Párizsi Nagyáruház (Parisian Department Store) which took off where the gambling house kind of petered out. The cafe was once the casino and it is beyond belief. Why is it beyond belief, because of its actual time. Can you image this smaller country has gone through so many transitions? From part of the Austria-Hungary Empire, to a Communist state, to a right wing dictatorship skirting the Nazis, to being blown apart, parts demolished during in World War II, its streets again under siege during the 1956 Revolution, the continuation of a communist satellite dictatorship another 30+ years. And all, of that, and some of these buildings have retained a beauty.
The mall (i.e. -mawl) followed the stylized department store. These structures, as well as old movie palaces, whisper to us, a world which regarded presentation and service as a must for selling, even imagining, consumer goods. This is an excellent example of the Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) in Budapest.
I noticed Otis on the nameplate of the escalator, so I assume it might be the original for the department store, since the first prize given to an escalator was in 1900. Talk about display. I love the idea of the escalator, the cut out and the steps cutting across the space. The idea of people on the steps going up, especially as one descended downward, reminded me of one of my favorite Veronese painting in the Gallerie dell’Accademia. My assumption is also there was only one escalator from the ground, hence the stairway for the level above it.
Párizsi Nagyáruház became a warehouse of sorts, and gladly neglected under the communist regime. It’s stylish exterior, its department store layout of cut spaces, and of course the old casino, seemingly unharmed. While there is some updating, it is nothing like what Americans are capable of, when they completely destroy the semblance of old edifices. There are many of these buildings in the states (Kress buildings, independent department stores like the ones in Gary) that disappear to dust, or worse. Here the semblance of its structure remained.
The beauty is, of course the amazing former casino, decked out in that gilded style common to Victorian Budapest. From the Lotz Hall Monument plaque, to attempt google translation (above left), says that it was built in the 1890s, some paintings by Karl Lotz. Some frescoes are from Árpád Feszty, as he is identified by a “carpenter” image through his self-portrait. Both are well-known national painters who both did work throughout many important buildings in Budapest. This hall has been renovated several times and then restored. In 1963-64 the cost was 24 million Hungarian florinths (over $106,000) in the current state.
Facing the Opera at Andrássy út 25 is the Magyar Táncművészeti Főiskola Könyvtára (Hungarian Dance Academy Library). Unlike the Opera, the beautiful facade looked like it needed a little love, a product of some neglect. Structurally, it has beautiful and fine detail. Who knows what shape it is inside, though. For a small country not of limitless funds, many of these old buildings are quite beautiful.
Phil Done, the Rick Steves of Budapest, writes a wonderful blog about this amazing city. There is so much beauty to this place. I am enchanted and saw so much in so little time. Thanks, Budapest.