Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Budapest Day 2!

I woke up early (thanks to the sun not by choice) and had a small breakfast at the hostel consisting of cereal and toast (what is this thing called toast? You put bread in a small machine and it comes out crispy and brown?!) before heading out  to the Terror Museum. The museum opened at 10am and I thought I would just start there being able to go visit other museums as well. Well, when you go visit non-Balkan countries there are apparently these things called crowds and lines. Yes, for the first time EVER since I started this journey, there were not only more than one other person in the museum, but there was also a line to get in! We’ll we all waited to get in as I took a few pictures of the museum itself and the surroundings. It felt a bit wrong to take a smiling “Look I’m in Budapest!” picture in front of the museum, but the road was so pretty!

The Terror Museum is located in the old “House of Loyalty” of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (the Nazis) and then the communist secret police headquarters. “In the cellar of the ‘House of Loyalty.’ Members of the Arrow Cross tortured and killed hundreds of people. In expectation of Hitler’s secret weapon, teenage boys were drafted for useless battles on the Nazi side and innocent Jews were plunged into the icy Danube.” Then the Hungarian Communist Secret police took over the building in 1945, “they reduced people to subjects: thousands of citizens feared them, and they in turn, feared each other. If ordered so, they killed without hesitation, or on the strength of confessions exhorted during brutal interrogations, they sent their victims to the gallows, to prisons, and labor camps.” The communist regime “seized, mistreated, or crippled one person from every third family.” (These are quotes from the booklet they give you at the entrance.) I also essentially have a small book about the Terror in Hungary that I think I will be putting in sheet protectors and placing in my classroom. The first two floors were interesting, but I felt they were a bit revisionist compared to what I had heard about the Hungarian communists in my history classes, but they claimed (and since this is the domestic view, it does deserve some credit) that the Nazi’s and Communists were both unwelcome occupiers who killed indiscriminately during the reign. And the Hungarians never wanted or supported them in any way, ever. (This is the part I have a problem with.)

But the cellar. Man, I’m getting chills and tearing up just trying to write about this. There is something different between going to a memorial museum and being in the place where they killed people that is just chilling and almost indescribable. When I got down into the cellar, I walked past a few rooms, just thinking “man, they kept people in here.” But then there was one room that was so tiny that you could only stand. I walked in, turned around and realized I barely fit. Then it hit me. They used this room for torture. They shoved grown men in here. They starved people in here. The drains in the floor were more than likely not for water. And then I had to get out of that room. The realization that I was standing where someone had died, more than likely for nothing- a wrong word said or not believing in the party line, or just happening to have been born Jewish. That there are things that I have said that if I were born under a communist regime that would have gotten me killed, or at the very least sent to a labor camp. The rest of the time in the museum was just chilling- there was a padded room that I walked into that was so chilling, I had to leave rather quickly. There was the room where they hung people. There was the room with the torture devices. Then there was the memorial room- with candles flickering and pictures and crosses. I’m not sure I can explain how different it is to visit a memorial house, rather than the place they actually killed people in. I’m not sure you will be able to understand until you stand there and have that realization yourself.

After this chilling start to my day, I went and got deliciously recommended (AKA they gave me a discount card) macaroons. One with chocolate and one with caramel. Oh so good!  It’s called La Delizia, and is located really close to the terror museum. Put this place on your list if you are going to Budapest go here for a yummy snack. A bit on the pricy side, but they were the first cookie shop in Budapest. After this, I went to the National History Museum. Where, apparently, relics of the past 1100 years fill up the four floors of the museum. There was the St. Stephen’s Coronation Robe (supposedly the most valuable…) and is one of the oldest examples of European Embroidery in the world. But for me, besides the general history of the museum, the best part/coolest part was Beethoven’s piano. No joke, they had his piano that he gave to  Listz (most influential Hungarian composer of the 19th century, celebrated pianist, outstanding conductor of his day). It was just cool to see this piece of history. There were a bunch of other random things in there from way back to the Ottomans/Austrian-Hungarian empire/ communist times. It was neat. There was some interesting things in there, that you might not see elsewhere.

I was able to get some postcard here and the lady said the post office located in front of the Nugati train station would still be open. Considering that I really like to send postcards from the country I live in, it was important to me to try to find this place. And since everything would be open tomorrow, this would be fine, I had plenty of time (note- the directions and happy go lucky foreshadowing!) So I hop on the metro and get out at Nugati. Then I cross the street and look for the post office. It is no where to be found. So, I continue looking down a few of the side streets figuring maybe across means beside. No luck, after about 10 minutes I give up and decided to go to the Fine Arts Museum. They had an interesting looking exhibit “The birth of Art Photography” going on. And I got a discount. I got to walk past Hero’s Square (There is the Archangel Gabriel- who told the first king he would be king-the 7 tribal  leaders who formed the Hungarian empire, 14 statues of kings and famous people, war/peace/wealth/labor grace the outer edges.) on my way to the museum. The museum had three different exhibits (and a MAP!!!!). They only hosted foreign art there, but man there were some good paintings. A lot of “Madonna and Child” and “saints” and “kings” and oh-dear-God-the same old same old things that people painted. I am not a big people person in paintings- give me scenery all the time and I will be happy. Also no still lives of dead animals, kind of disgusting! But there were some amazing paintings in there. The photography exhibit = not as cool as it sounded. It focused on the very beginning of photography as it became more widespread and less regulated to studios. And it told this history of photography, but without any really cool photographs that I was hoping for. The mummy exhibit was really interesting- they CAT scanned mummies to show a 3-D version of the mummies as well as the normal x-rays. They also commented about testing the mummies to make sure that we wouldn’t get sick, we wouldn’t by the way.

After leaving this museum, in which I had spent about 2 hours or so, I walked across the Hero’s Square and went to the other random museum there, since I was already here and wouldn’t make it back to the other museums before they closed. There was an exhibit my this Serbian lady about “8 lessons on emptiness” which I thought was to be a photography exhibit, but turned out to be a video installation that lasted about 30 minutes or more. Not as cool as it originally looked. Mostly because everything in the museum was SUPER modern- the modern where no one understands but the artist, and then sometimes not even them. The Serbian artist, Marina Abramovic, created this work in 2008 in Laos with children representing the military. The other exhibit was “European Travellers: Art from Cluj Today.” Cluj is apparently a region in Romania where a new art scene has taken over since 2000. But it is all really modern and new age, so not my thing. So after quickly walking through both of these, I decided to go check out the castle.

No joke, there is a castle in the middle of the city. It even used to have a moat! Basically I was able to take a bunch of pictures and walk around the courtyard, but everything else was closed, the moat was even dried up. (Although apparently you can have a wedding there- as one was going on.) Then I wondered into a random concert/police showcase. There were fire trucks, bomb squads, police, etc. there showing the people what they regularly did/ the equipment they used. Kind of random. But the park was pretty.

Then I hopped back on the metro to go back to the hostel to quickly rinse off before going to the folklore performance and dinner cruise. But I met up with another girl at the hostel, Claire, who decided to go with me! So off we set to find the place. We got there right on time only to discover that the folk performance was cancelled. Sad face. We still decided to do the river cruise, because why not? But this meant we had about 2 hours to kill in down town Budapest. We ended up walking around, looking at souvenirs (who knew this would come in handy tomorrow) and then getting a slushy. We just sat and drank our slushy and just chatted. It’s always nice to get to know someone, even if just for a bit. Then we headed back to the dinner cruise. Which, I do not recommend. You don’t really get to see a lot of the city, as it is only 1.5 hours long and dinner takes about that long. But we did get free wine and champagne, and really delicious food! It was a really awkward dinner, as they placed us with others, but they only spoke Spanish. So basically Claire and I talked to each other with a little bit of her speaking to them in Spanish as they spoke to each other. After dinner, we went up and watched part of the city go by as we talked about how we never would have guessed that we would be in Budapest at this point last year. After the cruise we waited about 20-30 minutes for a tram that was supposed to still be running before giving up and just walking the 20 minutes back to the hostel. Where a much awaited shower and sleep were necessary!

So- you will now notice that the blogs come with no pictures. I have reached the limit on pictures allowed on this google account. So until I find something else that I can use, I hear by will be providing you with links to the Facebook Page of Travel By Cassidy where I will get to share even more pictures with you that I can't on the blog. If you have a facebook, feel free to like the page so that you can be updated regularly about my travels.

This is Budapest Day 2's picture link: http://on.fb.me/IQn6mi

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