Secrets of Várkert Bazár
In the December 1874 issue of magazine Vasárnapi Újság (Sunday Newspaper), a short news item appeared: “The construction planned under the Royal Castle Garden will begin in early January, according to the blueprint of our architect Ybl, which best appealed his majesty. The constructions must be completed in 3 years. ” Construction eventually took a little longer, from 1875 to 1883. This week we are dealing with the history of the Várkert Bazár or Castle Garden Bazaar, but in the contemporary photographs, not only the building, but also the changes of the palace and the navigation on the Danube come to life.
After the recapture of Buda, the Castle gradually lost its military significance, so the areas surrounded by walls began to be opened; of course they still belonged to the Buda Castle Palace. We know that Archduke Joseph of Austria (Palatine of Hungary), to whom we owe the landscaping of Margaret Island, set many plants here. The gardens came to the fore after 1867, when the royal couple visited the palace more frequently, and Sissi especially loved to linger among the trees in the garden, allegedly.
Interestingly, the creation of the Castle Garden Bazaar building complex is connected to an unwanted building, due to the fact that a three-storey house planned here would have deprived the court of the magnificent view.
Therefore, the chief seneschalsy appealed to the Metropolitan Public Works Council not to propose the construction of the house. The Council gave in to the wish, but at the same time recommended the purchase of the plot (and the adjacent plots) to the office. The Court took the opportunity and also provided the cost to build a worthy building complex on the Buda side next to the Palace. The first plans and economic calculations were made by Ferenc Reitter. His plan involved the demolition of seven houses, with a row of columned arcades in their place, which would have been closed by a three-storey residential building on both sides. Miklós Ybl won the final architectural design work of the castle garden complex - bazaar, residential houses and kiosk. In his draft, he retained several of Reitter’s ideas, but also transformed them them for budgetary reasons.
The ornamental staircase on the left of the Castle Garden Bazaar bears the name of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. According to a legend, Empress Elisabeth asked for it to be able to get to the harbour from where her steamship left for Vienna. The staircase was also used by governor Miklós Horthy, who was taken to the Parliament by a motorboat from the port.
The whole complex of buildings is defined by symmetry: the Gloriette in the middle, which is not a separate structure, its pavilion is surrounded by stepped ramp works running up from two sides, leading to the garden. To the right, there is the Staircase Pavilion, and the Cabin Pavilion is on the left, then the bazaar rows with 10-10 portals. The Neo-Renaissance building complex is closed by the former Bodyguard Palace on the right and by two tenement palaces on the left. The facade scratch-work praises the work of Mór Than and Róbert Scholz, the sculptures were made by Leó Fessler, Adolf Huszár, Armin Schföfl, the ceramics by Vilmos Zsolnay and the ornamental blacksmith works were created by Gyula Jungfer.
The building complex was bumped several times during World War II. Between 1961 and 1984, the building housed the Buda Youth Park, or “Ifipark”, which hosted many concerts. Its condition steadily deteriorated since the 1980s, leading to the complete closure of the property. The government decided to renovate it in 2011, and it has been shining in its original splendour again since 2014.
The Castle Garden Kiosk was also designed by Miklós Ybl. The separately standing building hid the pumping station that supplied the Royal Palace with water. But not only this building, but also a cistern system was made at the same time as the construction of the Castle Bazaar. The water of the Danube was cleaned with the help of a layer of gravel placed in hermetically locked cisterns connected only to the tunnel, and then piped from the kiosk building to the royal palace to meet their drinking water needs. Later, when public utilities were built in the capital, the cisterns lost their significance and their existence was forgotten. The Castle Garden Kiosk was a popular place of entertainment for the people of Buda between the two world wars and for some time after the World War II. The building was renovated in the ‘90s, after which it housed the Castle Garden Casino, where gambling-loving guests were welcomed in an aristocratic setting. Renewed, it functions as an event venue nowadays.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Szablyár Péter: Fokról fokra - A mi Budapestünk, Városháza Kiadó, Budapest, 2010.