Budapest old and new, and a cafe that looks like a palace

Budapest old and new

I liked Budapest on my first visit in October, but coming back a second time added depth and some significant variety to my experience. I heard a wide spectrum of political opinions about the current government and the upcoming elections. I was confirmed by some colleagues in my suspicion that public buildings get the most elaborate makeovers for political reasons – the election is coming up in April, and the renovations are expected to be done in time for that. Some of the people I met – all intelligent, thoughtful people – support or at least “can sympathize” (a quote) with the current prime minister and believe the western media has demonized him as a right-wing fanatic; others think the western media has it right, and that there has been a dangerous tilt to the right in the name of nationalism. Given recent upheavals in the Ukraine and other eastern European countries, Hungary will be a very important country to watch in the near future.

During this trip I was exposed again to juxtapositions of new and old, but had a better sense of both the variety and the stratification of socio-economic classes in Budapest.
Budapest Old and New

This elegant café, with its live piano player, is as opulent as anything to be found in Habsburg Vienna – maybe moreso, with its elaborate gothic windows and gold-leaf carvings and ceiling paintings.
Budapest ceiling and windows cafe

I also had the chance (I splurged) to stay in a 5-star hotel at 3-star New York prices, choosing from a list the analysts provided for me as being convenient to the Psychoanalytic Institute’s location. I stayed in the Corinthia, which by coincidence or synchronicity, was the old Royal Hotel where Ferenczi actually lived for several years, as did many artists and intellectuals in early 20th century Budapest.
Budapest Ferenczi Corinthia hotel staircase
I got a real sense of the cultural and intellectual renaissance that was going on in Budapest at the same time as in Vienna, and a taste of an elegant fin-de-siècle world that was crushed, like all of eastern Europe during WWII and the subsequent Soviet occupation and later capitalist corruption (which apparently persists to this day). In places like my hotel, catering to international business people and wealthy tourists, it’s possible to relive a bit of the elegance of old prewar Budapest – and I confess that I really enjoyed being pampered there! The major downside to such tourist places is that it’s actually quite possible to remain somewhat insulated from the poorer realities of Budapest. Once in the hotel room, one could be anywhere in the world where such posh oases exist. I appreciated having stayed with our Columbia seminary colleagues on my first trip, and visiting Judit’s flat this time, so that I was able to experience what “real life” is like for a variety of people at different stages of their lives and careers. I was able to have breakfast with Eszter once more before I returned to Vienna, caught up on the news of her family and close church friends (the pastor Zoltan’s son contracted Hanta virus or some other mysterious infection and was in a coma, but fortunately will recover). I was happy to hear that Eszter is now licensed to prepare for ordination, and is serving what in the Anglican tradition we would call a curacy, in Dunavarsany.

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Back to Budapest and Ferenczi’s Villa

Back to Budapest and Ferenczi's Villa

My last week in Europe I traveled once more to Budapest, this time at the invitation of the president of the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society, Szusza Lorincz, to give a lecture, and to have an opportunity to see the pioneering psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi’s villa. This is a view of the graceful wrought iron staircase inside the villa.

The first evening, I was met by Szusza and taken to dinner with several Hungarian analysts – all women psychologists. We had dinner in a very popular restaurant in a ship that is moored along the side of the Danube, the “old ship” or Ven Hajo. It was elegant, with beautiful views of the Castle up high on a hill across the river.
Budapest Old Ship Restaurant

Budapest 1-22 Szusza Piri Pam and Bori
Dr. Szusza Lorincz, Dr. Piri (Piroska) Komlosi, me, and Dr. Bori Sarkadi

After dinner, Szusza and one of the other analysts, Piri (who interestingly is an active member of a Presbyterian church), drove me up to the Citadel, where there is a towering statue of a woman holding a sheaf of wheat representing freedom (rededicated after the end of Soviet occupation), and stunning views of the river and city below.
Budapest Freedom Statue at Citadel
Budapest View of Chain Bridge from Citadel

Budapest from Citadel View of Danube bridges and Pest from Citadel

The next morning I met Dr. Judit Meszaros, who is responsible for the purchase and renovation of a portion of Ferenczi’s villa where he lived the last 3 years of his life after returning from the U.S. (Other residents still live in some of the floors of the building.) We had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation about psychoanalysis, history, and politics over coffee in her flat – a gorgeous inherited flat still partly decorated in fin-de-siècle style and filled with art works by her father among others. Judit also is a photographer, mainly interested in portraiture, and she shared some of her pictures with me – and then began taking more of me both there and at the Ferenczi villa.

Budapest Judit Meszaros under the Mother Tree
Judit under the “mother tree” in her flat

The villa is beginning to be used as a place to host lectures and other small events related to psychoanalysis, and there are a number of poignant photos and other artifacts on the walls.
Budapest Ferenczi garden with Judit

Budapest Ferenczi quote and old photo of villa

Budapest Ferenczi villa door

Budapest Ferenczi villa exterior

Budapest Ferenczi villa plaque

Budapest Ferenczi villa staircase

That evening, I gave my lecture entitled “Sándor Ferenczi, the Relational Paradigm, and Pastoral Psychotherapy,” to a gathering of about 25 analysts. They were very curious and interested to learn more about pastoral psychotherapy, and we had a good interdisciplinary discussion about Ferenczi, intersubjectivity, and relational psychoanalysis as it is used in both psychoanalytic and pastoral psychotherapy. I have already heard from a few of them by email, and it seems that this is a connection that will last and possibly lead to fruitful exchanges in the future as well.
Budapest Judit explaining
Judit explaining aspects of Ferenczi’s history in the villa

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Modern sculpture at the Burgtheater

Modern sculpture at the Burgtheater

Another building that was on my regular path between my university classroom and the Freud museum was the Burgtheater – the imperial theater. The award-winning sculpture at the Burgtheater was made by Prof. Ulrike Truger. To me, the form looks both feminine and flowing like a cloak or drapery. I like it very much. My friend Isabelle in Bern knows the sculptor, and tried via email to get us together – I regret that that was one connection I didn’t have the time (and felt a bit too shy) to follow up. Hopefully this is one more reason to make another visit to Vienna in the future! Truger’s work can be viewed at – a fascinating art web site!

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Because of its location between the university and the Freud Museum, the Votivkirche became both a useful landmark, and a kind of visual companion throughout my time in Vienna. Always beautiful, the two spires are like a sketch of lace against the sky. Where else can you just be walking to work, look up, and see this!? I feel so lucky!

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A last stroll around Freud’s neighborhood

A last stroll around Freud's neighborhood

My last week at the Freud museum was unbelievably springlike and warm, with several truly sunny days. The flowering bushes and the birds all seemed a bit confused. Here, near the Votivpark, a forsythia was in full bloom.

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with soprano Edita Gruberova

with soprano Edita Gruberova

That night, knowing that I would be feeling wistful, I splurged on a ticket to see the soprano Edita Gruberova in an all-Mozart concert. This was truly coming full circle – I had seen her in “Lucia” in 1982 when I was in Vienna studying Schoenberg, at a time when she was not at all well known in the U.S. I was astonished at the beautiful, bell-like sound of her voice, her range, and how she made the demanding first act just seem like a warmup for the rest of the opera – she just kept getting better and better, until the mad scene, which was unbelievably well sung and well acted. She became one of my all-time favorite sopranos. This recital filled the grosse Saal of the Konzerthaus, and she obviously has a huge fan base in Vienna. Although her voice has just a little rasp now, it is also deliciously dark and she still has an incredibly supple coloratura. And at the end of the concert, the audience fell into one of those magical moments that happens sometimes in Europe – all clapping together in unison! She did grant us an encore, and then swept off the stage waving goodbye. After the concert, she signed programs and CDs, and I was only too happy to join the enthusiastic queue for this in the lobby – rewarded not only with an autograph, but a photo. I was so happy to get to meet her! – especially before she retires – anticipated in the next 2-3 years or so.
1-21 Konzerthaus with light show

After the concert, I did the Viennese thing and took myself for one last nightcap at the Landtmann Café. Another farewell! Although I’d sampled many of the traditional cafés across Vienna, the Landtmann became my favorite, and the one I visited most – partly because it was near the Schottentor Ubahn and the university so very convenient to my usual haunts, and partly because the waiters there were unfailingly hospitable, kind, and friendly. They always let me practice my German on them with complete politeness, and I always felt well taken care of!
1-21 Freud sighting at the Landtmann
I amused myself while eating a lovely “Theater Teller” (theater plate with cold meats, cheeses, and a “Gabelbissel” a little glass filled with a very yummy mixture of unrecognizable stuff to be eaten with a fork) imagining that the bearded man at the table in front of mine was Freud himself, out for a late night repast!

One of the many lovely rooms at the Landtmann:
1-21 Landtmann rotated

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Door to Freud’s consulting room

Door to Freud's consulting room

One last photo of the door to Freud’s consulting rooms, apts. 3-4 in Berggasse 19.

And a last photo of the staircase, where I love to imagine Princess Marie Bonaparte standing guard in her fur coat in the Freud family’s last days at Berggasse, like the lamp post that stands sentry still today – doing everything she could to prevent the Nazis from harassing the family, and negotiating the last matters of Nazi bureaucratic extortion with the psychoanalytic society’s Nazi overseer, Anton Sauerwald. (Although not very scholarly in style or tone, David Cohen’s recent book “The Escape of Sigmund Freud” tells the riveting story of the family’s last weeks in Vienna with detailed documentation, and in particular sheds more light on the complex relationship between Sauerwald and the Freuds.)
1-21 2 Berggasse 19 staircase

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