hidden europe 25

Tomb of the roses

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Gül Baba's tomb in the Rózsadomb district of Budapest (photo in the public domain).


Gül Baba presides over Budapest with the serenity and repose of one who rests in Allah. We forsake the streets of Castle Hill in Buda, forever full of tourists, and go in search of hidden Budapest.

Castle Hill in Buda is full of Hungarian spirit. The red, white and green tricolour flutters on the castle ramparts and on a dozen other buildings. The faithful make their way quietly into the curiously assymetric Matthias Church for Sunday Mass. The interior is a tribute to all things Hungarian, with every wall and pillar embellished with late nineteenth-century folk motifs. A few metres away, a magnificent sculpture of Zoltán Kodály reclines comfortably on a park bench, surveying the happy scene. Kodály, the son of a Hungarian stationmaster, was a key figure in the assertion of Hungarian national consciousness, touring the country to record the folk songs of different regions.

And then there is the Ruszwurm café. If the Hungarian soul is to be found somewhere other than in a Catholic church, it is in the Ruszwurm café. Open the door to be enveloped by the warmth of nostalgia. Most folk in Buda would have you believe that Ruszwurm has been there for a thousand years. It hasn't, of course. The truth is that, even here in the heart of Buda, you have only to scratch the surface to find the country's multi-layered history.

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