A Scot in Budapest

When you cross the Chain Bridge from Pest to Buda you end up on Clark Ádám Square, between the bridge and the Tunnel. It is a roundabout so careful with the traffic if you drive or ride there. Turning left you can see a strange statue that looks like a... Well anyway, we call it "The Big Muff". It is actually the zero point of the Hungarian road system: all major roads start here and the distances are counted from here. Close to it you'll find the lower terminal of Sikló, the Castle Hill Funicular. It was opened in 1870 and operated until the end of WW2 when heavy bombing destroyed both the lines and the cars. It was reopened only in 1983 with the original design but of course with modern technical and safety features.

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Just opposite the bridge there is Alagút or the Tunnel. They are connected by Clark Ádám, not only the square but the man himself. You might think the name sounds English and you're right: he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, as Adam Clark. He was the technical superwisor of the building of the bridge, and later he designed and built the Tunnel.

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He was born in 1811 to a poor family but he educated himself and became an engineer. He worked in a machine factory in 1834 when he first met Széchenyi István, who we call "the greatest Hungarian" for a reason. Széchenyi hired Clark for smaller jobs and they turned out so good that later he was assigned to supervise the building process and act as a deputy for the designer, William Tierney Clark – no, the two Clarks were only namesakes but the were not relatives. He came to Hungary in 1839 to begin the preparations. Actual building was started in 1842.

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Those were hard times for Hungary. The bridge was close to completion when in 1848 a revolution broke out, which later turned into a war of independence. The warring parties tried to blow up the bridge several times but Clark prevented them from doing so, and they could only cause minor damage to the bridge. It was finally opened in November 20 1849, one year later than scheduled.

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There is an urban legend almost as old as the bridge, and it says that the four lions guarding the bridge have no tongues. Of course they do have, they just can't be seen from the pavement level. The legend also suggest that the "fault" was discovered by a shoemaker and when the news spead out the sculptor, Marschalkó János jumped off the bridge to the river, making the first suicide of it. The truth is he only laughed and offered a bet to the accusers that the tongue of a real lion cannot be seen from this angle. Sure he won the bet but still, the rumors spread on. He then told the mockers thet "if your wives have as much tongues as my lions have then I'm sorry for you because you're lost".

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Sadly, the man who organized the building from 1832, when the first idea of building a bridge between Buda and Pest came, the greatest Hungarian, Széchenyi István neves saw the completed Chain Bridge. Clark Ádám on the other hand could and did see it many times, because in 1851 he begun to design the Tunnel. The building was completed in 1857 and since then we try to fool forigners with the joke that the bridge is being pushed into the Tunnel every evening for a good night's rest.

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Clark Ádám settled in Budapest, married to a Hungarian girl and had three children. He never accepted any decorations or honors or orders of merit, nor he accepted the noble title the Hungarian king offered to him – he was pride of his scottish nobility. He died in 1866 and was buried in Kerepesi Cemetery, his coffin was covered with the british flag, and the Chain Bridge was decorated with black flags. Hungarian people remember him with great love and honor – he was a real friend of Hungarian people.

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