The House of Terror was once the headquarters of the Arrow Cross Secret Police in Budapest. Many were interrogated and tortured within its walls. A plaque alongside many pictures on the outside of the building reads in part: ‘We cannot forget the horror of terror, and the victims will always be remembered’. In 2002, the building was transformed into a museum with incredibly well designed (some being interactive) exhibitions that often double as what feels like a modern art display. The museum follows the fascist and Stalinist times as well as the years after WWII leading up to the 1956 Uprising. It’s a LOT of information. So much information is not only in front of you, but print-outs are distributed in nearly every room. It started to feel like an intensive history class after awhile, but in a really great way (even if it was information overload). Because we’re gluttons for history lessons and free walking tours, we decided to spend the afternoon on the Free Communist Walking Tour.
The outside of the building was modified to set it apart from the rest on the street. I thought the move was interesting especially considering that originally the building was chosen to be the communist regime’s headquarters because it blended in so well with the other buildings. So much torture was going on right under everyone’s noses.
The museum also acts as a memorial to those who have died in the building, as you can see by the pictures behind the giant tank stationed in the middle of the closed courtyard. I remembered the tank to be dripping a lot more oil than it was today. I’m not sure if I’m misremembering or not. The flowing and oozing oil had a much different effect than the slightly dusty tank you see today. Unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed within the actual exhibition rooms. It’s a really impressive museum, and makes fascism and communism incredibly visually appealing. My favorite was the brightly lit communist propaganda wallpapered room. I LOVE communist propaganda posters. I’m fascinated by them and have a small collection. I wonder if they would share that wallpaper with me. My communist themed bathroom needs it.
The Free Communist Walking Tour was rather interesting, even if it involved more talking than walking… We both liked this guide a lot more than the one we had yesterday though, so that helped quite a bit. We walked through the same park (with the locked up love and skateboarders) and sat down to hear about what communism was like in Hungary. Our guide told us a story about how bananas were only available during Christmastime, but how her friend’s family was overwhelmed when they were in Austria for a vacation in the summertime and saw bananas everywhere! They were so excited that they bought some obscene amount of kilos of bananas to bring back into the country. Officials at the border obviously wouldn’t allow bananas to enter Hungary in the middle of summer, and our guide’s friend’s family didn’t want all of their precious bananas to go to waste… So they sat at the border and each ate 2 kilos or so of bananas before they returned home. Our guide said her friend hasn’t been able to look at, let alone eat bananas since.
I learned that the communist styled block buildings were initially created in Sweden to alleviate a short term housing crisis. In Sweden, these compact apartment buildings were made, used for a couple of months, and then destroyed. Our guide pointed a few out and talked about how many families were crammed into one apartment building. Living-rooms were non-existent because authorities didn’t want people to have any opportunity to meet in private. There was no privacy. She joked around how everyone could hear everything from neighbors fighting to… making up. Andrew and I nodded, from experience, as we can hear everything next door in our little loft/studio apartment we’re renting.
We walked by a bomb shelter. That’s a close up above, and a wider view of the cover/entrance below. Unfortunately, we missed a lot of the explanation because Andrew let our entire tour fill up their water bottles before he filled up ours. One girl on the tour smiled at me waiting for him halfway between stops on the tour so he would know where to go when he caught up.
“Your man is a good one… I saw him let everyone go before him even though he was the first one there.” She said.
“I know… He does this kind of thing all the time…” I rolled my eyes and smiled. We chatted in between stops and later when I told Andrew I had to say goodbye to my new friend, he looked at me funny, wondering when I had the chance to make a new friend.
We stopped outside the former national television station. Rent is too high these days for the station to remain in downtown Budapest. When the station would broadcast old James Bond movies, the villains weren’t Russian, they were Chinese. Everyone laughed. When talent shows were on, instead of calling in to vote for your favorite performance, viewers would turn their lights on or off depending on what they liked. If I remember correctly, kids weren’t big fans of the emerging hip-hop and would sneak down into the basements of their buildings and flip the electrical breakers off, voting for an entire building or possibly block of housing units.
This monument of the 'man on the bridge' is dedicated to the progress towards democracy, which is why the statue is facing the parliament buildings in the background.