Budapest certainly has an interesting and varied collection of stunning buildings and its Great Synagogue is one that particularly piqued my personal interest.
Well - if it's called the "tobacco school" it would, wouldn't it? (for those that know me LOL!)
This is Europe's largest synagogue, and the second largest in the world (only the Temple Emanu-El in New York is larger). The building was constructed in the mid 1800's under the supervision of the Viennese architect Ludwig Christian Friedrich (von) Förster, who, having failed to find an archetypal "synagogue style", chose to base his design on the Alhambra Mosque. He chose this style as he realised the synergy between the Islamic and Judaic beliefs and the style has often been reused for subsequent synagogues by other architects.
When it was built the area was a predominantly Jewish one and after the German Nazi occupation of the city during World War II the synagogue became one of the borders of the Jewish Ghetto.
Just before the start of the war the building was partially destroyed by a bomb placed by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party and then during the war the Germans occupied it using it variously as a radio station and as a military stables. During the course of the war the synagogue was further damaged on several occasions by Allied air raids and towards the end of the war, during the Siege of Budapest by the Russian Red Army, the building sustained major damage from the Russian shelling of the city.
Left to become derelict during the Communist era the building was finally restored to its original magnificence during the 1990's with a combination of Hungarian government and private funding.
The Great Synagogue is once more a place of Jewish worship and also houses a museum of Hungarian Jewish history as well as a Holocaust Memorial Park.
BTW - The reason it is known as the "Tobacco School" is simply because it on Dohany utca and "dohany" means tobacco!
For further info have a look at this website: http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
This is not called the Great Synagogue for nothing... it really is big and impressive, and the interiors a a nice sight too.
It dates back to the 1950's only and it also houses the Jewish museum with interesting items from the Jewish religion, history and folklore. Worth the visit, in my opinion, even if you are not a Jewish. You can never learn too much, can you?
Open: Monday-Friday 10.00-15.00, Sunday 10.00-13.00
Fondest memory: The Holocaust Memorial is a highlight. It stands on the site of the mass graves of the Jewish murdered by the Nazi regime in the last years of the war. It is a tree where the leaves are tags with the name of the victims written on them.
Very moving. Worth a visit.