We photographed the faded, the forlorn and the crumbling facades. A theme – Central Europe architecture in disrepair – emerged. It was beautiful.
When traveling for extended periods, you begin to cluster your impressions. It’s no longer a trip which is segmented into days, but a trip comprised of themes. This happens, I believe, because we look for similarities. In new places, we draw upon previous experiences and proceed to compare. Familiarization such as this can be a comfort and confidence mechanism of sorts.
Such a theme emerged during our recent visit to Central Europe. I became drawn to the buildings with faded paint and crumbling facades. They were forlornly beautiful. They had a certain dignity in disrepair.
Here are several of the best:
Our neighborhood in Bucharest was under loads of construction. Surrounded by Soviet era apartments, this lovely shambles was typical. Bucharest’s heyday was La Belle Epoque, and our lady with the champagne facade would have been in the thick of it. Stately French Empire details were common in Central Europe architecture when Bucharest was known as the “Little Paris” of Europe.
Budapest was the first city we visited where the “dignity in disrepair” meme began to emerge. I noticed this corner house because of The House on Garibaldi Street. I know, wrong continent. But look at this house!
So then I took a close-up. Can you see the security cameras? What about the classical elements in the stone corbels and balusters?
Still in Budapest, but near the Danube’s edge on the Buda side, I think, is this beauty. Look how the Grande Dame arises! Did flood waters strip her bare from ankle to knee? Topped like a wedding cake with scallops and flourishes, she is.
Would you be tempted like a fleeing suitor to run from door to door along the narrow balcony? Do the street-level shops strain from the weight overhead? What’s the price of a flat? The square windows revealed some sort of dining hall or event space. It was easy to imagine the strains of a string quartet or a scratchy gramophone coming from somewhere inside.
In Vienna, the temporarily abandoned amusement park which figured so prominently for Orson Wells in The Third Man. Taken from the Ferris Wheel, the site looked unkempt. Since this status was uncharacteristic of Vienna, I included it here. Nothing more forlorn than an abandoned amusement park, is there? Just no scary clowns, and we’ll be fine.
Our next contender is the dry fountain complex in Sochi, adjacent to the Discovery World Aquarium. This is supposedly a must-see, and serendipitously, it was right in the Adler neighborhood in which we stayed. Empty, the fountain’s energy is quite melancholy. I found myself wondering why it couldn’t remain open 12 months out of the year, or at least opened during the Olympics. We’re sure this is a lovely sight during the warmer months. In January, I felt the suggestion of walruses and penguins against the sunrise colors, replete with ice. What do you think?
Finally, this, and I do believe I’ve saved the best photo I took of Central Europe architecture in disrepair for last. This was taken from the train somewhere in Romania. The green color is amazing in the way it brings out the wooden details against the stone.
I want to go upstairs and bring the clothes off the line. How does the stone exterior affect the interior? Is it cold and clammy on the inside during winter? Is it refreshingly cool in the summer?
I wonder what it would be like to face the train tracks. I don’t think there are many trains that go through. If that’s the case, and you lived here, would you even care what showed on the train side? I wonder if I’d think, well, if anyone even sees me in the window or my laundry, chances are they’ll never see me again. So would I walk around naked, not caring? Does the sound of the train interrupt frequently, or does one get used to it? Just a fleeting moment, yet I have so many questions.
Do you wonder about such things, or are we the only ones?