When you travel with an architect you may find yourself on an occasional architecture tour, like the time Mike and I visited the Getty Center. Budapest for us was no different. Mike and I don’t often opt for guided tours as we like to take our time exploring a place on our own, but if we see an architecture tour we tend to go for it. Obviously, Mike likes them because he’s an architect, but I also like them because they help me gain a deeper appreciation for a profession to which my husband has dedicated so much of his time, passion and energy.
In Budapest our instincts were to follow the advice of the great Rick Steves. So, a few days before our trip we emailed Elemer Boreczky, a semi-retired professor that leads culture and architecture tours on the side. Before we knew it, we had four and a half hours of our Sunday booked to explore the many art nouveau buildings that cover the city.
I learned a lot on the tour. For example, “art nouveau” is French for “new art” and in German it’s known as “jugendstil.” Here’s a German take on this style….
I also learned that many Budapest architects only practiced in Hungary and their work is scattered all over the city. Emil Vidor is one of them. This is the Bedo Haz Museum, or the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, which we went back and visited on a later day.
This is his family’s house, which he designed himself. The house was funded by his mother – and an inheritance – who wanted to show off the abilities of her son, then, a struggling young architect.
We also visited the Post Office Savings Bank, which was designed by Ödön Lechner.
It wasn’t until after the tour when I read Rick Steve’s actual recommendation – yes, I blindly took his word for it – in which he stated: “Elemer is ideal if you want a walking graduate-level seminar…”
Suffice it to say, during this very scholarly tour Mike was in his element. I was not.
But even though I struggled to comprehend, while appreciating, admiring and committing Elemer’s insightful and observant comments to memory all at the same time, I really enjoyed it and I’m glad we did it.
We had the opportunity to spend a half a day with a local that knows the city of Budapest inside and out. Elemer has an appreciation for the Budapest of his childhood, with little anecdotes that made even a quick tram ride more endearing, to the Budapest of today, whose buildings boldly look to the future while never shedding the reality of their past.
What I liked most about our walk with Elemer was that he not only shared Budapest’s distinct art and architecture, he used these structures to dot the milestones of the city’s past – some happy, most sad.
The tour provided context for me and it served as the foundation for most of our trip.