WALK WITH MÁRTI ON BEM STREET
On our last walk, we got from St. John to St. John. Since then, a great many things have happened – the main square, officially called the Kossuth square is being reconstructed. According to current plans, the renovation is to be completed by the end of April and I promise to tell you what the final result will be like.
The wooden statues of St. Hedvig (Jadwiga) and (Jagelló) Ulászló II. have been placed on the Oestrich-Winkel square in June 2021. The Hungarian princess and her husband primarily enjoy great praise in Polish-Lithuanian cultural circles. The statues were made by Lithuanian master carvers and they gifted them to the city. The statue of John of Nepomuk made in 1802 – which we saw on our last virtual walk – was taken away for temporary restoration.
Let’s set off from Dózsa György street towards the mountain but take a detour towards Bem József’s own Bem street, named after the Polish general. What will we see? The Calvinistic church is currently under construction. The scaffoldings completely hide the temple built during 1802-1822 at the moment, but it should be completed by 2023. Don’t think that the Calvinists are this „young” in our little city, however. The protestants have already appeared during the 1537 castle siege and by 1542 they had their own priest. In the 16-17th centuries, they practiced in temples built from sticks and stuck my mud, which was found in the place of the current church.
After a bit of upwards walking, the first building on the street’s left side belongs to Hímesudvar, which was built by Szapolyai at the start of the 1500s. I won’t go into detail about the winery’s history here, since you can find everything about it on this website. With that said, I recommend visiting the place that has become quite iconic for all of the wine-lovers out there in person.
A few meters along, and we could turn right and walk down along Rózsa alley. We would pass by the Coffee Manufactory to end up on Bethlen Gábor street. On the left side we’d see an old house’s sturdy, thick walls and notice a door. Although there’s no plaque, this was the birthplace of baron János Lajos Dercsényi, imperial and royal advisor, born in 1802. His mother Júlia Kazincy was the sibling of the great language re-thinker Ferenc Kazincy. His father, János Dercsényi Jr. was working as GP and minearologist during the cholera outbreak in Zemplén county when he met Júlia, who was also suffering from the terrible illness. He had managed to cure her, then married her and they made five children, among them the younger János Lajos. I usually tell the full story on the literature and theatre related walks.
Rózsa alley begs the question: why Rózsa? Well, according to assumptions, the Piarist properties were home to beautiful roses which were tended to by the clerics of the order at some point.
If we choose not to go down Rózsa alley, let us continue along Bem street. It’s worth stepping inside Fény-Szín-Tér Gallery to admire the works of local artist Etelka Vass.
The neighbouring building holds Erzsébet Cellar, which was founded 30 years ago when the Prácser family purchased the Russian Tsar’s Winetrading Committee’s cellar in 1992. The building is a great example of our renovated historical legacy here in Tokaj.
Continuing along the street and heading north, on our left is a tight little street called Danczka alley. As Miklós Pap describes it in his book „Tokaji tanulmányok” (Tokaj studies), at some point in time, the whole of Bem street used to be called Danczka street, since the Polish wine traders from Gdansk (Danzig in German) had their places of living here. This steep street is worth the climb, as the top opens up to a wonderful view.
Let’s keep moving on Bem street and take a look to our right: the Orthodox church’s tower is facing us at an identical height. At the moment, this temple is also being slightly rebuilt, but there are no Orthodox worshippers found in the city. In my writing about the many temples in the city, I’ll reveal why and how these believers (traders from Greece and Russia) found their way here, and also the reasons why the temple reminds us of a Roman Catholic church built in baroque style, instead of being the orderly, cross-shaped foundation with the usual onion-like dome.
Don’t be surprised that the left-side alley headed towards the mountain is also Dancka alley!
The so called artisan's houses used to be a significant city symbol once upon a time. The basements of these houses were usually homes to workshops and press houses while the families lived upstairs.
We can also see the Greek Catholic church’s tower and reaching the end of the street we finally approach the former Capuchin cloister. The clerk of the former salthouse asked for Capuchin monks to come to Tokaj in 1711. The request was accepted by the court in Wienna. Instead of building a new property for them, their home was to be the Great Curia of Ferenc Rákóczi II., and it was up to them to turn it into a clergy that was suitable for their work. Later on, the Capuchin order was disassembled by József II., and the building was soon back in the hands of the wiennan court. In the early 1900s, it belonged to the count Tisza-Degenfeld family. During the first World War, it functioned as an orphanage and a hospital was also found in the building. Currently, it’s a home to people living with disabilities.
This marks the end of today’s walk, but it shall be continued!
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translated by Mara Várhelyi
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