I like to start my weekends with a bit of planning and as I was doing just that, since it’s a weekend and there’s no pressure, I kept an alternative eye on my social media feeds as well (I totally don’t do that during the week, really) where you’ll never guess what I saw. A cat! And not just any old cat, but one that, despite being female, holds an office- increasingly a rarity in these parts of the world, and she does that with a German title, for officialness, precision and such: Frau Bürgermeisterin von Gödöllő– Ms Mayoress of Gödöllő, for the sake of those unacquainted with the intricacies of the German language. Though of course there is a human who has apparently been elected into the office instead, but he has a cat, and since we all know who owns whom in that set up, she must be the boss- a case of girl pawer, then, and excuse the horrible pun. Things got even more heated this past week when she went missing, perhaps a case of on the job blues, but was fortuitously located in splendid isolation atop a tree by local pooch Lili.
As all things are delicately interconnected, it was thus decided that we’d take a day trip to Gödöllő. This decision in turn lead us to the HÉV stop at Örs Vezér tere, where we suddenly felt extremely touristy, that is confused, bewildered and out of place. The culprits were the BKK machines from which we needed to purchase the extra ticket that would allow us to ride merrily outside city limits- problem is, no one bothers to tell you exactly which is the stop marking the city limit, so we randomly pushed some buttons- as it turned out, the wrong ones for the outbound trip, but no one noticed, so we felt the powers of good in the universe had evened things out for us this time.
And lest we forget the only relevant bit of info here: the station is Ilonatelep, so should you have a Budapest pass, you’ll need to select a ticket from Ilonatelep to Gödöllő-Szabadság tér and the other way around for the return trip, with the ride lasting about 40 minutes and consisting mostly of suburban houses and gardens. Those who do not have Budapest passes need to buy a regular ticket, plus the above mentioned supplement.
Once in Gödöllő, it quickly became evident that almost everything you want to see in the small town is very practically centred around Szabadság square. There is the pretty Art Nouveau house that used to be the parish hall, but is a hotel and restaurant today, the Hamvay mansion, housing the local museum and cinema and, unexpectedly enough, the World Peace Gong, which was donated to the town unexpectedly enough by Indonesia. As we arrived at an afternoonish hour, we missed out on the market traditionally held in the inner courtyard of the Hamvay mansion, but could revel in the fountain marking the spot, which involves, unexpectedly enough, the statue of a pelican.
Moving on to less unexpected things, pretty much every second establishment in town has something to do with Sissi, and that is because the most famous landmark of Gödöllő is the Royal Palace, also known as Grassalkovich Palace, one of Hungary’s largest baroque palaces. Built for count Antal Grassalkovich I around 1733, in the 19th century it was acquired by the Crown and often served as the summer residence of Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth, who seemed to take a particular liking to the place. After WWII the castle was used as barracks and storehouse by the Russian army. Restoration works started as early as 1985, but they really geared up only after the Russian troops left for good by 1994. The royal quarters have been spruced up, and can be visited, the ticket costs 2600 forints for adults, and 1500 forints for students.
It however seemed to us that we’d seen plenty of Sissi’s rather extravagant furniture both in Schönbrunn and in her summer palace in Corfu, therefore we passed on the opportunity and went on to inspect the castle park instead. A so called English garden, it contains among other things some exotic trees, such as a redwood and a ginkgo biloba, a pavilion with portraits inside (we only caught a fleeting glimpse of them, as it was closed, but, as with Sissi’s furniture our heart was not necessarily broken) and a statue of Maria Theresa.
As fresh air often opens the appetite, we decided this was the time to investigate Gödöllő’s culinary offerings, returned to Szabadság square and went straight for the Erzsébet Királyné restaurant. The décor is a somewhat halfhearted solution, hovering between fake grand and real plastic, but both the food and the service were excellent. The prices are also very fair, bordering on the low by Budapest standards and we got further confirmation that you should always choose the second cheapest wine on the menu, because it’s also highly likely the best.
It was by now slowly getting dark, and since we had an inkling that Gödöllő is perhaps not the capital of nightlife in the area, we decided it was time to return to the big city, and with the help of a local in the know, we finally managed to navigate the BKK ticket dispensing machine as well, thus adding to the overall sense of accomplishment of a very pleasant spring’s day.