1) Learn about its History
About 35 years ago, the Hungarian parents of my Swiss-born partner left their home country in the hope of creating a better life for themselves and their future family. Why did they do this? Because at the time, Hungary was still under Soviet occupation, and my father-in-law, his wife and his two brothers wanted to be free. They told everyone, including their own mother, that they would just be going on vacation. They left their houses furnished and unsold. They packed their bags and wished each other good luck. One brother made it to the U.S.A and another to Austria. My parents-in-law landed in Switzerland, where a priest helped them find a job and settle down.
They only returned to Hungary when the Soviets moved out, and my partner remembers the awe with which the locals looked at their Opel Rekord car as they drove past. And no wonder, since the cars available under communism looked like this…
…and had a 7-year waiting period after ordering.
Given all that I knew, all that I had heard about this Eastern European country’s history, going to Hungary for me was more than just a holiday. Going to Budapest meant linking a place to everything I had heard from my new Hungarian family, and in order to do this, I had to become a bit of a history buff and pay a visit to the capital’s museums. If you want to get a taste of the best of them while in Budapest, make some space for the following recommendations:
This museum is just a wonderful place, and it’s great if you know little or nothing about Hungarian history, as it pretty much covers its every aspect. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, so I can’t give you a sample of the beautifully carved chests, the elegant medieval clothing and excellent Communist era exhibits. Despite this, in my opinion, if you have to (for financial or time reasons) choose just one museum to visit in Budapest (not including art galleries), go for this one. On Castle Hill, you’ll also find the Budapest History Museum, but this is nowhere near as impressinve as the Hungarian National Museum.
- The House of Terror
A visit to the House of Terror is more than a tick-off-the-guidebook-page thing. It also shouldn’t be the last attraction of the day before hitting the clubs and pubs. Why not? Because the House of Terror is a sombering place which illustrates, with exhibits and videos, the horros suffered by the Hungarian people under communist rule. Be prepared for some pretty strong images and video testimonies of people who lived to tell the tale. Do I think the House of Terror is worth a visit? Definitely, as long as you remember that it’s not a ‘fun’ attraction, but an educational one.
- The Memento Park
After the end of the Soviet occupation, communist-related statues were moved to this park located out of the city centre, and it has since been bringing some much needed tourist cash. While the idea behind the park is great, it could definitely do with some signs explaining the story behind each statue. Having said that, it’s still an interesting place to visit for the historical significance of the statues on show.
This post is part of the Slow Hungary article series. Click here to view all related articles.
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.theartofslowtravel.com