60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

This year is the 60th anniversary of the October 1956 Hungarian Revolution, when ordinary Hungarians revolted against the Soviet-backed government. In November of that year, Soviet forces invaded Hungary and crushed the revolution. In all 2,500 – 3,000 revolutionaries were killed

The Terror Museum* has put on a very interesting, bilingual exhibition with lots of photographs, for this 60th anniversary outside its building at 60 Andrássy Ut. The exhibition is introduced with:

The Revolution and Freedom Fight of 1956 lasted for no more than two weeks. Nevertheless, it shook the world. It wrecked the regime established by the great power after World War 11 and unveiled the cruel reality iof the Soviet-type terror apparatus. Once and for all, the world woke up from the illuions of communism. In October 1956 the Hungarian nation proved that it was capable of taking control of its own destiny.

The desperation and anger that had been bottled up for so many years finally broke to the surface during the revolution. The spontaneous uprising grew to become a revolution and since the pre-requisite of freedom is to regain national independence, it became a freedom fight. Sixty years ago the whole world turned its attention to Budapest. This life-and-death struggle that barely lasted two weeks made it clear for everyone that the then existing powers did not allow the Hungarians fight for freedom to have the least chance. Yet, the death defying courage of the boys of Pest inflicted an incurable wound upon communism and shook the Soviet empire.

As well as the narrative and photographs chronicling the revolution, there are also two other exhibits, a segment of the Berlin wall

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And the Iron Curtain monument

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It was interesting to talk with Hungarian people and ask them what they knew from their parents’ of that time sixty years ago. One said because their parents, lived outside of Budapest, they only knew of the revolution from the radio but sent food parcels to Budapest.

*The Terror Museum is located at 60 Andrássy Ut. It is A memorial of political terror, where people were detained, tortured and murdered during the arrow cross and communist dictatorships from the late the later 1930s. The building was used as a meeting place by the Arrow Cross and later as the party headquarters, dubbed the house of loyalty. It was taken over by the communist secret police in 1945 and later served as headquarters for Hungary’s secret service organisation the state protection authority. (The arrow cross party was a nationalist far-right party. During its short rule many, (in particular Jews) were deported and murdered.)

The apartment where we stay is a five minute walk from the Terror Museum. One can only imagine the terror that was plotted and planned inside this building. I have never gone inside nor have any desire to. The wikipedia article on it tells me enough – It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building.

Pictures of victims line the wall outside the building.

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Hungary’s stance on the plight of Syrian and other refugees is interesting when remembering the events of 1956. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, didn’t get the necessary 50% turn-out last Sunday to validate the referendum, though 98% of those who did, voted to exclude new refugees.

History has many, very sad moments. Today too.

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Morgan Library & Museum

A friend emailed me I’m sure you’ve got a long list to see in NY, however you might like to check out the Pierpoint Morgan Library, in particular the McKim building and Mr Morgan’s library. Each time I’ve tried to see it I’ve failed. It’s a real gem, little spoken of, Google it to see if you’re interested. I came upon it as a very unique library designed (early1900s) by Mc Kim, Mead &White, architects who designed many of the great libraries in the US.

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Well I had to go along – it wasn’t a place I knew. As it happened it was right beside the hotel where we were staying. When I went in I found that there was a one-hour tour starting in a half an hour, so I decided to join it. I saw and learned lots. In many ways it reminded me of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. I’ve made notes below from what I saw and learned.

Nowadays, we talk of entrepreneurs as if they were a recent phenomenon – Pierpont Morgan lived from 1837 to 1913 and he was a true entrepreneur. He was an American financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector and a major player in corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. He oversaw the formation of the company General Electric and United States Steel Corporation. The name Morgan exists to this day in banking. Pierpont Morgan’s son JP Morgan Jr created the Pierpont Morgan Library as a public institution in 1924 as a memorial to his father. The building was restored in 2010.

A short history …

In 1903 American Pierpont Morgan chose architect McKim of the prominent firm McKim, Mead and White to design a library to house his growing collection of rare books and manuscripts. Adjacent to Morgan’s home which stood on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street, McKim created a majestic structure in a classical style based upon villas of the Italian Renaissance. The exterior is constructed of Tenessee pink marble, the blocks set with such precision that virtually no mortar was used. A simple recessed portico is flanked by a pair of stone lionesses. Completed in 1906, Mr. Morgan’s library – as it was called for many years – is the historic heart of today’s Morgan Library & Museum. .

Today the library is a complex of buildings which serve as a museum and scholarly research centre. It houses medieval illuminated manuscripts, rare printed books, handwritten manuscripts of great writers artists and composers from the Renaissance to the present day

The Library & Museum originally consisted of four interlinked rooms which I saw on the tour. (Obviously I couldn’t take photographs but here are some pictures to give you an idea:

The Rotunda
A round space full of rich detail: variegated marble columns, a patterned floor, mosaic panels that line the curved walls. There are three ceiling panels that depict three of the major literary epochs represented in Morgan’s collection – the ancient world, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

The West Room Pierpont Morgan’s Study
A beautiful private study. The walls are covered in red silk, over low bookshelves. The room contains a massive fireplace, portraits of father and son and furniture Morgan had commissioned in the Renaissance style.

The East Room the Original Library
Here the walls are lined with three-story inlaid walnut bookshelves. There is a magnificent ceiling. This room housed Morgan’s collection. The collection has been added to in the century since Morgan’s death. One work on view was one of the Morgan’s three copies of a bible printed by Johnannes Gutenberg in 1455. This was a bible printed with the new technology of moveable type.

The North Room The Librarian’s Office
Morgan hired Bella da Costa Green in 1905 as the library neared completion to manage his collection. Again this is another sumptuous room which today serves as a gallery devoted to the earliest works from the collection. Included among them are seals produced by Mesopotamian sculptors.

Today more space has been added including a very interesting, modern light filled area housing a cafe. As well as the coloured glass, note the pieces of glass hanging over the area.

The interior view of the new space
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An exterior view
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Well worth a visit.

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Greenwich Village, Chelsea & the Meatpacking District

This area takes in the neighbourhoods of Chelsea, touches Flatiron towards the centre, the Meatpacking District, West Village, Greenwich Village and SOHO.

Manhattan

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NYU, where Tommy is at college, is in Greenwich Village. Founded in 1831, NYU is apparently one of the largest private nonprofit institutions of American higher education. Most of NYU’s buildings are located across a roughly 229-acre area bounded by Houston Street to the south, Broadway to the east, 14th Street to the north, and Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to the west. The core of NYU consists of buildings that surround Washington Square Park. Notable buildings include:
– Bobst Library
– Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

The NYU purple flag identifies NYU buildings around the city

NYU houses approximately 11,000 undergraduate and grad students. Its undergraduate housing system consists of more than 20 residence halls. Many of the residence halls are converted apartment complexes or old hotels. Tommy lived in Rubin in his first year and Palladium in his second year.

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Washington Square Park is effectively Greenwich Village’s town square. It’s a great green area that forms the de facto centre of NYU. It’s full of students, chess players, the setting of musical recitals etc. The Stanford White Arch dominates the northern side of the park. The Stanford White arch known also as the Washington Square Arch and the Washington Arch, is a marble triumphal arch built in 1892 and celebrates the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as President in 1789. The arch forms the southern end of Fifth Avenue. It was modelled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Stanford White (1853 – 1906) the architect who designed it and after who it is named, was a partner in the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. McKim, Mead & White was a prominent American architectural firm that thrived at the turn of the twentieth century. The firm designed many prominent buildings including the Morgan Library about which there’s another post.

Chelsea Market

Hudson River Park is a five mile long ribbon of green that stretches from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan to 59th street in Midtown on the Western side of Manhattan. It covers 550 acres. It’s great for cycling, running and walking. Denis and I used it for running a good few times. It also has a number of sports facilities, (tennis courts etc) and playgrounds.

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The Meatpacking District is as its name suggests a former meatpacking district once filled with lots of slaughter houses. One of Tommy’ first required reading for class was ‘Eat the City’ by Robin Shulman – A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York. I read this book and it gave a great history of food in New York City. According to the Meatpacking District’s own website: In 1900, 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants filled the district; by the 1930s, those houses produced the nation’s third-largest volume of dressed meats. The city, eager to retain the immediate supply of fresh meat and jobs, subsidized the industry throughout the early 20th century. Few meatpacking companies still operate in the district. Boutiques and bars are more common than rump roasts these days, and the pressure to convert old market blocks into apartment buildings is severe. Located on the Hudson riverfront, the district’s businesses face rising rents.

The High Line located in the Meatpacking District is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built on an elevated section of a disused New York railway. Inspired by the 3-mile Promenade plantée, a similar project in Paris completed in 1993, the High Line has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park. The High Line is a great example of urban renewal. The railway line was built in the 1930’s when the government decided to raise the street level tracks after years of accidents that gave Tenth Avenue the name of ‘Death Avenue’. The railway line apparently linked an unsavoury area of ‘thugs and slaughterhouses’. The rise in the use of trucks for transportation led to the demise of the railway line and its eventual closure in the 80’s. In 1999 a plan was made to convert the ‘scarring strands of metal’ into a public green area. It opened in 2009 and has since been extended on a number of occasions, see map.

Oscar Wilde’s House. Apparently Oscar Wilde lived here at No 48 W 11th St for a few weeks in 1882 – though calling it his house seems pushing it a bit!
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SOHO is the area ‘South of Houston’.

Good restaurants include:
Oatmeals

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The cold in New York

Before I write anything more about about New York, I have to write about the cold there last week. It was absolutely freezing. I hadn’t quite realised how cold New York can be in winter!

I should have taken a screen shot of the weather app on the phone to show how cold it was. Today when I looked up the National Weather Service, it shows that for the first ten days of March in Central Park:
– The average temperature was below freezing on five out of those ten days.
– The max temperature was below freezing on two of the ten days.
There was also a bitingly cold wind most days so if you add wind chill, the actual temperatures felt much colder.

(Note these temperatures are recorded in Fahrenheit)
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I felt sorry for people trying to get around. Though there were plenty of big vehicles depositing salt on streets and small ones clearing/depositing salt on sidewalks, for a city with so many people, the amount of snow and later slush made getting around tough and unpleasant.

Despite the cold, Denis went running every day. I didn’t join him, it was just too cold for me.

Here are some photographs.

On arrival at JFK airport.
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Playing chess in Washington Square Park regardless of weather.
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I was amazed to watch these two students(?) drawing in the snow in Washington Square Park.
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Another shot of Washington Square Park.
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Passing Union Square Park.
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Though the sidewalk had been cleared, one still had to somehow first get through this pile to cross the street. I resorted to buying a cheap pair of wellies, (if you can’t beat them join them!) Tommy called them chic!
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They and three pairs of socks made a big difference!

Madison Square Park.
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City skyline.
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A woman was clearing her car, it looked almost like shelling an egg. She had it half-cleared when I took the photograph but you can see the 3-4 inches of snow accumulated. There were no marks for guessing who had and who hadn’t moved their cars that day.
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I’m complaining about the cold, having only been there for a week, it’s been more or less like this for New Yorkers, (and Tommy!) since Christmas. Although the forecasted bad storm bypassed New York in January, it hasn’t been an easy winter. Hopefully there are signs of Spring coming. This week is much more pleasant with temperatures forecast to reach a high of 13C on Saturday.

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East Village and Lower East Side

My ‘learning New York’ will be very much a ‘Work in Progress’ – I’ll update and add to posts as I go along. Documenting this travelling, will hopefully keep memories clearer and might be of interest to others.

I’ve treated East Village and Lower East Side separately. East Village is to the north and Lower East Side is to the south. These areas are quite near NYU so we’ve gotten to know them a little over the years. According to Lonely Planet Old meets new on every block of this downtown duo. These are two of the hottest ‘hoods for nightlife and cheap eats that lure students, bankers and scruffier types alike. No longer the edgy radical area of decades past, the East Village is still very cool – filled with endless boutiques, bars, restaurants and characters.

Manhattan

East Village

East Village is the area roughly between East 1st and 14th Street Street and 5th Avenue and Avenue D. The name Alphabet City, (part of East Village), comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D. These are the only avenues in Manhattan to have letter names.

Some of the highlights of East Village

Tompkins Square Park is in the centre of East Village and occupies three blocks between 7th and 10th streets and Avenues A and B. This green area area is like an oasis in the middle of the built environment.

St Mark’s in the Bowery, a beautiful church is very interesting. It’s a functioning Episcopal church yet the building serves also as home to the New York Theatre Ballet School, home to the Danuspace project – a contemporary dance group and home to The Poetry Project. One door was open and I put my head in and the caretaker(?) gave me a quick look inside. The church furniture can easily be removed to make a performance space. He’s been working there for about thirty years. He remembers just as restoration work was being completed in 1978, a fire occurred causing major damage. One wouldn’t guess that to look at this beautiful building today.

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Dance space

St Mark’s Place is a small but famous New York street. It occupies three blocks between Astor Place and Tompkins Square Park. It’s called after St Mark’s church above. It contains shops, bars and restaurants and is loud and colourful, particularly at night.

I have absolutely no interest in Irish bars when abroad but I did look up McSorley’s Old Ale House as I’d previously read about it. It’s the oldest Irish pub in New York City and was one of the last of the “men only” pubs, admitting women only after legally being forced to do so in 1970. It’s very clichéd in a sense, full of old memorabilia on the walls and sawdust on the floor. The Irish Times is running a competition for the best Irish pub in the world outside Ireland. McSorley’s Old Ale House was entered by Daria Blackwell. Here is her description.

Good restaurants that we’ve been to include:
Mud
Angelica’s Kitchen A good vegetarian restaurant
MUD
Cafe Mogador Moroccan & Middle Eastern. Inexpensive and great food. It’s located on St Mark’s Place.
Westville East
(I keep this list as an aide memoir. We find them from Tommy/his friends, just stumbling upon them or now from the LP guide.)

Lower East Side LES

Originally a settlement for Jews and then Latinos, the Lower East Side (LES) has become the place to be seen … A bunch of luxury high-rise condominiums and hip boutique hotels coexist with large public-housing projects and blocks of tenement-style buildings.

When Tommy first came to New York, we stayed at the Nolitan Hotel in Nolita, LES. The above description from LP concurs with our experience of the area. (Nolita actually means ‘North of Little Italy’). The Williamsburg bridge links LES, Manhattan with Brooklyn, Denis and I crossed that bridge on a number of runs.

I noticed a concentration of restaurant suppliers in the Bowery, an avenue in LES. I’ve noticed this specialisation of streets for a particular product in other areas of Manhattan. This isn’t surprising given the names of some areas – the Garment district, the Meatpacking district

Some highlights

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

New Museum of Contemporary Art

Little Italy It seems that this area is referred to as Little Italy more out of nostalgia than as a reflection of the true ethnic population. It was the setting of the fictional Corleone crime family in The Godfather novel and films.

Some good restaurants

porridgeClinton Street Baking Company We had a great breakfast here – Oatmeal served with roasted farm apples, toasted almonds and cinnamon sugar! Unfortunately I was hungry and had started eating before I thought of tang a photo for this blogpost! Though I’m not a great lover of pancakes, I spied great ones with blueberries at a neighbouring table. The staff wear T shirts with the slogan ‘Made with love and butter’ on the back 🙂

Katz’s Delicatessan I dropped into have a coffee in this famous Jewish delicatessen. Their website even has a page teaching Jewish words/phrases. When you look at our menu, you’ll notice a few words in Yiddish. There’s a reason for that. When Katz’s Deli opened in 1888, many of the customers were European immigrants who spoke little or no English. We honor them and the spirit of the historical Lower East Side by carrying on that tradition by teaching people from all over the world a few words in Yiddish.

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The Butcher’s Daughter is is a juice bar, cafe and ‘vegetable slaughter house’! They treat fruits and vegetables as a butcher would meat: We chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into heathy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. This restaurant is opposite the Nolitan Hotel so we had to make a few visits!

Fiat Café in Nolita. We ate in this small Italian restaurant a few times and found it to be inexpensive and good.

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My New York Scrapbook

Tommy, our youngest, is an undergrad student at NYU. Visiting him affords me the perfect opportunity to better get to know New York. I’m a funny person in that I need to learn methodically. Denis can assimilate and retain information as presented whereas for me to assimilate and retain information, I need structure.

Thus on this visit I’ve decided to attack New York methodically. (God help New York!) A friend’s son works for Lonely Planet so loyalty meant I’d chose their guidebook. I decided to buy a hard-copy rather than use their online version. Interestingly when I asked for a recommendation for a New York guidebook in Strand Books , they also recommended Lonely Planet!

Armed with said guidebook I’ve embarked on my New York odyssey. This will be a continuous ‘work in progress’. I’m here for a week now and will return for another week later. When I say New York, I specifically mean Manhattan.

For someone who needs order and shape for learning, Manhattan is a great place. A peninsula of land neatly laid out North to South and East to West. Avenues go North South and streets East West and they generally behave themselves! It’s relatively easy to navigate around, (and that’s coming from me, a person with very poor direction genes) – where’s the sun, well that tells me South and I can do the maths from there.

First some stats and these were mostly gleaned from wikipedia.

New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a county of New York State. The five boroughs are: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. With a population of 8.5 million distributed over 305 square miles, New York is the most densely populated major city in the US.

Manhattan is the most densely populated of the five boroughs.

Manhattan is loosely divided into Downtown (Lower Manhattan), Midtown (Midtown Manhattan), and Uptown (Upper Manhattan), with Fifth Avenue dividing Manhattan’s east and west sides. Manhattan Island is bounded by the Hudson River to the west and the East River to the east. To the north, the Harlem River divides Manhattan Island from The Bronx and the mainland United States. Several small islands are also part of the borough of Manhattan. Manhattan Island is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide, at its widest (near 14th Street). I love walking and Manahattan is very walkable.

Manhattan is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with approx 2 million living in an area of 23 square miles. Monday to Friday the influx of commuters increases that number to 4 million. The organised layout of Manhattan gives a feeling of homogeneity but it’s anything but. It’s a series of very diverse neighbourhoods.

I intend carving up Manhattan as Lonely Planet do but possibly into even smaller pieces. For the moment it’s:
Manhattan
– Upper West Side & Central Park
– Upper East Side
– Midtown
– Greenwich Village, Chelsea & the Meatpacking District
– Union Square, Flatiron District & Gramercy
– SoHo & Chinatown
– East Village & Lower East Side
– Lower Manhattan & the Financial District.

I won’t do them in that order though, I’ll start near NYU, near Tommy.

So with Frank Sinatra ringing in my ears, I’m off. Stay tuned

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Still Alice by Lisa Genova

A friend, whose recommendations I trust, pointed me to this book. It’s a great read, for anybody but especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. I fall into the first category – I don”t know anyone with Alzheimer’s. An aunt died after many years with this disease but I wasn’t in close contact.

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As an aside, I looked up why the name – Alzheimer’s Disease is called after the German doctor Alois Alzheimer, who first described this condition in 1906.

Still Alice is written by American neuroscientist, Lisa Genova. A work of fiction, it tells the story of Alice who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 50. Alice is a successful academic, a lecturer in neuroscience at Harvard. She leads an normal, active life juggling a heavy work schedule with commitments to a busy husband and three grown-up children.

This book is written in Alice’s voice. It follows her experiences from the initial symptoms of memory loss, which, (like all of us!), she dismisses as stress/natural part of growing older, through to her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. It describes her gradual decline as she continues to fight for her independence. It describes her husband’s futile quest for a miracle cure. It describes her family’s struggle to handle her diagnosis.

The book gives a very interesting insight into what it’s like for someone coping with the disease. It depicts the confusion, loneliness, loss of sense of self. It shows what a person with Alzheimer’s looks and sounds like. As Lisa Genova herself says in the notes at the end of the book – It’s high time this group had a face and a voice. And it’s frightening!

Interestingly Lisa Genova originally self-published this book which went on to become a best-seller. She has since written two books about other neurological conditions:
Left Neglected, the story of a woman who suffers from left neglect, (also called hemispatial or unilateral neglect), caused by a brain injury.
Love Anthony the story of two women and their connection to a young boy with Autism by the name of Anthony.
Whilst I hope the author doesn’t feel she is onto something here and get’s trapped into publishing successive books on different neurological conditions, it’s good that someone is writing these stories.

A film adaptation of this book is due to be released in 2015.

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