The City Park
Behind Hõsök square lies the City Park, the largest park on the Pest side, covering exactly one square kilometer. The area was once part of the sand and grass-covered Field of Rákos, where in former days the Diets and the national markets were held; at the beginning of the last century it was converted into a park. It was the queen Maria Theresia who ordered to plant trees here and canalize the swamp. By the turn of the century it had already become a place of entertainment popular with all layers of society: members of the aristocracy drove out here in their carriages and exercised their horses; the middle-classes came here for a day out; and here the workers organized their meetings and their May Day demonstrations. The most important date in the development of the park was 1896. This was the year when we celebrated the Thousands Years Anniversary of the Hungarian Conquest. A “Millenary” – because of the thousands years – World Exhibition took place here (more than 100 countries were invited to the exhibition as exhibitors). Some of the buildings set up for the exhibition are used even today.
This is a thermal spa, built at the beginning of this century in Neobaroque style.
Later in the twenties it was rebuilt and enlarged. It has several outdoor and indoor pools. The water is 74 degrees centigrade – it must be cooled down in order to use it in the spa and in the Zoo.
Around the lake there are a wooded park and a children’s playground on a small island in the lake we find an interesting group of buildings, Vajdahunyad Castle.
It was built for the same anniversary as all the other monuments on Heroes’ Square, in 1896. The architect wanted to show the various architectural styles which were used in Hungary in the last 1000 years between 896 an 1896. It houses now the “Agricultural Museum” and if you are interested in Hungarian hunting, fishing and ancient agricultural equipments you should come to visit this museum. The different parts of the building are copies of different castles, convents, churches etc. In the court-yard of the castle there is an interesting statue to be seen: Anonymous, the Nameless Chronicle (it’s remarkable that we don’t know his name, Anonymous, so we can’t see his face; as far as we know he lived in the 12th c., and wrote the first history book of the life of Hungarian ancestors, based mainly on legends and tales).
The construction of the Millenary Monument was begun in 1896, the thousandth anniversary of the Conquest of the country by the Hungarians. It was designed by the architect Albert Schickedanz and the sculptor György Zala. The figure of Gabriel won a Gran Prix in Paris in 1900. The center of the monument is a 36-metre (160 ft.) high column with a winged genius on top and the statues of the conquering Magyar chief Arpád and of the chiefs of the other six tribes on the pedestal. Behind these there is a semicircular colonnade with the statues of the most outstanding Hungarian kings, princes and commanders between the columns. From left to right: St. Stephen, the founder of the State, Ladislas I, Coloman, Andrew II and Béla IV, kings of the House of Arpád; Charles Robert and Louis I known as the Great of the Angevin dynasty; János Hunyadi, the hero of the wars against the Turks, and King Matthias; then Gábor Bethlen, István Bocskai, Imre Thököly and Ferenc Rákóczi II, princes of Transylvania, and finally Lajos Kossuth, the leader of the 1848-49 War of Independence. Below the bronze statues relieves commemorate historic events. On top of the semicircle there are four symbolic statues: Work and Wealth on the left, two chariots, depicting War and Peace, in the center, and Honor and Glory on the right.
Museum of Fine Arts
The eclectic building of the Museum of Fine Arts, completed in 1906, was designed by Albert Schíckedanz and Fülöp Herzog. Above the wide flight of stairs, eight plus four Corinthian columns support the tympanum, the relief of which is a copy of the group on the western pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and depicts the fight of Centaurs and Lapithes. This museum is based on the collection of the former Esterházy treasury. When the Museum of Fine Arts was established, the Hungarian government bought collections from rich aristocratic families and prelates. The collection has since been enriched by further purchases and donations. Various historical styles characterize the interior halls.
The eclectic building of the Art Gallery, reminiscent of a Greek temple, stands opposite the Museum of Fine Arts and was designed by the same artists.
It was built in 1895, its most characteristic feature is the colored ceramic ornamentation. This museum has no permanent collections, just temporary exhibitions. The tympanum shows the foundation of the first Abbey in Hungary. The National Fine Arts Exhibition is held here every other year, as are other temporary exhibitions, large and small.