What’s in store for the Károlyi Palace in Fót?

Károly Czibere, one of the many undersecretaries of the ministry of human resources, announced that the István Károlyi Children’s Center, situated in the town of Fót, will be closed by the summer of 2018. The centerpiece of the Children’s Village, as it used to be called, is the Károlyi Mansion, built in the first half of the nineteenth century. Once upon a time the mansion was surrounded by a 600-hold (about 300-acre) magnificent park, but between 1960 and 1990 several buildings were erected around the mansion which served as dormitories, schools, a post office, even a store, as well as a dining area and kitchen facilities for the approximately 1,000 children who lived there.

Czibere’s announcement was not unexpected. Already in the 1980s experts argued that these huge facilities for children under public care were not the best solution for the children, even if they were well endowed. Instead, children were increasingly moved into smaller facilities or went to live with foster parents. By 2004, when Judit N. Kósa of Népszabadság visited the place, only 150 children were living in the facility under the watchful eyes of 180 people, 100 of whom were teachers. The mansion, in which in the 1950s all the children lived and studied, was by then already empty.

Kósa’s report indicated that the staff running the place wouldn’t mind getting rid of the mansion. They were, however, adamant about the surrounding buildings and the remainder of the park. Some of the buildings were used as schools, others functioned as service apartments for the staff. Ten hectares of the park were rented out to an equestrian therapy association. The Children’s Center, which receives little money from the government, badly needed this income.

One of the oddities of the current setup is the presence of the son of the last owner of the palace, László Károlyi, who rents an apartment in the Károlyi mansion. He has given up the idea of ever owning the mansion again, but he would like to negotiate an arrangement whereby his foundation, The Fót Foundation of the Károlyis, would get a 99-year lease on the mansion and the park. In that case, he told Judit N. Kósa, he was sure that he could get a loan for the reconstruction of the palace as a 35- to 40-room “castle hotel.” Almost 15 years ago Károlyi estimated the cost to be about $15 million. That was a very optimistic figure.

In January, when Undersecretary Czibere announced the shuttering of the Children’s Center, he was rather secretive about the government’s plans for the Károlyi Mansion. It will remain a palace on which the government will spend half a billion forints, but he claimed total ignorance about the “function” of the building.

It didn’t take long, however, before Fót was buzzing with the alleged news that the new owner of the palace will be Lőrinc Mészáros, the front man of Viktor Orbán. The rumor originated in “Fidesz circles” of Fót and was spread by those who are against closing the Children’s Center. The locals claim to know that the contract will be signed only after the elections of 2018.

On February 9 the SOS Children’s Fund organized a demonstration against closing the center, which will entail moving some disabled children to Zalaegerszeg and some troubled children to Hatvan. The Orbán government has no plans for the 39 refugee children who are currently housed in Fót.

I suspect that the rumor about Lőrinc Mészáros’s purchase of the Károly Mansion is without merit. My hunch is that László Károlyi is behind the government’s plans for the palace and the park in some way or other. As Index pointed out recently, several members of the Károlyi family have maintained very good relations with the Orbán government. Viktor Orbán and his friends seem to have a special affinity for wealthy historical families. The descendants of Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary (1776-1847), who constitute the Hungarian branch of the large Habsburg family, are particular favorites. The Károlyis also seem to be in the good graces of the government. György Károly, who after 1990 moved back to Hungary and restored with his own money and some EU grants a gorgeous Károlyi mansion in Fehérvárcsurgó, was appointed Hungarian ambassador to France in 2014. József Károlyi, who lives in Switzerland, was just named government commissioner in charge of the 2021 World Hunting Expo to be held in Budapest. József Károlyi’s grandparents were reburied in Fót last October, and János Lázár delivered the eulogy. László Károlyi, who is a passionate huntsman and rider, apparently convinced János Lázár, who has become an avid hunter himself, that the Károlyi Mansion in Fót should be converted into an international equestrian tourist center. What Károlyi’s own role in this scheme is we don’t know, but I doubt very much that the Orbán government will sell the roof over László Károlyi’s head.

After 24.hu reported that “Orbán’s favorite foundation may build a riding school in the shuttered Children’s Village,” people who have a very low opinion of the Orbán government were outraged. This regime has committed an awful lot of despicable acts, but repurposing the Children’s Village, at least in my opinion, is not among them. It has been clear for some time that herding hundreds of children into one big center is pedagogically problematic. Moreover, it would be unsightly to leave scattered buildings around a renovated “castle hotel.” And without a park it would be impossible to have a profitable hotel-mansion. So, the buildings must be razed.

And this is what lies behind the attractive facade

As for the riding school, ten hectares of the land belonging to the property are already leased to the International Children’s Aid Foundation, which is expanding its existing facilities for equestrian therapy. So far these plans are acceptable.

Of course, we don’t know who will reap the benefits of a very expensive reconstruction and renovation of a historic palace. If it’s one of the oligarchs, I will be outraged. But if, let’s say, a foundation that does good work, like a children’s aid society, benefits from it, I would find the arrangement satisfactory.

Finally, a footnote to the Orbán government’s fascination with the Károlyis. They may like György, László, and József, but they really hate Mihály, prime minister and later president of Hungary in 1918-1919, whom they blame for the Treaty of Trianon.

February 26, 2017
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Guest

“Of course, we don’t know who will reap the benefits of a very expensive reconstruction and renovation of a historic palace.”

Why beat around the bush? Most likely Orban’s hotelier daughter.

Guest

A bit OT again:

A few weeks ago there was news that O’s daughter and/or her husband bought two hotels in Keszthely near the yacht port – any news on that?

webber
Guest

Her husband. No news, other than that he bought them.

Guest

Thanks, both Pappp and webber!

I don’t know the names of the hotels – but I have a suspicion: There are two at the beach in Kesztheky which have been standing empty for many years, built probably in the late 19th Century – of course those would be wonderful for restoring, using many, many billions of HUF …

pappp
Guest
Orban – for Ráhel, her husband Istvan Tiborcz etc. are all Strohmen in a way, they are investing dad’s money (or the money of the crime Family) – just loves real estate, hotels, castles, mansion. It’s in intriguing question: what’s up with so many unique, not too liquid pieces of real estate? Operating a hotel (whether in Budapest or in rural regions) is an extremely difficult business, with razor thin profits under the best of circumstances. In fact most hotels outside Budapest are loss making (which is why Rasi bought many hotels out of bankruptcy procedures), even at Balaton – the season is basically 2 months long and a few weekends. Did Rasi (who apparently isn’t the sharpest tool in the drawer) persuade her dad to invest in the hotel business? Does Orban use the various hotels to launder money? Are the Family after the real estate which they intend to sell in a few years to other investors? My hunch is the following. Orban can obtain EU funding for hotel, renovation etc. projects. So he buys old castles, former government buildings etc. on the cheap and renovates them from EU subsidies. Half of the subsidies will be quickly stolen… Read more »
petofi
Guest

American Politics–Academy Awards

As soon as Mahatma–a swarthy, black actor–won the first award, I turned to my wife and said: watch, after last years
whining by blacks, this year they’ll win everything that’s not nailed down.

And so it was.

Predictable, American, knee-jerk, liberal reaction.
Yet, the Jewish kibosh on poor Mel Gibson continues unabated. By all reports–I’ve yet to see it–his movie, Hacksaw Ridge, had those excellent elements to be best picture, but it was not to be. The mix-up at the end was
divinely ordained, and as I’ve said at the beginning, the blacks won that one as well.

The American Mind–slow and reactive to the very end. No wonder the Russkies had no problem to manipulate the electorate!

Reality Check
Guest

I am surprised you did not complain about the Hungarian or Iranian win. You might as well spread your negativity around a bit.

Did you see either Fences or Moonlight?

Win everything that is not nailed down? Yeah watch out for those whiny swarthy types, they’ll steal anything that’s not secured. Thank goodness the other 19 Oscar categories were nailed down.

Those five wins by “the blacks” we’re won on their merits. I would have been disgusted if the Hollywood navel gazing La La Land had won more than it did.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘mixup at the end’

Looks like nothing’s immune from screwups these days in these parts..😎 The film guys can’t even get things right. No doubt some heads are gonna roll on this one.

petofi
Guest

@ Reality Check

Actually, I awaited that particular result with trepidation. “Please don’t let it be the Hungarico film–Orban will claim that it’s all his doing and the superior education he’s put in place in the country…”

aida
Guest

Well this is the second movie Oscar for Hungary thanks to shrewd state funding run by Vajna.
I no longer go to the cinema because only foreign language movies have subtitles. On TV you can switch on that function. Mumbling in movies is the latest art form.

Istvan
Guest

Petofi’s cynicism in the case of the Hollywood elite has some merit. I agree Moonlight was an amazing film. One problem in that bizarre social setting of the Awards is how pretentious these actors can be, how self righteous too.

My guess would be that the average Trump voter who started watching the show turned it off. ABC’s Sunday night broadcast of the Academy Awards drew 32.9 million U.S. viewers, the smallest audience for the Oscars since 2008, according to Nielsen data released by the Walt Disney unit on Monday. This year’s audience dropped 4% from the 2016 Oscars, which drew 34.4 million viewers.

Trump got 62.9 million votes in the last election, even if his popular vote was less than that of Clinton. I would suggest Trump is overall still more popular than the Hollywood elite with their designer outfits on even though Trump like many of the Hollywood elite have almost no social contact with poverty or crime in America.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘…how pretentious these actors can be, how self righteous too’

Speaking of ‘actors’ we can see one acting out in the top spot of the country. Surprised we haven’t seen a film doc yet pushed through profiling ‘The Big V’ and and the cult of Fidesziana. The jury’s out on whether he will blaze for a time in fire or flame out as he succumbs to the passage and ravages of time and becomes irrelevant to the present and future of the country. But only the latter can influence that show.

Ferenc
Guest
First my suspicion is similar to Jean P: OV’s daugther and her LED-light specialist husband. Furthemore I hope that ALL the children currently living at the palace will go to an even better home than they have now. Now back to what I found after searching around this post. In the past having travelled several times through Fot, on the way to Veresegyhaz, remembered that the road from Budapest bends around a walled area, before turning North-wards again. So checked google maps, if that, to me unknown, area could be of this Karolyi Palace, and for sure it is. Zoming into the area one name struck me: Füzérradványi Kastély Kft. In ca.2000 having visited that castle close to Satoraljaujhely, some 250km/165miles away to the North-East, this Kft at the palace in Fot seemed strange to me. So checked what could be the connection between the two buildings, and found that both have Károlyi in their name, so most likely from the same wealthy family. Remember that, when I visited in ca.2000, the Füzérradványi Kastély it was under renovation, so just have strolled there through the big and nice enormous garden, with the biggest platanus tree I have ever seen. Never… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Would be nice to see some creative thinking when looking at potential uses for the Palace. Really they should give it to the ‘kids’. But I’m afraid anything potentially advantageous to the society wouldn’t even get a sniff say like developing a top notch pediatrics unit for the country. Probably difficult but it would better to spend time and money on that rather than ridiculous stadiums for football fantasies.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
sensorship on free wifi in Hungarian trains?????
It seems that the free wifi on Hungarians train does block the 444!-site, early february they (444!) received the first info about this from certain people, later on more, now they did their own test. Really 444! can not be ‘surfed’ in Hungarian trains, they found a way to work around the blocking (?) by using proxy-server and these sort of things.
444! has asked MAV (Hungarian Train Company), but their questions still not answered!! WHAT’S GOING ON THERE????
article (not readable in the Hungarian train): https://444.hu/2017/02/27/pornotol-a-torrentig-minden-megy-az-intercityn-kiveve-a-444hu-t

PS: don’t know if somebody has checked Hungarian Spectrum…..

Guest
OT Komi is a Finno-Ugric people living in North-Eastern Russia West of the Ural mountains. They are a European people, not Asian, speaking a language that is related to Hungarian, not to Turkish. The Komi people have a serious complaint. Their ancient land is being devastated by oil spills. The pipelines crossing their land are old, corroded and increasingly leaky. Lakes and rivers are heavily polluted with oil. In 1994 Komi land was the scene of one of the worst oil spills in history. The Komi people need solidarity and help from outside because their authorities don’t listen to their complaints about the oil pollution. Who would be the most obvious to help them? Viktor Orban, of course. His heart is beating for all relatives of the Hungarian people, and he has a friendly relationship with Valdimir Putin, who is the decision maker in the Russian oil industry, including Lukoil that owns the wornout pipelines. May I suggest to Viktor Orban that next time he meets Putin he adresses him as follows: ”Dear Vladie, would you please do me a favor? Our cousins in North-Eastern Russia, the Komi, are drowning in oil spills from pipelines that are under your control.… Read more »
Steven Kovacs
Guest

A slight correction: 600 hold is not 300 acres. It is more like 840 acres.
1 hectare=1.74 holds=2.47 acres. Do the math.

qaz
Guest

OT
Vitéz Gorka just got some interesting coverage in an opinion piece published by the Jerusalem Post.
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israels-ally-serving-in-the-White-House-482734

petofi
Guest
One can but laugh at Americans…and I mean the prognosticaters like Rachel Madow of CNBC. Last night, she was the very Oracle at Delphi: she was following the tale of a Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who was suffering the furious chase of his divorcing wife. He was prancing around the world–according to Madow–buying expensive real estate to hide his money because the wife had received a divorce settlement of 4.6 BILLION dollars. So much for learning at the University of Oxford and Stanford. But, obviously, she has no sense, nor any knowledge of Russian ways. Or, she might’ve suspected something wrong in this whole story. First off, Russian billionaires do not part will billions when their wife divorces them. Some, like Abramovich, seek advice (permission?) from Putin who advised him to give his wife $40 million and be done with it. So, what’s wrong with Dmitry? Or rather, where does the former Mrs. Ryboloblev get the gumption to go after her husband’s billions? In the land where only the man wear the pants, and where polonium is a useful negotiating tool, this just doesn’t sound believable. But Ms Madow swallows this tale like an Oyster Rockefeller. The readers will have… Read more »
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