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Published: August 15th 2019
On the outside of the Terror Museum wall is a line of portraits of those who were executed or tortured to death by the Soviet regime during or soon after the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Below the portraits people have left dozens of candles, ribbons and lamps, many of them still alight. Inside of the museum are rows of portraits of Hungarians who perpetrated the torture and murder of their fellow countrymen.
For reasons known only to the custodians there is a ban on photography inside which was disappointing. It’s hard to summarise the museum. It’s moving certainly, detailing the inhumanity of man but it’s also disjointed and confusing. Many of the exhibits were either unlabelled or only described in Hungarian or Russian. There were strands of barbed wire in a glass case, tattered items of clothing in another, but no explanation as to their origin or meaning. Rooms have things like a reconstruction of cells and gallows, uniforms of the police and photographs of some of the victims but there never seemed to be a coherent theme.
It was also packed with visitors and hard to get close to anything which didn’t help.
There were several pages
of handouts in English which gave a history of fascism and communism but very little information on the exhibits. I was left with a powerful image of the horrors but no real understanding of the history.
We left the museum and walked randomly through a pleasant area of bars and restaurants, which turned into a slightly less nice area, then into a decidedly grim area. Graffiti clad doorways were used as toilets, the few shops amongst the boarded buildings were offering adult entertainment, tattoos or Thai massages. Two red curtained areas at the front had a spot for the masseuse to stand. Both were empty, the masseuses were either busy or maybe still asleep after a long night of muscle kneading.
‘What’s next?’ I asked Madam.
She thought for a while and said ‘the Hungarian National Museum is close to the hotel and doesn’t close until 6pm. It’s near the hotel, so we won’t have far to walk afterwards.’
I liked that idea. The not far to walk bit. I wasn’t so sure about the museum. A visit to Budapest was a one off. Neither of us felt the need to come to Hungary again. What
did I need to know about the history of the country? I had seen enough of their horrors of the last century.
Madam was of course right. It was fascinating and absorbing from the 720 square feet Roman mosaic in the basement to the piano on the first floor used by both Beethoven and Liszt (not simultaneously), and made by John Broadwood of London. I almost forgot my aching feet and we ended up staying until closing time. I think we were the last visitors there.
We started in the vast basement filled with Roman mosaics, gravestones and statues. ‘I suppose they were the selfie of the day’ said Madam as she looked at the statues of long-dead dignitaries. She held up her phone and took a selfie in front of a minor caesar.
Different periods of history were covered on different floors. The section covering the WWII and the communist era was far better presented then the Terror Museum and almost empty of visitors. I would have liked to linger longer but Madam was keen to see a dress or something embroidered by nuns a thousand years ago. We searched several sections to no avail and ended up asking one of the custodians. It was in a small side room which he had to open and turn on lights. I got the impression that we were the only visitors that day and he was pleased that we had wanted to see it.
You can find the full travel blog on Travels With Madam
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