The legend of the outlaw station
Today’s Opera House was built on the spot of the former Hermina Square, where a tavern called Gold Anchor had operated. Contemporary reports suggest that the pub was not so tempting. However, the papers don‘t mention this outlaw tavern, and that Frigyes Podmaniczky used to patrol each night with a hatchet and a pistol, so that he could personally keep order.
Then what is the explanation for these stories about this swampy place and outlaw station? The common source of these legends is nobody but Gyula Krúdy. The famous author created the first breathtaking story on the pages of Magyarság in 1930. From 1924, he continuously wrote about Frigyes Podmaniczky in different papers, and also he gave Podmaniczky the nickname “The groom of Budapest”.
However, in the memoirs of Podmaniczky there are no pistols, hatchets or an outlaw tavern. In addition, Krúdy places these events in the 1880s, yet the construction of the Opera House started in October 1875 and was completed three years later. Thus at the time not only outlaws but frogs wouldn’t have been able to hide next to the completed avenue.
At the same time Herminamező already existed right next to the City Park. At the time, Herminamező was in fact a marshy place, similar to how Krúdy and the others described Hermina Square. There were actual places with frogs, sedge, reed, and maybe even outlaws. Truth be told, at the time of the construction of the Opera House, these places disappeared as well: building had become trendy there.
Either way: the Opera House was not built on Herminamező, but Hermina Square, which was regarded as the most infamous location in the 1870s, with or without an outlaw station. Frigyes Podmaniczky, the council leader of public works in Budapest, achieved enormous success on the so-called former garbage dump, where he constructed one of the most beautiful buildings, designed by Miklós Ybl. Perhaps, it is not as romantic as chasing outlaws with a pistol and a hatchet, but Krúdy was not mistaken at all about the great achievements of the baron.