Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bard in Budapest

Knowing nothing about Hungary other than associating it with a Rhapsody, an Uprising, goulash and paprika, most of what I saw today meant very little. The statues in Heroes' Square of men world-famous in Hungary (in my ignorant eyes at least) I enjoyed simply as works of art and historical oddities: the horse's bridle made out of antlers, the Viking moustaches, the man in long robes clearly astonished to find himself in such - presumably - exalted company. We were free-wheeling today, making the most of the lovely weather on an open-topped bus tour with a frankly abysmal commentary - although, European history being the dauntingly complicated affair that it is, that wasn't so surprising.

What did impress us was the fabulous architecture; so grand, so imperial, so beautiful on its hill above the Danube, so artistically laid out. The Parliament buildings knock Westminster into a cocked hat, especially seen from a boat on a hot sunny day with a pleasant breeze. We boated, we bussed, we trammed, we wandered - it was all about ambience today, with violins (they are to Budapest what bagpipes are to Edinburgh). Tomorrow we get the facts and figures.

One thing we found while meandering was this statue of Shakespeare apparently deploring some kind of shoe-related malfunction (but actually bowing) that's a replica of one in - wait for it - Ballarat in Victoria, where we went in 2010. It was created by a Hungarian-born sculptor living in Australia, and recreated for Budapest to 'serve as a spiritual link among the discerning public in Australia [pause for your appreciation of no gags inserted here], Hungary and Great Britain'. Coincidence, eh? Not unknown to the bard himself, of course, as a handy plot device.

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