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Best of Budapest: 6 Places Where History Comes to Life

2018.05.17.

After examining the hidden gems of the Hungarian capital and the best places to eat, followed by a bit of an adventure, our next exploration of the “Best of Budapest” takes a look at some of the most interesting historical buildings, sights and museums of 19th and 20th century Budapest.

Memento Park

Located outside downtown Budapest, Memento Park displays 42 statues and plaques and from the Hungarian Communist era, between 1945 and 1989, including allegorical monuments of “Hungarian-Soviet Friendship” and “Liberation”, as well as statues of famous personalities from the labor movement, soldiers of the Red Army and other gigantic pieces depicting Lenin, Marx, Engels, Dimitrov, Captain Ostapenko, Béla Kun and other “heroes” of the communist world. These statues were removed from the streets of Budapest, so the park sort of act as a graveyard for this period of Hungarian history.

Lenin statue in Memento Park (photo: Riley Kay Dunbar)

Béla Kun memorial in Memento Park (photo: Riley Kay Dunbar)

Stolpersteins (‘Stumbling stones’/Botlatókövek)

The stolpersteins or ‘stumbling stones’, located in several places in Budapest, are cobblestone-sized concrete cubes with gold or bronze plates, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. The stolperstein art project was launched by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 and there are over 2950 of them in Berlin. The name of the stolpersteins is metaphorical: before the Holocaust, there was a popular saying in Germany that when someone stumbled on a stone “There must be a Jew buried here.” The first Hungarian stumbling stone was placed in Hungary in 2007 in front of 5 Ráday utca in District IX, in memory of Béla Rónai, who died in labor service in 1945.

The first stolperstein in Budapest. (indafoto – @nevetnijo)

Béla Rónai’s stolperstein on Ráday Street. (photo: Lokál)

House of Terror Museum (Terror Háza)

The House of Terror Museum opened in 2002 to commemorate those who were held captive, interrogated, tortured and killed in the building of 60 Andrássy Street, Budapest, the very same building that today houses the museum. During the Second World War reign of the the fascist Arrow Cross regime as well as during the Communist era, the building served as the headquarters of the secret police. The museum, the only one of its kind, contains exhibits related to both the fascist and communist regimes of Hungary and presents the horrors of the building in a tangible way, while commemorating the victims of the 20th century.

House of Terror Museum at the former secret police headquarters in 60 Andrássy Street (photo: terrorhaza.hu)

House of Terror Museum (photo: terrorhaza.hu)

Fiume Road National Graveyard/Kerepesi Cemetery 

The Kerepesi cemetery is the most famous and one of the oldest graveyards in Hungary, sometimes referred as the ‘Hungarian Père-Lachaise’, as the graves of many prominent Hungarians can be found here, including artists such as Ady, Jókai, Arany and Imre Kertész; in addition, it is home to the mausoleums of Lajos Batthyány, Ferenc Deák and Lajos Kossuth,and many more important and famous political figures since 1849. The cemetery opened as a public cemetery, but over the centuries it has become an evolving showcase of the passage of Hungarian history and a valuable cultural monument, as many of the tombs are the work of famous architects. During the weekends, the graveyard offers thematic walks in the cemetery, for example a ‘Artist plots’, ‘Memento ’56’ and a ‘Heroes of the 1848-49 Revolution and Independence War’ one.

The mausoleum of Lajos Kossuth. (photo: fiumeiutisirkert.nori.gov.hu)

Light installation in the cemetery(photo: fiumeiutisirkert.nori.gov.hu)

Hospital in the Rock and Nuclear Bunker Museum

Only a few tourist knows that there is a hidden World War II hospital and nuclear bunker under the Buda Castle. The hospital was established during the 1930s in preparation for the war, and aimed to function as a safe emergency hospital and bomb shelter. The surgical center and bunker was completed in 1944, just in time to provide emergency care for injured civilians and soldiers. During the 50-day-long siege of Budapest at the end of the war, when Soviet forces encircled the city, the hospital handled the wounded. After the war, the hospital in the rock was only used once, during the 1956 Revolution against the Soviet rule. In the soviet era, the hospital equipment was upgraded to take account of the risk of a chemical or nuclear attack. Nowadays, the hospital only functions as a museum, complete with waxwork recreations of hospital treatments and scenarios during the siege of the capital. They also offer games for the visitors: they can try the civil defence protocol that is used in case of a nuclear disaster and play a spy game in the cave system.

Hospital in the rock before the Siege of Budapest (photo: hospitalintherock.com)

Hospital in the rock and nuclear bunker museum with vax figures (photo: budapest.varosom.hu)

Parliament Visitor Center Museums – In memoriam ‘56 and Lapidarium

The Visitor Centre was established to present the treasures of the House of Parliament in a fitting environment. The Visitor Center of the Hungarian National Legislative Assembly currently has two permanent exhibits, the Lapidarium and In memoriam 1956, a memorial and exhibition in the tunnels under Kossuth square, in front of the Parliament. The Lapidarium, a stone collection, displays copies of stones and facades that were used to make the Parliament as well as damaged originals and copies of those which are still part of the building. The other exhibition examines the events of 25 October 1956, the ‘Bloody Thursday’, when soldiers opened fire on the peaceful crowd gathered on Kossuth square, killing hundreds of people. In the exhibition and memorial  space, visitors can look around following red lines on the floor, symbolizing the blood of the victims. The exhibition showcases a number of archive videos and photos, as well as relics of the Soviet era, including the red star that decorated the top of the Parliament for decades.

The red star that decorated the top of the Parliament at the ’56 Museum. (photo: nemzetfotere.hu)

Parliament Visitor Center and Museum (photo: nemzetfotere.hu)

via latogatokozpont.parlament.hu, mementopark.hu, budabab.com, lonelyplanet.com, budapestbylocals.com, terrorhaza.hu, fiumeiutisirkert.nori.gov.hu, Wikipedia


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