Princes, aristocrats, a prime minister who became a president – all lived in this building. It is now known as the Tildy Palace, and the current occupant, Ambassador Maximiliano Gregorio Cernadas, helped to dispel some old mysteries.

"In the late 19th century, Count Andrássy wanted to import the idea of laying out large avenues in the middle of Pest. So he came up with the idea of the avenue now called Andrassy út connecting the Chain Bridge with the City Park" – thus Ambassador Cernadas begins his well-researched account.

In the early 1870s, Andrássy út was one of the most successful topics of the city’s development programmes. National unity was very strong. Count Andrássy encouraged aristocratic families and successful entrepreneurs to buy land along the road. Not much later, beautiful villas, petite palaces and stately homes lined both sides of the street. Many owners of these houses were affluent Jewish families, such as the Herzl family.

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One plot was purchased by Theodor Herzl and his wife Sarolta Herzog in 1881. He is only a namesake of the founder of Zionism, who was also born in Budapest and lived on this avenue. In the beginning of the 1880s, the architect Adolf Feszty built the house now called the Tildy Palace on the site. Herzl contracted Feszty, who had 11 buildings erected along the avenue.

In 1911, Philip, prince of Saxon-Coburg-Gotha and a well-known aristocrat at the turn of the century, took ownership of the building. He was the scion of the Hungarian line of the family, a clan whose members ruled several countries from Belgium to Bulgaria. Prince Philip, a landowner, famous traveller, hunter and medal collector, moved to Budapest in 1875 and took up residence in the former Herzl palace. He was a close confidant to his brother-in-law, Crown Prince Rudolf.

On the morning of 30 January 1889, he and Count Josef Hoyos-Sprinzenstein discovered at Mayerling the bodies of Rudolf and his teenage mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera. They had both been shot dead. The prince never spoke about what he saw and the tragedy remains a mystery – was it murder or suicide?

Prince Philip died in 1921 but no new owner can be documented before 1936, when Mrs József Bún, widow of a well-known banker, bought the Andrássy út palace. She ordered no change to the building, but it was through her that the building assumed post-World War II political significance. Mrs Bún's nephew, who adopted the Hungarian name Csornoky in 1945, married the daughter of one of the best-known Hungarian politicians, Zoltán Tildy. He thus became the son-in-law of the first (and last) freely elected president of the second Hungarian Republic, which was proclaimed in 1946.

Not much later, however, Csornoky was accused on trumped-up charges of spying, and sentenced to death. The Hungarian Stalinists executed him. Tildy lived in this building already in 1945, and thus in 1946 it became the temporary presidential residence. It had this function until the completion of the conversion of the former Esterházy palace in the so-called aristocratic district behind the National Museum.

When the Andrássy út palace served as the president's residence, it was still owned by Mrs Bún, who in June 1949 applied for permission to divide the unified plot again into an Aradi utca and an Andrassy út property. The authorities complied, and the plot demarcation, defined in 1949 and left unchanged by the nationalisation, is still in effect. After 1948 the communists – through a succession of fraud, kidnappings and murders – gained power. They jailed President Tildy and executed his son-in-law. The property was "nationalised", and after that date no written information could be found about the ownership.

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Unexpectedly, this curtain of silence was recently lifted. Last year, Ambassador Cernadas inaugurated a successful cultural programme at the residence. A few times each month, he hosts house concerts followed by food and wine tasting. Some months ago, a middle-aged woman came to him saying, "Ambassador, I spent the happiest years of my childhood in this building. When I was a young child, the building was housing a day-care centre for the children of the people working at the ministry. This way our parents had extra time to do unpaid overtime. The building was still in ruins but filled with our laughter."

Indeed, the eclectic-styled building was left in ruins for decades. Following its renovation in 2015, the price of the building inflated to six times what it was before the redecoration. Inside there is even a French garden with fountains, bowers and benches for resting.

"When I arrived in Hungary, this place was freshly restored and empty," the ambassador says, concluding his account. "I saw another 50 properties before I chose this one. Argentina had no ambassador in Hungary for four years. When I saw this one, I knew this is the one we should have. An easily accessible location in the centre of the town. Even in the middle of the night, the Argentinian flag ripples in the wind and the spotlights of Andrassy út shine on the Argentinian national coat of arms."


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