budapest could not also have had his best known work, the celebrated "Christ Before Pilate." The coloring of their artists is very rich, and all students will do well to keep abreast with Hungarian art, for their modern paintings are quite as fine as any seen in Europe.
The Opera is above criticism, no less a master than Liszt was once directory of the conservatory; Joachim, the great violinist, came from Hungary; Moritz Jokai was not the least of her writers, and so the list of famous men goes on without end. March 20th, 1904 was the tenth anniversary of the death of their greatest citizen, Louis Kossouth, the Moses who led them from darkness into their present light. Every building had a black flag or crape drapery. All Budapest was carrying wreaths to his grave, and to every heart it was such a personal loss, one realized here the meaning of Ruskin's words: "It is better to be nobly remembered than to be nobly born."