Into the Heart of Buda

I recently visited Budapest for a long weekend away and I will have to admit that I spent more time relaxing in the baths at Gellert and Szechenyi and drinking local beers than taking in the city’s heritage. However, we did visit Margaret Island, Varosliget City Park and Buda where on the last day we stumbled across the Labyrinth of Budavar, nestled among some unassuming houses on a quiet street. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the labyrinths (our flight home was looming) but we took a look inside up to the point where you had to hand over money. The cave (which were reminiscent of the caves of Edinburgh’s underground but with much less alcohol, music, sticky floors (sticky everything) and dancing/drunkenness) that we saw was a ‘taster’ for those to come and contained a plaque giving a brief history. The plaque was what inspired me to write this post.

There is one problem. I didn’t take a photo or a leaflet from the cave plaque! So, I began searching for some of the information that the plaque contained to try to compose a blog post about it. The plaque contained essentially exactly what I want to do in life. It combined the geology of the surrounding area and the formation of the cave systems (which I was amazed to discover were completely natural) with the archaeological history of the cave uses through time and eventually leading to the way in which the cave system was made into a museum. I made a mental note at the time to look for more information on the caves and the surrounding geology when I got back home.

Unfortunately, the amount of online material about the geology of Hungary is extremely low, the two main sites with any general overview being http://waterfire.fas.is/Hungary/GeologyofHungary.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Geology_of_Hungary. Neither I feel are very comprehensive or necessarily trustworthy sources. I was amazed, as even the Geological Survey of Hungary has little comprehensive overviews to offer on the country. In comparison to when ‘geology of Britain’ is typed into Google, this is shocking!

I began to look for information on the caves themselves and to see if the official site for the labyrinth had any links to some external geology sites. This time I found something even more interesting. Budavari Labyrinthus, the apparently official site for the Buda Castle caves says that the labyrinth is closed permanently. So where were we?

Unfortunately the website also has little on the geology of the area but has a nice summary of the history of the caves along with maps and pictures. They look extremely similar to where we were, but the place we were in was most definitely open and admitting visitors. I read somewhere that there are ‘imitation’ caves around the area and it is easy to get led into these thinking they are the ‘real’ Buda Castle labyrinths but honestly I find it all a bit suspicious.

So, I decided to write a blog post anyway, and ask any readers whether they have any knowledge of the geology of Hungary and if they can help solve the mystery of the Buda Castle Caves. I will keep searching too and if I find anything interesting I will post it here!

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2 thoughts on “Into the Heart of Buda

  1. There is an excellent book on the geology of Hungary:

    Geology of Hungary by Laszlo Trunkó; Gábor Z Földváry
    Berlin : Gebrüder Borntraeger, ©1996. Series: Beiträge zur regionalen Geologie der Erde, Bd. 23.

    http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Geology_of_Hungary.html?id=-ivwAAAAMAAJ for a tantalizing glimpse of the title page but no more!

    OK, its in a very retro format… paper… and you will have to spend time looking for a library that stocks it (BGS :-)) ..and its in English!!

    This isn’t of course how it should be today. Everyone wants instant access to information resources, and why not… the technology is there to enable it, absolutely fully functioning and the info/knowledge only a few clicks away!

    There are several reasons why this has not happened 1. lack of vision. 2. the cost of converting all the existing publications to electronic form for web delivery 3. copyright. Some enlightened organizations are busy converting material – even some geological organizations now seeing the future…. the web and are converting documents, information and knowledge.

    The answer may be doing it under an international framework… especially in Geology. The OneGeology project provided the the first signs of this a digital map of the whole world – each national survey participating to provide a joined up instant access digital map at 1:1m.
    Tthis is where it stopped… I think it should have continued to capture all the non-digital maps and text publications and deliver over the web with full text searching across the documents and even semantic info retrieval to get at the real knowledge currently locked up in books like Laszlo’s geology of Hungary!

    Buda caves… hmmm a search on Georef (you have to pay or know someone with access)

    Imitation caves sounds great….a great preservation strategy for the original caves… I thought you might approve of this use of surrogates on conservation grounds 🙂

    • You have touched on a very current subject Scotfot with the digitisation and free/open access of texts – and maps!
      Imitations I think are in principal good for preservation, however in this case there are a couple of issues:
      1) If they are imitation then they should be classed openly as such and not lead tourists (like us!) to believe they might be the real thing.
      2) The castle disctict is a World Heritage Site and if there are ‘imitation’ caves made in the rocks then this is a serious UNESCO violation and I am sure will be illegal.
      I have a feeling that possibly part of the reason the caves are shut (if of course this is actually true in the first place :-S) then it is possibly to do with legal issues regarding what was stored there and ownership of the area. Something to look in to.
      Thanks again for the great comment and I will check out the book and site you mentioned although I might not be able to get access 🙂

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