Meet Galeotto Marzio da Narni, 15th century chronicler. Born in Italy, Marzio led a peripatetic life, studying medicine in Padua, becoming professor of poetry and rhetoric at Bologna, tutoring Pope Sixtus VI and washing up in Hungary as head of the royal library and general court flatterer in King Matthias’s court. In 1477, he was accused of heresy and unceremoniously imprisoned in Venice.
Which is where we learn that the sculptor of the Matthias Fountain was being more than a little flattering in his depiction. Because Marzio was fat. Grossly, obscenely fat. So fat that a Venetian was heard to exclaim:
O che porco grasso! (“Oh, what a fat pig!”)
To which Marzio replied:
E meglio essere porco grasso, che becco megro (“Better to be a fat pig than a skinny goat.”)
Thanks to the intercession of Sixtus VI, Marzio survived his Venetian sojourn, but couldn’t outrun fate. According to Paolo Jovi, he died near Este, suffocated by his own fat.
Hazlitt, William Carew. The Venetian Republic: Its Rise, Its Growth, and Its Fall 421-1797, Volume 2. p. 539.
Thorndike, Lynn. A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume 4. p. 399.
Fancy a pig’s foot? Duck liver paté? A made-in-China doll dressed in traditional Hungarian garb? The Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) has you covered.
This 10,000 sq. meter giant is a Budapest institution, the largest indoor market in the city and one of the most popular tourist highlights in English guidebooks. Avoid Saturday mornings.
In June, the bottom floor is filled to the brim with fresh strawberries, white carrots, garlands of salami, dead animal parts and aisles and aisles of paprika. The national spice arrived in Buda in the early 16th century, a culinary gift from Ottoman invaders. It’s not as prevalent as it once was, but some kitchen tables still sport three shakers: salt, pepper and paprika.
Adventurous eaters can head for the back, where a helpful display explains which mushrooms will cause convulsions, frothing, rictus and, just possibly, death.
Otherwise known as the land of schlock.
High on the hill sits the lonely castle…
No, that’s not quite right. Buda Castle has plenty of neighbors, though perhaps none so well-lit. The site is ancient even if the buildings are not. Buda Castle was annihilated in the Siege of Budapest and the “medieval” walls on show are the result of 1950s-1960s reconstruction.
The interior’s much more interesting. Here you’ll find the Hungarian National Gallery and a smorgasbord of fascinating art.
And death. I don’t know what was in the water in the 19th century, but it certainly produced a morbid taste for drama. If exophthalmic brides are to your taste, don’t miss this beauty:
And these corpses:
Then head for a breath of fresh air on the first floor, just off the stairs:
Footnote: Fans of penmanship should dig up József Faragó. I stumbled upon a temporary exhibition of his work and found it hard to stumble away. A hard-hitting satirist and caricaturist, Faragó was famous for gleefully skewering Imperial fat cats. His etchings ain’t half bad, either.