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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pecs, Hungary on 9/11 &12: Eosin, The Leonardo Horse & a Creepy Crypt

We took a very long train ride from Sopron in NW Hungary down south to Pecs rather than heading directly to Budapest, the capital, as most people would normally do; we had 2nd class seats which were perfectly comfortable for us. Liz, the TA travel whiz, had again come through for us providing us with invaluable assistance about Pecs.

Our not so charming accommodation in Pecs; I had booked us a double at the Nap Hostel which truned out not to be a double at all but rather for a family of five. The place was the dumpiest we've ever stayed in by far; to add insult to injury, we paid $56 a night too which was highway robbery in our opinion.

Not sure you can see the dirt around the pot and the sheet covering the sink which couldn't be used in any event as there wasn't a lick of space between the bed and the sink.

Imagine using this bathroom with broken window panes, no curtain - yuck, yuck

I felt so badly for Steven lugging our bags up these steep and very dirty stairs. The whole place gave me the willies. Even Steven, who normally has a higher tolerance for places like this, found this place intolerable and that says a lot..

This was the rear entrance to our hostel; the regular entrance is through the Nappali Bar. Do you think it was a wee bit noisy in the hostel each night! Got out of there as quickly as we could and 5 minutes later we were exploring Pecs which was the European Cultural Capital in 2010. The scenes below are of Szechenyi Square, the fantastic main square in Pecs.
The Mosque of Gazi Kasim Pasha is also used as a church b/c there are few Muslims in Pecs.

The 8.5m high Sforza Horse or Leonardo Horse is a replica of Colossus envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci; for balancing reasons, about 2100 gallons of water have been put in the pedestal of the 13 ton work of art. The statue was a gathering place for people day and night, we noticed.

Town Hall with, if you please, a McDonald's on the street level!

 The Zsolnay Fountain, an icon of Pecs, was a gift from the beloved Zsolnay family. known throughout Europe for their porcelain. More about them in my next post. The ox heads, modeled after an ancient drinking vessel found in Pecs, are glazed with eosin. It's a shimmering, almost metallic, iridescent glaze named for the Greek word for ‘dawn,’ and makes the porcelain resemble light striking a precious gemstone or the glittering surface of a soap bubble. 

After our time in Pecs, I've become almost fond of eosin glazed products after literally seeing hundreds of them. I do infinitely prefer the Augarten Porzellan china from Vienna but it was interesting seeing these too since they're so markedly different from anything else I'm familiar with.

Dad and I joked that we should have left locks marked with our initials, kids, in every city that we've seen that has a padlock bridge and now wall so you could find them years hence! The 1st one was in Moscow, I think, last year. Anyone know if there's anything like this in the US or in Canada?

Had fun waking around the city walls; thought we'd found a way to the Cathedral many pictures below but no, only a pretty and deserted park area.

First time seeing a reclining statue like this one; it was neat.
One of the first drawbridges I've seen too.

Can you imagine wrapping carrots in plastic wrap all day long?
There are 20 churches in Pecs but the most spectacular one is the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, more commonly known simply as the Pecs Cathedral. A bishopric was established in Pecs in 1009 and the church building grew in fits and starts from then on. It was built in an EW direction so that the sun pours in for morning mass; there are 2 altars: only the front one was fully visible and it’s for everyday masses while the rear one is used only by the bishop. There are 3 masses on Sundays: at 8:30 in Hungarian, at 9:30 for children and at 11 in Latin. 60% of Hungarians are Catholic, 20% are Calvinists or Lutherans, 18% are atheists and the rest belong to other faiths.

Our 1st view of Pecs Cathedral from walking along the city walls. 
We've obviously walked on a LOT of cobblestones both this and last year's trip but the very large, irregularly shaped, red ones above were among the trickiest to walk on.

Each of the Apostles is represented by his own statue on the top.

No longer in Poland, I know, but another eagle photo for you both, Nina and Kyle!
 The 159 year old organ with 7,000 pipes was made in an organ factory in Pecs; how wonderful it would be to be in Pecs at Christmastime being able to attend some of the organ concerts in this gorgeous cathedral! 

 Enjoyed spending some time in the beautiful Adoration Chapel below especially after a school group of pretty noisy teens left me in peace and quiet.

 I would have sworn it was wallpaper on all the walls but they were really painted by10 master painters over the course of a year.

Descending into the crypt.

The 11th C forest of columns in the Crypt, redecorated like the rest of the church, is part of the original church building on this site. We’d been in other crypts this trip but, if my memory serves me correctly, these were the largest and most spectacular even if they didn’t have coffins to view. With the subdued lighting and the spooky feel, it felt like a movie set and I kept half thinking some villain or John Le Carre character was about to pop out from behind the columns. Relieved to go upstairs afterwards


Wonderful seeing the 'light of day' after being in the crypts.

The fascinating 
Bronze Gate dates only from 2000; its vines, grapes and branches are all connected, symbolizing our connection to God.
5th C. Christain burial tombs located in front of the Cathedral.

Kaptalan Utca: Pecs’ Museum Row: A cluster of museums line tranquil this street which translates into English as Chapterhouse St. and is where priests used to live. Walked into the courtyard of the Magyar Art Museum/Modern Hungarian Gallery to peek in at the sculptures fashioned by Pierre Szekely in the Stone Garden.

Then walked a few steps to the Victor Vasarely Museum. We had never known his name but like you, I’m sure, we knew his work. Think optical illusions and the dizzying Op Art that inspired the psychedelic 1960’s. The museum of the famous artist born in Pecs who later moved to Paris has a fantastic display of his eye popping creations, made in various media. The musum offers an overview from the early Bauhaus style geometric graphical works through the initial op-art pieces to black and white and line-period works. His wool wall hangings are particularly spectacular.

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I just loved this wool wall hanging and how the ball felt like it was going to pop right out of the rest of the weaving.
Glad I was color coordinated that day!

We had some extra time so decided and the weather was gorgeous for a change so we decided to hike up to the Tettye Ruins, located on a plateau high above town. The square in the large park was established on the site of a quarry believed to have been used by the Romans. Its name possibly goes back to the Turkish word, ’tekia’ meaning dervish monastery. Another parallel for us as our plan is to see the Whirling Dervishes in Avanos, Turkey later this trip.

Steven just hated seeing this building and thought it was the ugliest one ever! Problem was, we kept seeing it too!

Nice views of town as we hiked up to the ruins. 

Began walking down the hill to town and almost immediately saw this cross; what a very powerful sight.

I wonder how old this car is!

The beautiful Baroque chapel on Havihegy was built to commemorate the plague in 1697. As promised by the citizens, the building materials were carried to the top of the hill. Today the chapel is also a place of pilgrimage. Steven, upon exiting the church, said he should make the sign of the cross as he had been into so many Catholic churches this trip! 

Natalie: Dad and I thought of you when we saw these handrails as it reminded us of our trip with you to visit McGill. Do you remember taking one look at the handrails or rope on campus that would help students be safe climbing the steep Montreal hills in the wintertime? I CANNOT imagine walking down the hills of Pecs in the wintertime as they were ungodly steep enough in the late summer.