Ghost palace

In Budapest, between the Franciscan Square and the Elizabeth Bridge stand the two Klotild Palaces. They look the same, are only separated by the Szabad Sajtó Street. They let the visitor to pass from Pest to Buda like an elegant gateway. In 1899 Archduchess Klotild Maria von Habsburg announced a tender for the construction of the palaces, which was won by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl. Their history was written in detail by the Kép-Tér urban history blog, illustrated with lots of archive photos.

The twin palaces, built between 1899 and 1902, are compelling and elegant, they are determining jewels of the city.

While the northern palace has been renovated, its counterpart is still abandoned, ghosts and memories reside in it. When wandering in the labyrinth of the stairways, on every level you find another story. The memory of the gorgeous painted windows, designed by Miksa Róth, and the stoves covered by enamel tiles from Zsolnay can be still found between the wood-paneled walls, if you deviate from the usual route, and look into the flats, where still there is a suitcase, a shirt, a Theodor Wiese safe with beautiful drawers. The palace was home of offices, flats, business premises and of the Downtown Coffee House, and although the entire building is empty now, if you close your eyes, it is not difficult to imagine the movement, the bustling, the doors opening, and the palace comes to life.

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 In the Klotild Palaces – where they installed the first elevator in Budapest – a special feature are the towers and the city seen from them. From one single point you can see the Liberty Statue, the Buda Castle and the Parliament. A unique sight.

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Thanks to the Orczy Kultúrkert Association for organizing the visit.


Las multitudes en el mercado de Osh se empujan y zarandean de un puesto a otro, tal como llevan haciéndolo en esta ciudad del confín oriental del valle de Fergana, casi en la frontera de Kirguistán con Uzbekistán, desde hace 3.000 años. Un trajín sin descanso de carretas, mujeres con bolsas y hombres con pesados ​​sacos apresurándose sobre los antiguos fragmentos de piedra o en el polvo seco que sirve de acera. El aroma de las parrillas humeantes con shashlik –pinchos de carne– se mezcla con el olor a sudor y con el humo de las casas de té donde sirven tazones grasientos de laghman rebosantes de eneldo fresco y montones de manty cubierto de cebolla a rodajas. Pero también se multiplica, avivada por el calor, una sorprendente variedad de olores, demasiado numerosos para recordarlos o intentar siquiera describirlos. La luz del sol y el baile de colores, las músicas populares de la zona que suenan en todos los rincones desde infinitos casetes portátiles: tayikos, uzbekos, kirguises, rusos y otros muchos acentos, cada personaje con su variante particular de ropa y sus tocados para la cabeza, todo revuelto ante nuestros sentidos.

Sherali Joʿraev, Birinchin mukhabbatim

Los toldos de tela brillante dan algo de sombra en la vía que serpentea enhebrando puesto tras puesto de productos locales, ropa china barata, sombreros hechos a mano, zanahorias y gruesas patatas, grandes sacos de arroz abiertos, y de otros granos, y todos cuantos materiales y bienes variopintos puedan imaginarse en la vida del Asia Central. La gente sonríe y frunce el ceño, se sientan hoscos, ríen a carcajadas, miran fijamente, desvían la vista, y con una palabra que suena como 'boosh' instan a la gente a apartarse para poder avanzar con sus pesados fardos.

Hay un destello cegador de luz solar cuando los grupos apretados se disgregan para volver a juntarse enseguida y marchar como una riada, el ondear de las telas floreadas y el cabello negrísimo de los niños, mujeres con largos pañuelos y vestidos estampados que llegan hasta los pies, y hombres serios de rostro ni asiático ni europeo, como en un punto medio.

Nos detenemos en un puesto de venta de cintas de casete regentado por un chico con un exraño corte de pelo, largo en la frente y muy corto en la nuca. Parece desconcertado por mi solicitud de «música tradicional», que intento pedir con mi mejor pronunciación, salvando mi mal ruso. «¿Disco? ¿Hip-hop?», indaga sin alcanzar a entenderme. Pone varias cintas en su propio aparato y oigo breves pasajes que rechazo por completo. Por último pone a Sherali Jo’raev y compro varios de este artista. Partimos satisfechos con la transacción.

Sherali Joʿraev, Olis yullar

Le pregunto a un anciano particularmente pintoresco si me permite sacarle una foto. No tiene inconveniente, y cuando le muestro la imagen en mi cámara insiste en que imprima una para él de inmediato. Le explico delicadamente que no es posible y sólo me permite salir después de haber encontrado a un chico con un lápiz y un papel que anota su dirección postal para que le envíe la foto en cuanto llegue a casa. Apretando la nota en mi mano insiste: «¡No te olvides!» Y no me olvidé, pero por desgracia el garabato era completamente ilegible.

Nos detiene un hombre con uniforme de policía, con un extravagante sombrero ancho al estilo de la policía persa. «Vengan conmigo», nos dice. Nos introduce en habitaciones separadas. Después de un examen minucioso de mi pasaporte, toma la pequeña bolsa bandolera que siempre llevo conmigo y empieza a sacar las cosas una por una.

«¿Qué es esto?» Inquiere, sosteniendo un inhalador para el asma.

«Es para el asma», respondo en mi menguado ruso.

Tch, tch. Su rostro duro se suaviza a medida que expresa simpatía. Pasa al objeto siguiente.

«¿De dónde son?» Muestra un par de billetes checos. «De Chequia», le contesto.

«¿Dónde queda eso?» - «Cerca de Alemania». Asiente al entenderlo.

«¿Cuánto vale?» Señala un billete de 200 coronas. «Unos 10 dólares», digo sin demasiada precisión.

De golpe parece perder todo interés y concluye la entrevista. Mi compañero ya está esperando afuera y podemos seguir nuestra inspección del bazar de Osh.

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The crowds in the Osh market jostle and push, always moving on to the next thing, as perhaps they have always done in this 3,000-year-old city at the eastern end of the Fergana Valley, near the Kyrgyz border with Uzbekistan. A restless flow of handcarts, women with bags, and men with burdens of heavy sacks on their shoulders pound the ancient fragments of stone and dust that pass for pavements here. The aromas from the smoky shashlik grills mingle with the odor of sweat and the steamy tea houses, serving greasy bowls of laghman heaped with fresh dill, or piles of manty covered in sliced onions. In addition to these are a startling array of other odors, activated in the heat, and too numerous to remember, much less describe. The sunlight and dancing colors, and the local popular music playing everywhere from portable casette players, as Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Russians, and no doubt others, each in their own variant of local clothing and headwear, all commingle here.

Sherali Joʿraev, Birinchin mukhabbatim

Awnings of bright fabric provide some shade for the thoroughfare that wends past stall after stall of local produce, cheap clothes from China, handmade hats, fat carrots and potatoes, huge open sacks of rice and other seeds, all the staples and sundries of a Central Asian life. People grin and scowl, sit sullen, laugh boisterously, stare, avert their eyes, and with a word that sounds like 'boosh' urge the crowd to part so their heaving loads can pass.

There is a blinding flash of sunlight as bodies sway first apart then again together, walking in halting streams, glimpses of floral fabric and black-haired children, women in scarves and printed frocks that reach to their shoes, and serious men with faces neither Asian nor European, but something in between.

We stop at a stall selling cassette tapes, watched over by a boy with a strange haircut, long in front but very short in the back. He seems baffled by my request for “traditional music,” which I phrase as best I can, considering my inadequate Russian. “Disco? Hip-hop?” he probes, not quite getting the gist. He pops a few cassettes in his portable machine and I hear brief passages, rejecting most of them outright. Finally, he puts in a cassette by Sherali Joʿraev, and I purchase several by this artist, and we part, both satisfied with the transaction.

Sherali Joʿraev, Olis yullar

I ask a particularly picturesque elderly gentleman if I may take his picture. He agrees, and when I show him the image on my digital camera, he insists that I print one for him on the spot. I explain to him delicately that it is not possible, and I am only permitted to leave once he has fetched a young boy with a pencil and paper to write down his postal address for me to send it once I arrive back home.  Shoving the note into my hand, he reminds me, “Do not forget!” And I did not forget, but unfortunately the scrawl is completely illegible.

We are stopped by a man in policeman’s uniform, with an extavagantly broad Pershing-style policeman’s hat. “Come with me,” he says to us. We are lead to separate rooms. After a close inspection of my passport, he takes the small shoulder bag I always carry and begins to take items out of it, one by one.

“What is this?” he inquires, holding up an asthma inhaler.

“It is something against asthma,” I reply, in my limited Russian.

Tsk, tsk. His hard face softens as he expresses sympathy. He goes on to the next item.

“Where are these from?” He holds up a few Czech banknotes. “They are from Czechia,” I reply.

“Where is that?” “Near Germany.” He nods, understanding.

“How much is this worth?” indicating a 200-crown note. “About 10 dollars,” I say, without excessive precision.

He suddenly appears to lose interest, and concludes the interview. My companion is already waiting for me outside, and we continue on our inspection of the Osh bazaar.

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Rustem Adagamov, one of Russia’s most popular photo bloggers, whom we have also often quoted, surprised his readers with some Hungarian photos as an Easter present. It is a great honor for us Hungarians, for in Russia, we are so rarely mentioned that they do not even have a proper national nickname for us. The photos were taken by Reuters press photographer Béla Szandelszky five years ago, on 9 April 2009 at the Easter festival in Hollókő, an archaic mountain village of Northern Hungary included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage, and they depict the most famous Easter Monday custom: the sprinkling.

“All the noisier is the second day of Easter, when young lads go to sprinkling, and at the wells they pour water from buckets in the neck of the careless girls, or even dip them in the water, but they do not mind, and on the next day they return it with interest on the lads, because Monday is their day. Az Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia írásban és képben (The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in writing and picture), vol. III. (1888). “Hungarian folk customs.” The illustration depicts the “return-sprinkling” on Easter Tuesday.

We have all heard from books and oral folklore about Easter sprinkling with water buckets, but I think that personally we know only its tamed version, a subtle sprinkling with a few drops of eau de cologne, practiced by young boys on Easter Monday mornings on the girls of the neighborhood. Although I admit that from the formidable Soviet eaux de cologne of my childhood even a few drops could cause the same lasting damage as a bucket of water poured onto a poor girl. So neither do we in Hollókő witness the unbroken survival of an archaic tradition, but rather the fact that the village, which, as a living open-air museum, manages a considerable tourist traffic, performs this custom as a pseudo-spontaneous tableau vivant, like one of the program points of the Easter festival, while on the stage good old Nikola Parov and Ági Szalóki provide the well-known background folklore music.

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How do Russian readers receive this exotic tradition? Adagamov’s post got ninety-eight comments, from which we try to form a picture about which picture they form about us. Almost none of them takes into account the festival context, but they look both at the costume and the custom as a living tradition, and on this they lay praise or blame. They compare it to the Thai Songkran festival – which indicates the broadening horizons of the new Russians –, as Russofiles they feel nostalgia for the preserved tradition, as Orthodox they condemn it as a pagan custom, as feminists they brand it as sexist, or as a sign of the new Russian national self-consciousness, they reject it as a “European” phenomenon. Some typical comments:

• An illogical custom. In the spring, when it’s cold, men sprinkle women with water, and then they still expect children from them. Do they intentionally support natural selection?
• How is that eurobureaucrats have not yet realized that this is a humiliation of women?
• And they only sprinkle women? The height of sexism! It seems that Femen has not yet heard about it.
• Do Hungarians also celebrate Songkran? – It also occurred to me, but in Thailand everyone sprinkles everyone.
• Does UNESCO require them to sprinkle girls with water?
• Wet T-shirt contest, traditional style?
• You see, the Hungarians preserve their traditions, unlike us, who became a rootless people without proper traditions.
• Where do you see Hungarians here? The blogger writes that these belong to the PALOTS nationality! [in reality, this is a Hungarian regional identity]
• This somehow reminds me the African “native villages”, shown to the tourists for money.
• They do it as a fertility magic. They were pagans, they remained pagans.
• Fascists and gayropeans!

Someone mentions that the Eastern Slavs also know this custom, and as an evidence, they post a picture from Lviv by Aleksandr Petrosyan. Judging from the site – this is Lviv’s main square, with the Holy Spirit pharmacy in the background –, this might be just a similarly organized show as in Hollókő. However, this does not prevent the Western bloggers from including this photo – not taking the context into account, just like their Russian colleagues – in most of the “Only in Russia!”-type image compilations. For everyone, it is always the neighbor who has lost his mind.

Street of Sant Francesc, corner of Pare Nadal

A Palma la processó del Divendres Sant –la del Sant Enterrament– dibuixa gairebé un cercle des de la Plaça de Sant Francesc fins l’Esglèsia del Socors passant pel carrer de Sant Francesc, el de Colom, la Plaça Major i un bocí de Sant Miquel abans de tombar cap al carrer de Josep Tous Ferrer i enfilar la Porta de Sant Antoni. In Palma the Good Friday procession – the Holy Burial – draws more or less a circle from the square of Sant Francesc to the church of the Virgen of Succour, passing through the streets of Sant Francesc and Colom, the Plaça Major, as well as a part of Sant Miquel, before it turns onto Josep Tous Ferrer, and passes by the Porta de Sant Antoni.

Nosaltres no ens moguérem de la cantonada del carrer del Pare Nadal, el lloc més estret de tot el recorregut, on els carros s’han de mirar molt per no tocar les parets i on els tambors ressonen més fort. La processó començà devers les set i a les onze encara partien les darreres confraries.We do not move away from the corner of Pare Nadal, the narrowest point of the whole route, where the carros have to take great care not to touch the walls, and where the drums resound the loudest. The procession begins around seven, and by eleven even the last confraternities will have passed.

La fosca a voltes creix i cal encendre
la llàntia del cor: qui pot entendre
la nua veritat ama el soscaire.
–Llorenç Moyà–
Sometimes darkness grows, then you turn on
the inner lamp: he who understands
the naked truth, loves solitude.
–Llorenç Moyà– *

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Христос воскресе

Vladimir Makovsky: Resurrection service, 1916

“Христос воскресе! – Christ has risen!” From this nigh’s resurrection service in the Orthodox Uspensky church in Lemberg.

In nineteen-sixteen, when Makovsky painted this picture, there was war, the East and the West clashed on the territory of present-day Ukraine, just like today. In that year, there was a rare occurrence: the Easters of all the Christian denominations of present-day Ukraine coincided with each other, just like in 1942, and today. This night every church of Lemberg/Lwów/Lviv/Lvov is full. The Polish Catholic, Ukrainian Greek Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Armenian Catholic believers celebrate together the resurrection of Christ.

Nikolai Rerikh: Easter, 1934