September 04, 2006

Hungary Trip--Day 8

We spent a whole day being tourists in Budapest! Kristof was with us for most of the day, and we enjoyed hanging out with him again. We went first to the House of Terror, a recently-opened museum commemorating the victims of two regimes of terror. The museum is actually in the building described as follows by the web site:

"Opened on February 24th, 2002 at 5 pm, the House of Terror Museum - the only one of its kind - is a monument to the memory of those held captive, tortured and killed in this building. The Museum, while presenting the horrors in a tangible way, also intends to make people understand that the sacrifice for freedom was not in vain. Ultimately, the fight against the two cruellest systems of the 20th century ended with the victory of the forces of freedom and independence....

From the beginning of 1937, the Hungarian ultra-right party, the Arrow Cross Party, rented more and more space in the house. In 1940 they took possession of the whole building and made it their headquarters. The party´s leader, Ferenc Sz├ílasi named the building "The House of Loyalty". In the autumn of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, the basement was used as a prison.

As Budapest rid itself of German rule and was occupied by the Soviets, the communist-led Political Police claimed the house in February 1945, and created a prison labyrinth by joining the cellars of the block. The State Security Police possessed the building until 1956. After they moved out the house was renovated, erasing all traces of its past. Andrassy 60 then became the headquarters of several firms and offices. In the 1970´s, the basement where hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were tortured, was used as a club for young communists."

We spent probably close to 3 hours in the museum. It was at the same time fascinating and horrifying. Ted was especially interested in the stories, having studied Russian history, and he was able to translate some of the Russian quotes on the walls for us. I wouldn't necessarily say this part of our trip was "fun," but we were both really glad that we had the opportunity to spend time in the museum and learned much. It never ceases to amaze me how cruel humans can be to one another...

We ate lunch at a mall food court and all agreed that we wanted Chinese food. Go figure. :-) We met up with Samu (Shah-moo), Jozsef's middle brother (there are 4 boys and then Miriam) for a bit and walked along some shops by the river. There are two parts to the city, the "Buda" side and the "Pest" side. The Danube River separates the two, with several bridges, including the famous Chain Bridge, connecting the two sides. We were walking along the Pest side of the city, and this picture shows the palace where we went later on. As you can see, it's not very big--Ted could reach the top. ;-)

Later we took the subway to the other side of the city to explore the Fisherman's Bastion and the castle. Above is a picture of me at the Bastion, and below you can see the Parliament building across the river. I've always thought this Parliament to be one of the most beautiful structures I've ever seen.

At this point, Kristof had to say goodbye and go to take his younger brother and sister back to Kecskemet. Samu met us and became our tour guide for the rest of the day. After spending some time at the Bastion, we hopped on a bus to go to the castle. Though I've wandered around the castle during previous trips, I don't recall actually being inside, so it was fun to walk beyond the outside. There is a museum inside, so we checked in our backpack and wandered around. We didn't have a lot of time before the museum was to close, but we were able to see quite a bit. It seemed a bit strange not to have things roped off with guards all over the place--we were pretty much allowed to go wherever, though there really were security personnel around, just not overly obtrusive. We discovered that we could go outside and were able to climb up a couple of winding staircases to a lookout tower. The views were spectacular--but, oh yeah, we weren't allowed to have our camera inside the museum! So we had to enjoy the view without getting pictures. At least we were able to get some when we were outside the castle.

By the time we were finished looking around, Ted and I were thoroughly exhausted. We decided we'd rather go back to the flat and have dinner there than try to find something in the city, so Samu took us back to his father's flat, where we later had pizza and salads delivered to us. We visited with Samu awhile, and Ted showed him some Christian music web sites, thereby endearing himself to Samu forever. :-) He and Jozsef and his brothers all have similar interests in music, and I know Ted enjoyed being able to share some info with them and talk about their passions.

We went to bed early, as we had to leave at 5:30 a.m. the next morning for the airport. Hard to believe it was our last day, but by this point we were definitely ready to head home!

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