We are walking about Budapest with Araz, and I am also discovering the city with his eyes, noticing how many Muslim mihrabs, prayer niches turned towards Mekka have survived in the Christian churches from the period of the Ottoman domination (1541-1686) or that the türbe of Gül Baba is nowadays visited not so much by tourists, like many years ago, but rather by Muslim believers during the prayer times, so that entrance tickets to the monument have even been abolished. Araz is pleased to discover the Hungarian translations of the two great Azerbaijani epics, Dede Gorgut and Köroğlu in the edition of the House of Traditions. He is attentively reading the Hungarian inscriptions, trying to unravel the words and structures akin to Turkic, which are many, both obvious and subtle ones. Among the latter ones we discover with great surprise that just as Hungarian féreg means both ʻworm’ and ʻwolf’, so Azerbaijani gurt (Turkish kurt), etymologically unrelated to it, also means both animals. In addition, this latter comes from girmek, ʻto fit, to work its way into’, just as féreg seems to come from Hungarian fér, a verb with exactly the same meaning. Long are the roads of the steppe.
But the real encounter is waiting for us in the basement of the Hungarian National Museum. Next to the cloakroom, two stones are attached to the wall, two Turkish building inscriptions from two Hungarian fortresses in the Ottoman period, mid-17th century. Their inscription is barely decipherable (so do not just blame the photo), but whatever could be read is standing on their label:
“Oh God! Oh Creator! The fortress of Székesfehérvár. In the times of His excellence Shahbaz Pasha. In the year of 1070 (18 September 1659 – 8 August 1660)”
“Built by Siyavush vezir pasha, Mustafa mir liva pasha and Jafer Mustafa mir alay bey during the reign of the caliph of the world, Muhammed sultan khan – may God keep his life and power –, in the year of 1059 (15 January – 6 December 1649)” (From the Siyavush bastion of the fortress of Buda)
The builders’ names, says Araz, are typical for the Qizilbash, those Shiite Turkic warriors whose descendants nowadays inhabit Azerbaijan and who helped to the throne the first Azerbaijani dynasty of Iran, the Safavids. The name of the pasha of Székesfehérvár is identical to that of the Azeri Shahbaz bey who pledged eternal friendship to Sándor Kégl in 1890, and of the pasha of Buda to that of the Iranian Shiite Turkic epic hero about whom the recently deceased Simin Daneshvar wrote the key novel of 20th-century Iranian history.
From the many unknown cities hiding in the city, one of the most hidden ones reveals itself to the Azerbaijani traveler.