Sculpture Saturday: Budapest

Challenge hosted by Sally Kelly over at Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition.

Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Designed in 1896 to mark the 1000th Anniversary of the Magyar conquest of the Carpathian Basin, Heroes’ Square (a name given to it in 1932) was designed in 1896 for the celebration of the Millennium of Hungary. The 36-m high column, topped by the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown and cross, dominates the square. Around the base of the column are sculptures of Magyar chieftains from the 9th century mounted on horses. The colonnades that run behind the column hold 14 statues of earlier rulers and statesmen from King Stephen to Lajos Kossuth.

Base of Millennium Column in Heroes’ Square, Budapest
Magyar Chiefs at base of Millennium column, Budapest

Wanted: Hot Chestnuts

Hot Chestnuts for sale in Lucerne, Switzerland

It’s a cold and wintry day here, the skies are grey, not blue like they were yesterday, and my mind flies back to this time last year in Lucerne where, along the lake dotted with boats and swans, the hot chestnut sellers were doing a roaring trade. I can smell them now and I long for some. Some Swiss chocolate wouldn’t come amiss either.

Sculpture Saturday: Vietnam

An odd one this. We came across this still-being-worked-on monument to the Vietnam War in Hanoi back in 2008. I haven’t been back since so I presume it’s now finished. I was intrigued to discover that the men working on it were not sculptors but stone-masons who were working to a plan drawn up by a ‘government artist’.

One of the workers spoke reasonable English and told me that their parents had all been involved in the ‘American War’ as they called it. They were very keen on education and one of them in particular examined the book I was carrying very thoroughly. I forget now what it was but I gave it to him and he shook my hand so much in gratitude I though it would dislodge from its socket. I still wonder at their lack of bitterness.

Walking Towards Autumn

Today I changed my walking route, left the sea behind me and turned inland. I had no plans, no set route to follow and no idea of what I wanted to photograph.

First, I meandered through Los Altos Park which was deserted: it was eerie having this space all to myself. Normally a place full of dog-walkers, chattering children, and elderly folk sitting on the benches reading, today it was empty despite a temperature of 16 degrees, blue skies, warm sun and no wind. Covid space? Too late in the day? Who knows, but the place was all mine.

Los Altos Park, Sandown

Not far from here was what used to be one of the area’s oldest hotels but unfortunately, it closed this year due to a series of misfortunes. The grounds are now deserted, the building, once a grand manor, now stands forlorn its windows no longer shining a light to welcome visitors. There was no one to disturb me or chase me away and I felt a terrible sadness at the loss of this great mansion, its tennis courts now a coach park, and its grounds being overtaken by nature.

The lane in front of the hotel. I didn’t go further into that darkness!

Further into the gardens I came across these seats looking so forlorn as they sat amid the falling leaves. Nearby a couple of palm trees, stretched towards the light, valiantly fighting to survive. They were definitely in need of some TLC.

Although I felt sad that the bracken (or was it fern) was now running rampant over the garden wall I cheered myself up with the thought that this would provide a cosy home for the winter for the wildlife I’d seen on my walk (a couple of hedgehogs, lots of spiders and odd creepy-crawlies and I’m sure there were lots more keeping out of my way).

And then I came upon the sunken garden and this splash of colour, a glorious cascade of scarlet leaves, Virginia Creeper I think, that must have migrated from the wall of the old house and settled here to decorate these steps. And just a bit further on, the brilliant red of the Holly berries – a dazzling display of colour amid the dying of the year. It seemed the autumnal red of the Virginia creeper led me to the winter of the Holly.

PETRA – Jordan’s Gem

The BBC should be showing the marvellous David Lean film Lawrence of Arabia in its new Film Club series on Thursday nights and as always, that film takes me back to my trip to Jordan some years ago, to Petra, Aqaba and Wadi Rum. This is Petra.

Ahmed shines his torch upwards on to the rock-like walls that rise on either side of us to a slit of night sky hundreds of feet above and whispers “Be careful”.  I place my feet carefully on the narrow path trodden by ancient tribes centuries ago, a path along which we tourists now travel to view the hidden city of Petra.

Al-Siq, leading to The Treasury

Nothing I had read prepared me for my first sight of the fabled Treasury – the most photographed place on the site, a richly deep-hued pink building that had been carved from the mountainside. In the centre of the building was a huge doorway in front of which camels swirled about as their owners petitioned customers to hire their beasts (all guaranteed very tame and ‘no spitting, madam’). In hindsight I think it was good that camels were there to spoil the effect as without them one could well suffer from the Stendhal syndrome (a fainting fit when overcome by the beauty of a place, first recorded by the author in Florence).

This image by Heidelbergerin at Pixabay

In the centre of the doorway stood a Royal Palace guard, resplendent in a long tan-coloured robe liberally bedecked with red bandoliers slung casually over his shoulders the bullets for which were also topped with red, a dagger worn centre stomach, red tasselled sashes and the obligatory red and white chequered kufiyah.  I was awestruck.

Royal Jordanian Palace Guard at Petra

This was 2012, exactly two centuries after its rediscovery by the explorer Burckhardt, and I was visiting the ‘rose-red city’ of Petra which had lain in ruins for 500 years since its abandonment after the Crusades.  Now famous once more due to the work of explorers, painters and film-makers, it still has the power to excite awe and wonder and the approach to it through the narrow gorge is the perfect way to come upon it.  Take a guide if you can, chances are he will have been born in one of the caves on the site before the advent of tourism and will have a host of stories to tell you.

Petra’s vast wealth derived from its position as a crossroads of the world where it traded in frankincense from Arabia, spices from India and silks from China.  I struggled to imagine caravans of 5,000 camels arriving at this once mighty trading post which Ahmed assured me was the case.   How did they negotiate the narrow passages to the entrance? Where did they all live? How did they live?  And how did they cope with the smell? Ahmed just smiled.  “It is true”, he said, “don’t question, live in the magic”.  But it’s not magic; the history books tell me it was so. 

Away from the Treasury you are in an ancient city of ruined streets lined with Classical façades, a city that housed approximately 30,000 people at its peak, who spoke Aramaic, the language of the Dead Sea Scrolls – in fact, the language of Jesus Christ.  Over 80% of the site remains to be excavated and the heaps of rubble you see dotted around were once houses, shops, and communal buildings. 

If it’s not too hot (always go early morning if possible) and you have the energy, it is worth climbing the mountain gorge to the High Sacrificial Place, 850 well-cut steps past extraordinary coloured rocks to where there is a façade even larger than that of the Treasury: a doorway and columns 150 feet high.   Your reward is breathtaking views over Petra.  No one knows for certain what took place here, whether the sacrifices were of animal or human, but evidence of human sacrifices have been found in surrounding towns/cities.  Your other reward can be the freshest lemonade with soda you’ll ever have from the very essential café at the top.

Historical bit:   The original inhabitants of this 6th-century BC world of temples, Roman theatres, monasteries and chambers, the Nabateans, set up their city-state, defending their home with ease until 106 AD when it fell to the Romans.  After the Romans came the Byzantines, then the Crusaders, until by the 16th century Petra was all but lost to the west.   A Swiss Explorer, Louis Burckhard, penetrated the hidden city in 1812 and the world became aware of the wondrous city that had once been the centre of a trading empire that stretched from Saudi Arabia to Damascus.

There were few tourists when I visited Petra in 2012 just after the conclusion of one of the many disputes in that part of the world.  My guide was fond of saying “We are a small friendly family with some noisy, disruptive neighbours but we welcome visitors” and that was the extent of our political discussion.  Now once again I fear there will be few, if any, tourists, and the friendly, welcoming people of the area will miss the tourists.  Go visit if you can, when things get better.  These friendly people needs and welcomes tourists.

Thursday’s Special Words

Linked to Thursday’s Special at Paula’s here

First up is Impregnable and I give you The White Cliffs of Dover. We don’t know if they are but it’s a good song and a nice idea.

The White Cliffs of Dover

and not far from here is Dover Castle which commands the Strait of Dover, the shortest sea crossing between England and continental Europe, a position of strategic importance throughout history and whose underground tunnels housed troops. war rooms and hospitals from the early 19th century right up until the Second World War 1939-45.

The castle visible today was established by Henry II (r.1154–89), in the decade 1179–89, creating at Dover the most advanced castle design in Europe, a sophisticated building that combined defence with a palatial residence.

Dover Castle, Kent

Next word is Volte Face and there are so many in the political field today that it’s hard to choose. However, anyone who reads politics these days must agree that the winner in any volte face competition has to be

Boris Johnson

Linked to Thursday’s Special at Paula’s here