On Saturday, we went to Gödöllő, which is about 20 minutes away from Budapest city center. Though we went by car, if you’re someone visiting the city or without a car, you can get there via HÉV (which is the train to the Budapest suburbs) and it drops you right off across the street from the palace.
The reason that we went to Gödöllő was to see the Royal Palace. Technically it was built for Count Antal Grassalkovich I in 1733, who was a prominent member of the Hungarian aristocracy, but by 1867 most of the Grassalkovich’s were dead and it was in turn bought for the Royal family as a “resting” residence.
Note: You are not permitted to take photographs in the palace. Gödöllő police, please forward all inquiries to Györgyi.
So, the Royal Palace is more affectionately known as Sisi’s palace, because the Empress Elisabeth (Queen of Hungary) adored Gödöllő and stayed there during the summers, surrounding herself with Hungarian ladies-in-waiting and Hungarian culture.
Sisi came of age as a royal during a time when the Hungarians were growing a little fed up with the Hapsburgs. Because of this unrest, the Austro-Hungarian double monarchy was formed in 1867. Whether it was her true love of Hungary or her spite for her mother-in-law Princess Sophie of Bavaria (who loathed the Hungarians), Elisabeth was a champion of the Hungarian cause. She wrote and spoke in Hungarian and required all of her servants to do so as well.
Partly because of this and partly because of the reason that even well before her assassination she was a real celebrity in Hungary, the palace at Gödöllő is a famous site. It remains no only a reminder of Sisi, but also a symbol of Hungarian independence.
The palace is the largest Baroque palace in Hungary, though it seems to really have a lived-in feel to it, unlike some of the very pristine palaces of Western Hungary and Austria. I adored the purple chairs, which were the actual chairs Elisabeth used, and the surrounding palace park was very comfortable and peaceful.
I had wanted to visit the park earlier in the year, but it was still going through restoration, which is has been going through for the past twenty years. During communism, the soviets really wrecked the palace, like they did with most beautiful, historical buildings. They used it for barracks, etc., and leveled the surrounding royal forest to make way for blocks of flats and industrial acreage.
But much has been saved, and despite the gloomy weather, the palace was a real gem.
Now, you may be thinking, wait, didn’t you just write “assassination” somewhere up there? My answer is yes, and I’ll get to that tomorrow.