Fortune’s always hiding in Budapest but might just appear if you rub a certain statue in a certain place. Which statue and which right place are matters of strange lore, their convoluted histories harking as far back as the Middle Ages. A hussar’s stallion, a sculptor’s cat and a medieval cleric’s pen all come into play, bringing luck to success-hungry students or wishful teenagers. Our fair city also has its own version of the Trevi Fountain, this one involving a Hungarian king and a lovelorn maiden rather than Anita Ekberg. The deal is the same, though – chuck in three coins andyou’re bound to come back.
THE POLISHED CROWN JEWELS
One of Budapest’s best-known fortune-bringing statues stands on the corner or Szentháromság Street and Úri Street, in the Castle District.
The equestrian statue erected in 1937 portrays Count András Hadik, the Field Marshal of the Habsburg Army famous for capturing Berlin during the Seven Years’ War, under the rule of Maria Theresa. In October 1757, the Hungarian general unexpectedly swung his army of 4,500 hussars around the Prussians, riding at night and hiding during the day for almost a whole week. For taking Berlin, he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal and awarded the Großkreuz of the Maria Theresa Order.
Since rubbing the crown jewels of Hadik’s horse is said to bring good luck – especially for desperate students of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics during exams – the bronze balls shine polished under the stallion’s belly.
THE FACELESS CHRONICLER
Anonymous depicts the faceless notary and chronicler in the early 13th century, around the time of King Béla.
Little is known about him – he is most famous for his work Gesta Hungarorum (“The Deeds of the Hungarians“), the first extant Hungarian chronicle, which provides the most detailed history of the arrival of the Hungarians to the Carpathian Basin. The two-meter-tall statue standing in the inner courtyard of Vajdahunyad Castle was made by Miklós Ligeti. Originally, the statue was to portray Hungarian poet Miklós Zrínyi, but the figure’s sitting position and lack of facial features didn’t please the jury. However, by the time the newer version with an uncovered face was completed, the first one had become a great success – so the hood stayed on and instead, the name was changed from Zrínyi to Anonymous.
The statue has been bringing good luck and/or inspiration to tourists, fortune hunters and frustrated writers since 1902 – all they have to do is touch his pen.
THE WISH-GRANTING FILM PROP
Reality and fiction mix around the female figure standing in the inner courtyard of a tenement house built by József Hild, located on the corner of Október 6. Street and Arany János Street.
Adorning a small fountain, the statue that once bathed in the spotlight depicts Abigél, the main character of a Hungarian young adult novel of the same name, written by Magda Szabó in 1970. Abigél tells the story of a teenage girl who attends a Calvinist girls’ school in eastern Hungary during World War II. The novel’s success soon resulted in a four-part TV adaptation, in which this very statue was also featured.
According to the story, a miraculous statue standing in the school courtyard grants the wishes of those who write them on paper and place them into its pitcher.
THE KING AND HIS SECRET ADMIRER
The fountain of King Matthias stands in the Castle District, appropriately in Buda Castle’s Hunyadi Courtyard, named after the king himself.
This elevated statue composition depicts the king hunting in the Buda Hills with his escorts and dogs, leaning over a small fountain. Behind the idyllic scene, however, hides a tragic story that Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty described in his ballad Szép Ilonka. The female figure on the right is Ilonka, who fell in love with a handsome young man while taking a stroll in the woods. However, when she discovered that he’s the king and they cannot be together, she fell ill and wilted away. The statues are the work of Alajos Stróbl, who even went as far as recreating the royal hunt with his students.
Allegedly, if you throw a coin into the fountain below, you will come back at some point in the future – a Trevi Fountain kind of deal.
THE LUCKY CAT
The city’s weirdest fortune-bringing statue can be found in the underpass of Kálvin Square.
The red marble monument, made in the 1980s, is entitled the Város születése (“The Birth of the City”) and is somehow meant to symbolize Budapest’s unstoppable expansion. It also features the beloved cat of its creator, Gyula Illés, named Maci. We don’t know what the statues depict exactly – the cat is as capricious as the imagination of its owner.
All the same, stroking the cat’s tail is said to bring good luck.
Can you find the English equivalent of the following Hungarian expressions in the text?
1. vörösmárvány szobor
2. biztos, hogy visszajössz
3. uralma alatt
4. keveset tudunk róla
5. a történet szerint
1. red marble monument
2. you’re bound to come back
3. under the rule of
4. little is known about him
5. according to the story