The Városliget in Budapest harbours the rather intriguing architectural specimen of the Vajdahunyad castle, an end of the 19th Century fever dream combining elements of disparate historical buildings from diverse Hungarian inhabited lands. While it’s not all bad in its entirety, it has always given me too much of a Frankenstein feeling to feel completely at peace with it, and my spring wandering through the taxidermy of the Agricultural Museum has done nothing to ease the tension.
I of course always knew that the basic model is the ‘real’ castle in Hunedoara, and that Hunedoara is pretty close to my hometown, but as it often happens, you long to travel to faraway lands and miss out on what’s right in front of you, so to speak. Hunedoara itself does get bad press for having been a communist monstrosity of mines and factories, and to be frank, it still is pretty dull and a bit too socialist brutal for most tastes.
The castle is of course, as a Brit would remark, pretty. It feels very much like a castle-ish castle- there are parts from different periods, the newer ones obviously shinier and better preserved, yet it’s the older stone fortress part that gives a sense of real history. It’s also the place where you can escape the tourist infestation, for as a younger visitor exclaimed, it’s just a room!- and then he was promptly off.
‘Just a room’ happened to be the place where the positions of the canons were still clearly visible and you could discern how they were adapted to the landscape, aiming at the nooks and crannies where an evil Turk might try to sneak in. And ‘just a room’ also happened to be called the Nebojša tower, from the Serbian ‘do not be afraid’, a reminder of both Iancu de Hunedoara’s famous battle of Belgrade and the fact that ethnic groups were so intensively intermingling in this part of the world that it’s outright silly to have hissy fits over whom a particular mountain or valley belongs to. Today they belong to anyone who happens to live there and anyone who visits them with an open mind and heart.