This year, my A to Z theme is things and places from my WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and its two sequels. Locales include Budapest, Florence, Paris, Nantes, Montpellier, Newark, and Lower Galilee.
Andrássy Út is in District VI (Terézváros [Theresa Town]) of Budapest, on the Pest side. It’s the city’s most historic thoroughfare, comparable to luxury shopping streets like 5th Avenue in Manhattan, Champs-Elysées in Paris, Unter den Linden in Berlin, and Nevskiy Prospekt in St. Petersburg.
The words út (avenue), utca (street), and tér (square) typically aren’t capitalized in Hungarian, but I made a stylistic choice to do so. I felt they’d look more obvious and familiar to Anglophones as street names that way. It’s similar to why I use the titles Mr., Miss, and Mrs. in my Russian novels, in spite of those titles only rarely being used in Russian.
The Opera House is on the left.
Construction of this grand boulevard began in 1872, and it was inaugurated 20 August 1876. It runs all the way from Erzsébet Tér in District VI to Városliget (City Park) in District XIV. Prior to its modern incarnation, it went by names including Ellbogengasse, Schiffmannsplatz, and Herminenplatz.
It changed names thrice in the Fifties—Sztálin Út (1950), Magyar Ifjúság Útja (Avenue of Hungarian Youth) (1956), and Népköztársaság Út (People’s Republic Avenue). In 1990, its true name was finally restored.
Famous sites include Magyar State Opera House, Drechsler Palace (later State Ballet Institute, renamed Hungarian Dance Academy in 1983, and now vacant), Paris Department Store, Terror House Museum, Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Ferenc Hopp Museum of East Asian Art, Kodály Zoltán Memorial Museum and Archives, Museum of Fine Art, Heroes’ Square, Franz Liszt Memorial House, and Hungarian University of Fine Arts.
Along with all the cultural and historical landmarks are the fine shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafés, theatres, and foreign embassies.
Sadly, my characters are in the Budapest of 1945, when 80% of the city was little more than a heap of rubble. The beautiful Pearl of the Danube was ripped apart by British and American air raids in 1944, the Budapest Offensive (29 October 1944–13 February 1945), the Siege and Battle of Budapest (26 December 1944–13 February 1945), and the murderous reign of terror by the fascist Arrow Cross. Before the Germans surrendered to the Soviets and fled, they blew up all ten of the bridges between Buda and Pest.
My characters visit what remains of Andrássy Út in November 1945, shortly before most of them are smuggled across the border to the American Zone of Austria (and eventually on to Italy and France). Mirjam, a 24-year-old master’s student in linguistics and anthropology at Pázmány Péter University (now Eötvös Loránd University), wants to get her 15-year-old sister Eszter a proper coat as a going-away present.
After finding a ferry across the Danube, they go to the fictional Szűcs Furs. I honestly don’t think I knew at the time that the surname Szűcs actually does mean “furrier”! Mirjam buys Eszter a blue silver fox fur, and their friend Artur secretly buys an ocelot fur for his crush Marie. It’s delivered the next day, with a note saying it’s from a secret admirer.
Modern view, 2011, Copyright Dezidor
This beautiful avenue has long since been rebuilt to its former glory, and in 2002, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.