Monday, 31 October 2011

A Road to Ruin

Not surprisingly restoration projects in Hungary, as elsewhere, come with a price tag. That conditions should be attached to the purchase and renovation of a 'listed' property is not altogether unexpected. But that a hapless purchaser should find him or herself agreeing to the construction of a ring road, or the supply of gas to an entire village, or the rebuilding of a community centre, not to mention the provision of a new school, hospital or children's playground, then it will be understood that such news might, just possibly, bring about a sharp intake of breath.

a possible condition attached to the purchase of an historic building

Our architect has reported. The condition of our kastély is known. We are in possession of the facts.

Now, do not think for one moment that we are ones to shy away from the building of highways, from negotiating gas pipelines with Mr. Putin, from setting up a bingo hall or providing teachers with chalk, nurses with temperature charts or sand for sandpits.

Fear not that we should be daunted by the drip, drip, drip of water from a rusty pipe, the fall of plaster from pediment or portal, the broken casement, the sagging ceiling, the damaged cornice, the peeling paintwork or, if truth is to be told, the night time perambulations of the Death Watch Beetle.

detail of Front Hall, Budapest apartment, before restoration

the Front Hall of Budapest apartment after restoration

Let it never be said that our progress should in any way be impeded by the stiffness of a lock, the creaking of a door, a blocked chimney or two, a missing floorboard here, a barred entry there.

the Budapest apartment, Main Hall, in original condition

the Budapest apartment, Main Hall, as above, after restoration 

the Budapest apartment, Main Hall, looking towards the drawing room

Nor should it be imagined that failed deliveries, drunk workmen, substitute items, strikes, rules, regulations, sleight of hand and misrepresentation have ever, other than momentarily, deflected us from the task in hand. Indeed, we see the renovation and restoration of our Budapest apartment as testament to that.

But, where asbestos is concerned, then however reluctantly, a line must be drawn.

the Kastély showing the roof, dating from the 1970s, of asbestos tiles

The Kastély is, to a large part, made up of asbestos. This banned substance covers the entire roof and roof space and has done since the 1970s when, for whatever reason, the original tiles were removed. The cost of removal, disposal and replacement with an appropriate alternative is, we are advised, prohibitive. Add to this the purchase price and the estimates for complete restoration, and such conditions as may be imposed for enhancing the local amenities and environment, and, somewhat astonishingly, we find that it all comes to rather more than is to be found in our piggy bank.

Caveat emptor!!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fools Rush In.......

press to enter [click to enlarge this and all images]

At the start, the hall door would not open. We waited, not impatiently, for the day was warm, the morning sun causing the leaves on the stucco to glow a burnished red whilst,  from afar, a church clock chimed the appointed hour. Before us the grass, long since having encroached on to the carriage drive, had been newly cut, the mowing machine standing idle since our arrival. And then we were in.

the south front with the carriage drive grass covered and the hall door open

The Kastély, which we should better describe as Kúria [manor house], is much earlier than previously thought. Here is an early eighteenth century yeoman's house which, some hundred years later, had been remodelled  in the fashion of the period to produce a neo-classical facade and to provide an importance most fitting for a lord of the manor.

the principal entrance with a view into the reception hall

the reception hall looking towards the back hall

A broad sunlit entrance hall, running from front to back, affords access to the ground floor rooms. Those at the front, a Morning Room, Dining Room, and Study have a somewhat ecclesiastical air, no doubt suggested by the arched window recesses and vaulted ceilings. To the rear a series of what in estate agents' parlance may be euphemistically described as the "usual offices" could, with heightened imagination, become kitchen, scullery, pantry, game larder, laundry room, even servants' hall, should they ever be to hand. 

the windows of a possible Morning Room showing the arched ceiling

a pantry, laundry room or even a potential game larder

An unusual spiral staircase, closeted behind Normanesque pillars, gives rise to the first floor and the spacious, south facing 'piano nobile' or drawing room whose three rounded windows afford not only views of the grounds below but also of the distant countryside beyond.

the staircase looking down from the first floor landing

the south facing 'piano nobile' as seen from one of the principal bedrooms

From this room open the principal bedrooms, one with a trace of an elaborately painted ceiling, dressing rooms, and future bathrooms(?), whilst beyond is a dismal rabbit warren of who knows what which could so easily, here with a vague wave of the agent's hand, convert to the most charming of guest accommodation.

the main landing as seen from the entrance to the 'piano nobile'

a bathroom from the days of multiple occupancy

Once more outside we stroll the policies: a neglected orchard here, there a dense shrubbery, beyond the suggestion of a one time kitchen garden. Moles, their tunnels radiating in all directions, play havoc with the lawns of old, rabbits graze undisturbed. Time stands still.

the north wall as viewed from the west corner of the house

And should it be that we ignore the damp, the dry rot, the possible subsidence, the leaking gutters, the blocked down pipes, the toppling chimneys, the glassless windows, the ill fitting doors, the falling stucco, the crumbling plaster, and the ghosts of those long laid to rest? We do so at our peril.

heights of previous occupants recorded on a door frame

Today we seek a surveyor!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Who Will Save Me?

the mansion house at Tura, Hungary [click to enlarge this and all images]

Tura, with its turrets, towers and trap-doors is seductive. And we have long wished to be seduced by this Loire Renaissance fantasy of 1883, the work of Ybl Miklós, architect of the most splendid Budapest Opera House, which stands, battered and scarred, abandoned some ten years since by the occupying Soviet troops.

the Palm House at Tura seen on the extreme right of the main building

Just days ago, standing in the erstwhile Palm House through which shafts of October sun penetrated the broken casements, we reflected on the fate of this, and other, endangered Hungarian mansions. Here, at Tura, the signs of serious neglect are all too apparent. Plaster and stucco crumble, cold damp seeps through roofs and walls, iron corrodes, glass shatters.

the principal staircase within the entrance hall at Tura

Climbing the principal staircase, relatively undamaged, the first floor presents a sad picture: a bedroom corridor echoing to our footfall; pit props in support of a collapsing ceiling; a bird nesting atop the pediment of a door; a balustrade threatening to fall.

a bedroom corridor at Tura

a window swings idly in an upstairs room at Tura

Later on, now in the village of Aszód, we merrily trespass into the Baroque splendour of the palace there where institutional use has paid a heavy price. As at Tura, change and decay, but here we take flight in the face of a threatening caretaker with, we are convinced, his rabid dog in tow straining on a seemingly fragile leash.

a corner of the Baroque palace at Aszód in Hungary

Homeward, but not before we have tried, and failed, to gain entry into the Sleeping Beauty of a castle at Acsa where bell towers silently call across the wooded valley.

How romantic it all is. And we, who pride ourselves on being level headed, have fallen in love. In love with the prettiest little manor house in the far west of the country.

could this become the Hattatt Kastély............?

Affordable, just! Requiring complete renovation, a certainty! On Saturday we have an order to view. How exciting is that?!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Disruption to Service

Terminal 1 of Budapest Airport recently renamed Liszt Ferenc from Ferihegy

Because of unforeseen circumstances we shall, regrettably, be unable to post, comment or respond to comments and emails in the immediate future.

We very much hope to return around the middle of the month when normal service will be resumed.