Budapest Day 2

By | June 1, 2006

So far, the weather had been cloudy and cool. Today we had a nice change with a bit of sun and warmth. Unfortunately, this was to be a rare combination over the next week or so. The first week of June was surprisingly cold in central Europe. Most days, the temperature didn’t cross 15 degrees C (about 60 F).

Budapest Museum of Fine ArtsOur first journey was to Heroes’ Square. In a large plaza there’s a big statue in the middle and a semi-circle of statues around the edges of all the great Hungarian heroes. It’s worth a walk around if you are on your way to the big park behind the square or to the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) next to the square.

The museum is fantastic and totally worth a long visit. I could have easily spent the entire day there. We saw a special exhibition on Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, while we were there. I’m partial to the Flemish masters, and they have an excellent collection. Their 19th century French collection was also quite extensive. Of course, there were many works by great Hungarian artists that are rarely shown outside of Hungary.

The Museum of Fine Arts also had a great collection of Egyptian mummies. Not as extensive as the British Museum, of course, but still, nothing to shake a jar of embalming fluid at. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

SaenredamMy wife has a particular fascination with the works of Pieter Jans Saenredam, and the Museum of Fine Arts turned out to own one of his works. Saenredam was a Dutch painter working in the 17th century who was best know for his detailed architectural paintings. It all started with an article she read in the New York Times. Then we saw his painting Interior of St. James’ Church in Utrecht at the Alte Pinokethek in Munich a few years ago. Now it’s a quest to hunt down his paintings where ever we travel. Sadly, we did not see the exhibit at the Getty in LA a few years ago. That occurred just before the Saenredam obsession took root in her. Okay, it’s less an obsession than a string interest, but “obsession” makes it sound more exciting.

Next we headed over to the Opera house for a tour. I was very impressed by everything except the fact that they won’t let you take pictures inside. It was gorgeous, though. The sheer quantity of marble was overwhelming. Here we learned about Hungarian red marble, which really isn’t marble. It’s an amalgam of material that looks like marble. The Opera House had tons, and I means tons, of real marble, though. They were particularly proud of the original air conditioning system. They brought in blocks of ice below the seating area and blew air across the blocks with big fans. The seats had vents underneath them to allow the air to come up from below.

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