Beyond this fact, there is almost nothing else known about the illusive Monsieur Czuba-Durozier and the premises. What is sure is that he commissioned an architect, who remains unknown, to build the place in conservative "French style" and there was a cognac distillery installed in the basement.

Although a lot of the glass panes are broken, many of the window fronts have decorative motifs and patterns in Neo-Renaissance plastered themes. Others have wrought-metal-framed balconies. Apparently, according to my research, there is also a coat of arms showing two sphinxes holding a candelabra to be found, either on display inside or perhaps as a painting or on an archive file elsewhere.

Apart from the moderate cone-shaped, three-storey tower top protruding over Péter Pál utca and immediate area, this lost locale looks more like a monastery, stately home or train station rather than a castle in the popular sense of the word, not that it matters. Such lavish but not necessarily practical properties were once the rage during distinctly bourgeois 19th-century times.

But not so long after, elaborate properties like this when passed on were often sold off. The once-privileged few who lived in them were not always able to afford the upkeep. As a result, some of these high-maintenance environs were left to fend for themselves. Others may have been "saved" and converted into something else, for instance museums, public amenities, golf courses, hotels and so-forth, as noted all around Europe. But in this unfortunate case, this has yet to happen.

I confess, my first impressions of this château were not favourable. They were immediately based on frivolous bleak cinematic clichés of the dark-and-stormy-night variety with swirling bats in the light of the moon. This seems an obvious setting for an Agatha Christie mystery or Hammer horror film extravaganza.

It also occurred to me that perhaps there is a restless spirit still there, possibly Czuba-Durozier himself. Anything seems possible and with good reason considering what has happened to his once delightful home, now with its Halloween general mood and atmosphere.

Still, if none of these feelings apply, then one has to wonder why this impressive, characteristic house, which still has value, has been abandoned in disrepair to "ghosts", birds, mice and modern-day squatters?

I am sure the Budafok community will provide more substantial answers. Until then, what is for sure is that this house, situated on three streets, is spooky. But the good news is the building has a historical protection order.

I was bewitched on my first visit and I returned again recently. This time the shabby but still imposing landmark looked better with the benefit of a bluer sky. I have taken to this wreck and feel a certain amount of responsibility for it. Although my research has had minimal findings it is fairly obvious what happened to the property after Czuba-Durozier's time, when you consider 20th-century history and its two world wars and communism that prevailed between his time and ours. These events took their toll on this and similar properties elsewhere too.

After its initial heyday and Czuba-Durozier's death sometime during the 1920s his family sold the property. Where they went is research for another time. But the property apparently changed hands a few times until it was "nationalised" by the communists in 1950. Its elaborately noble qualities led to it being reassessed and revalued before finally being converted into a condominium. Symptomatic of communism, a lack of professional care and renovation resulted in inevitable decline, inside and out.

One nugget of information I discovered is a memorial plaque facing the busy Plébánia utca that states a Dr. Vydra Lászlo lived and worked in Budafok for 42 years, including in the house between 1948 and 1965. Nothing else about this respected individual or the house is known. I can only conclude that the place must have been deserted after his time, as there is a distinct sense of long-standing emptiness.

The Czuba-Durozier abode could be described as lovely to a point, though it is more intriguing than magnificent when compared to others such as the very picturesque and beautifully restored Nagytétényi Kastély, a few kilometres southwards. Monsieur Czuba-Durozier's premises are attractive but architecturally modest and not a grand gilded palace. It would suit the taste of an industrialist rather than for a gathering or artists or royalty. If restored, today the mansion would make a marvellous school, hotel, hospital, hostel or old people's home.

Another distinguishing feature is the ornamental arched gate on the Plébánia utca side, which was clearly designed for horse-drawn carriages to enter. Two symbolically "loyal" and proud lion statuettes on each side of the rim provide decoration and statement value. Although dignity and grace remain intact, it's clear what the last century has done to them: the chipped and buckled ornaments are redundant relics that have now lost their purpose, and are largely ignored by today's passers-by.

Beyond my 15-minute observational stroll, I could do no more. The doors are securely locked, the gates are clearly bolted. It would be fascinating to go inside. Any squatters may think otherwise.

Although help is needed, I am in no position to pick up the tab for mass restoration work. I feel it is my quest to "lift the shadow" by bringing this matter into the spotlight. This characteristic dwelling deserves better. For now, it's good to know that the local administration is looking for investors to restore the glory. Until then, it's worth a visit, but clearly the house will remain "haunted" by someone past or present for some time yet.

To get there, I recommend cycling southwards along the Buda riverside lane that leads to Budafok, a pleasant suburb worth exploring and opposite the vast Csepel Művek industrial site on the other side of the Duna. There is also plenty of public transport.

Beyond this, lesser known Budafok is probably more famous for vineyards, which produce Törley sparkling wine in particular. To elaborate further on this speciality subject is very much something for the next visit.


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