Past and present: press/freedom, civic activism, meeting point
An atmospheric square situated in the Palace District of Budapest, especially popular with young people. It was named after Kálmán Mikszáth in 1911. From springtime to autumn the square is filled with the tables and chairs of open air cafés and restaurants, just as attractive as the multicultural shops of neighbouring Krúdy Gyula Street.
This is where Tilos az Á Club was situated and functioned from 1989 to 1995. It was the liberal underground meeting point of the period of the regime change created by Vladimir ‘Vova’ Németh, who by doing so, put Mikszáth Kálmán Square on the map of universal 20th century culture and provided the first legal public space for the young people of Hungary preparing for political change. This is where they celebrated (with Frank Zappa) the Red Army’s quitting the country, this is where Tilos Rádió started its functioning as a pirate station and where Jean-Michel Verret, invited by Péter Halász, painted a New York cityscape on the back wall of the ground floor room using slide projectors. Numerous now-renowned performers started their career here, including Kispál és a Borz, Korai Öröm, DJ Palotai, Quimby, Soma, Tereskova, TÁP Theatre, Vilmos Vajdai and Győző Szabó. All this, of course, was upsetting for the mainstream residents of the neighbourhood, the club was subject to attacks and police raids and was finally forced to close down in 1995. Yet the performers who started their careers here and we, the citizens of Hungary are made richer by the fact that there was a place and there was a person who dared think freely in this place.
The location today is home to a bar called Caffe Zappa, and the New York cityscape can still be seen on the wall.
“Thoughts are cheeky , they refuse to be told ‘Go away'”
– K. Mikszáth
Mikszáth Kálmán (1847-1910) was likewise a free thinker; his statue adorns the square today (sculptor A. Kocsis, 1960).
Mikszáth was a lawyer, writer and member of parliament. In 1896 he got elected president of the Association of Budapest Journalists, the main aim of which was to protect the freedom of the press and create a legal environment that helps the work of journalists. He was among the founders of Országos Hírlap (National Journal) and published his impressions as MP under the title Sketches from Parliament. He was an acute observer of public life and the social anomalies of his time. His rich writer’s oeuvre includes brilliant portraits of his contemporaries and humorous sketches of society. His reports were written with the aim of supporting democracy and the transparency of public life.
Question: Where in your opinion can we find the free thinking public personages of our time?
Recreation spots: the cafés and restaurants of the square.