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The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest – Part 4: The Cultural Bit October 15, 2007

Posted by hellmistress in Filming, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Tuesday 25th & Wednesday 26th September, 2007 

Days 82 & 83 of filming




We had decided we would take Tuesday off as our only tourist day of the trip as the weather was supposed to turn bad later on in the week, so with Big Brother Dougie’s words ringing in our ears (“Do NOT hail a cab in the street – get your hotel to call one from this company – this is the one I use, and they’re very good, and reasonably priced too! Oh, and watch out for traffic, they drive like mad things here … oh, oh, and watch out for pickpockets on the metro, etc., etc.”) we headed off to do the touristy bit.


Angie Alexander had recommended a boat trip along the Danube to Margaret Island that sounded perfectly relaxing, so that’s what we did, dutifully getting our hotel to call our cab which dropped us off at the Marriott Hotel down by the river, and settling down in a big, airy riverboat that took us on a leisurely – and highly informative – trip along the Danube to the island set in the river between the two cities. On the way we saw the castle (impressive) St. Matthias’s Church (gorgeous) and the Parliament Building (a jumble of soaring neo-gothic spires made of limestone that is constantly falling to pieces – hence the building always has some bit of it or another shrouded in scaffolding as the limestone is replaced).


Margaret Island has been many things in its long and colourful history (including a harem!) but now it is a place of relaxation and leisure for the people of Budapest. There are beautiful formal gardens, fountains that play music, quiet walks among rustling, bird-garlanded trees, and a lovely little medieval church that is balm to a bruised soul. Oh, and ruins of a convent. I took pictures, just to prove to my work colleagues that I hadn’t totally abandoned my mission in life to be geeky about old things. There is even a delightful little petting zoo.


On our way back on the boat we basked in the early evening sunlight while sipping on a fruit cocktail drink. On disembarking we headed back to ‘Spoon,’ our now-favourite riverboat restaurant, and sat on the upper deck consuming disgraceful amounts of food and watching the sun set over the river. Ahhhh … this was the life!!! However, we decided enough was enough, and after dinner we headed back to the hotel (and yes, we asked the restaurant to call us a cab – see? We were very good.) to catch up on our shut-eye, as we were going to be back on set tomorrow, and we were now heading into night-shift mode.


Doug had told us he would telephone as soon as he got back to his hotel and let us know the call time, although he was worried that it would be a late ‘phone call as shoots were ending in the early hours of the morning. We told him not to fret about it – it wouldn’t bother us, no siree. So after an evening stroll to walk off dinner, we hit the sack and wondered what the coming day – or night – would bring …




The sun was shining in through the hotel window and Pat and I were chatting about what the day might hold, when the telephone rang. I checked the time – eight-thirty on this gorgeous Wednesday morning. I lifted the receiver. It was was our Big Brother Dougie. This is how the conversation went.


DOUG: (sleepily) Precious Heeeeleeeen … (For those who haven’t met Doug yet, everyone is precious – and he means it.)


ME: Hey, Doug! My goodness, did you just get in from the shoot??


DOUG: (yawn) Oh, no … I got back (another yawn) at 6:15 …


ME: 6:15??? But … it’s 8:30 (does hefty mental calculation … that’s over 2 hours ago). Did … did you just wake up?


DOUG: Um … yeah … set alarm … too early to call you at 6:15 …


ME: (clarity kicks in like a mule on a bad hair day) You mean you set your alarm and woke up just to phone us? Oh, Dougie! (I have an instant major guilt trip)


DOUG: (blearily) Huh? (HUGE Yawn)


ME: (Overwhelmed by his consideration and kindness.) Never mind. I’ll scold you later. (Which I do … but very nicely.)


It transpired that Adorable 2nd AD Ben had said the call time was 4:00pm, and Doug arranged to meet us in our usual place in the Boscolo Atrium. Ringing off to let poor Doug get back to his much-needed sleep, we began our day.


So, we set about fulfilling one of the most important responsibilities of our whole trip – writing and sending postcards! We set off to find a post office, and on the way we stumble upon one of those things that send me into what almost becomes a geeky nirvana – a whole street of antiquarian bookshops. Within seconds I’m staggering from one book-stuffed window to another … I see beautiful early hand-tinted maps … tiny little psalters in gorgeous (and virtually unreadable) gothic script … a commentary on the Testamentum, an alchemical work by Richard Lull, that makes my teeths water … and an exquisite little missal bound in vellum, the musical notes as bright and as sharp on their pages today as they were 350 years ago … so many magical things. Poor Pat. She never knew what hit her. Yet, bless her, she patiently put up with my pathetic whining about my state of relative penury (I would have had to sell my car to buy even the cheapest of the books I wanted) and made sympathetic noises in all the right places. As I bewailed my poverty-stricken circumstances while perusing a particularly sweet little 19th century book of Hungarian fairy tales, she patted my back and said “Never mind. Maybe one day when you’re rich and famous …” All I could do was whimper.


I finally dragged my carcase out of the shops and the street, and grumbled and moaned all the way back to the hotel. Sigh. Life is so unfair


Anyway, I finally got over myself and kicked my backside into gear, and we decided to have a bite of lunch and then fall into bed for a couple of hours to get ourselves into night-shoot mode.


At 2:15pm the telephone rang. It was Dougie. This is how the conversation went:


DOUG: (perkily) Hey, Precious Helen!!!


ME: Mpff??? (Yawn) Oh, hey Doug.


DOUG: (sounding disgracefully chipper) I just got a call from Benny (Adorable 2nd AD Ben) – looks like they won’t need me today as Guillermo’s just shooting Selma and Jeffrey in the garbage truck – we have the rest of the day to ourselves! How about we all do some sightseeing and then have dinner?


PAT: Wha …???? (yawn)


ME: (aside) It’s Dougie – no shoot tonight, and we’re going out and about. Sightseeing. Dinner.


PAT: Huh? (removes earplugs) Dinner???


ME: (aside) Tell you later. (Yawn) That sounds wonderful, Doug.


DOUG: (chuckling) You girls were napping, weren’t you???


I just love the way he calls us ‘girls.’ It makes this rotund, middle-aged ol’ Scottish lady’s day.


So, we had a plan. Doug was going to try and sort out transport, and he’d call us in a bit. We stayed slumped on our beds snoozing. At 4pm the telephone rang again, and Doug told us that although he had no luck finding a driver, Gabor had turned up on schedule, as someone had forgot to tell him Doug wasn’t on set today.


“We’ll pick you up in five minutes!” Doug added.


Sweet Gabor’s timekeeping, as always, was impeccable, and we clambered into the MPV (with darkened windows, no less!) and off we went. Gabor had spoken to his boss, who had told him to take Doug wherever he wished to go, and head out to the Korda Studios afterwards. So, Gabor asked with his usual lovely smile, where did Doug want to go?


“I must show you Heroes’ Square!” he said.


Situated at the end of Andrassy Korut, Heroes’ Square was built in 1896 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of the seven tribes led by Árpád in the Carpathian Basin, later to become the nation of Hungary.


Even if you’re not into statuary, this place is seriously stunning. It is a vast square with a column in the centre towering 36 meters skywards, carrying the statue of the Archangel Gabriel. At its base are the equestrian statues of the leaders of the seven tribes. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, at one end of the square is a monumental split semi-circle of columns inset with statues of famous leaders of the nation of Hungary. On each corner were the symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, Knowledge and Glory. Embellish the square with the gorgeous Gallery of Art on one side and the Museum of Fine Arts on the other, and you have definite cultural overload of the finest kind.


I took pictures.


The Magyar Chieftains of Heroes’ Square


I couldn’t resist the equestrian statues (my love of militaria combined with images of horses just had me in paroxysms of wonder), and I was fascinated with the armour and horse furnishings – one of the horses had a bridle made of deer antlers, for cryin’ out loud! And that’s historically accurate, by the way. Aren’t they just delectable?


And this is Doug’s favourite of the four symbols – he liked it because of the grace and poise of the figure.


Such grace and poise …


Finally, the requisite tourist shot. Pat, Doug and me. The gentleman on the bicycle to the left was doing astonishing tricks on it until he fell off and ruined the moment, poor soul.


The three musketeers


After gawping like toddlers at this amazing place, we walked from the square across the road to Vajdahunyad Castle, built in 1896 (along with Heroes’ Square) to show off all of the architectural styles of Hungary. It’s quite a place, and houses among other things the city’s Agricultural Museum. It is, quite frankly, the most majestic agricultural museum I’ve ever seen – and that’s just from the outside. And I can say that with authority, because, geeky person that I am, I’ve seen quite a few agricultural museums. But never one like this. Still, time was a-wastin’ and we headed back to the car. But as we walked along I spotted this among the trees – and stopped dead in my tracks.

 This is the statue of Anonymous, by Miklós Ligeti, created to remember the work of the unidentified chronicler of the history of the early Magyar peoples.


Of all of the wonderful statues and monuments in Budapest, this was the One. You know what I mean … this hooded, haunting figure just reached out and touched something within me, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I sensed someone standing beside me. It was Doug. He looked down at me thoughtfully, and said “Yeah … the first time I saw it, it ‘spoke’ to me, too.” We all stood and gazed at this mysterious and captivating figure for a while, until time became tight and we had to reluctantly move on. But when I return to Budapest one day (note I said ‘when,’ and not ‘if’) the first place I will return to is here … to see Anonymous. 

A quick drive across the river then up a winding road to the top of Gellért Hill brought us to the Citadel, a fortress built by the Hapsburgs in 1851. Here we walked from the car park to the Liberation Monument, where there were absolutely breathtaking views of the City and the Danube spread out before us.  

As we walked, we passed a little group of mannequins set on the sidewalk. Doug couldn’t resist. 

Dougie and the mannequin

The monument itself soars into the sky … a young woman proffers an olive branch, a symbol of peace, to the city and its people lying before her. She was put there in 1947, both as a celebration of freedom and as a remembrance to those who fought for liberty during the Second World War. It is simple, almost plain in execution … and incredibly moving. 

The Liberty Monument, Budapest

But Gabor had to get back to Korda Studios, so we piled into the car and drove back down to the city, where Doug took us to a restaurant that has become a favourite – we did learn the name of it, but it is now known simply as Ivan’s Restaurant. There we sat for several hours and Doug had his comfort food – Gnocchi and Gorgonzola. Although I love Gorgonzola it doesn’t agree with me, but Doug encouraged me to snaffle a piece off his plate for a taste – and yes, it was to die for. 

As we ate, we talked of many things – and we also talked of Ivan … young Ivan Ricci, who in his 28 years touched and charmed the lives of so many people, including Doug and Laurie. Pat and I so wished we could have met him – we would have adored him instantly. He is deeply and sorely missed. 

After a delicious and memorable dinner, Doug walked us back to our hotel and hung out with us for a while. Pat had given him a book of Oscar Wilde quotes as part of his goody bag, and he had us in stitches reading from it. It was during one of the more hysterical moments that Doug’s cell phone rang – it was the Adorable Ben. The call time for tomorrow was 2:15pm (for a night shoot??), and we would be heading out to Korda Studios to film on the huge New York street set. So we called it a night, and hit the sack. 

It was an extraordinary day – maybe we didn’t get to see any filming or any of the ‘exciting’ stuff, but for me, to hang out with friends like Pat, Dougie and Gabor … to see wonderful things and places and laugh and be awestruck by moments that were in turn beautiful, funny, haunting and so tremendously inspiring … that for me was so very special. Today had been a good day. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. 

There’s Love!!! – Webmaster Helen



1. Laura - October 16, 2007

Ha ha ha!! Doug is a perfect statue!!! Now,I want to go in Hungary, it’s so gorgeus!

2. black_mamba - October 18, 2007

Is this gonna Kill You? No i Dont Think so !

3. Anonymous - October 18, 2007

Could you tell Thom Floutz that Liz in Denver says “hello”. We were friends in Michigan many years ago. Anyway, it’s great to see him again (at least the side of him). It’s been a lifetime!

I’m not sure how I ended up here but it’s been entertaining. Safe travels to all.

4. Emma H - October 19, 2007

It looks like one of the Ring Wraiths from the Lord of the Rings
( anonymous)

5. CosmicAvatar - October 22, 2007

I can’t believe Doug rang you after that little sleep! Bless.

6. Anna from Budapest - March 6, 2008

Hey, so good to see that you loved this statue. One of my favorite statues in Budapest is also Anonymous (unknown historian from the 12-13th century).
And Emma, this is exactly my association too. 🙂 There is something in Ligeti’s statue and the Lord of the Rings (but I think he’s halfway between the ring wraiths and Gandalf – somehow potentially both).
I am planning to write a post just about Budapest statues, there are so many cool and fascinating artworks if next time you want to check out some (e.g. the Matthias well up on Castle Hill – it is a phenomenal hunting scene, then the lovely little prince (a kid) sitting on the Danube embankment on the rails the number 2 streetcar stop, then two Holocaust mementos: the weeping willow at the synagogue and the Shoes on the embankment – I could go on, even including the oppressive Soviet statues in the Statue Park…

7. Artie - March 8, 2009

NNNNN I wish so much that I could meet Dougie-san!! Maybe even be his neighbor! >._<

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