A historic holiday

I think I owe my family a big apology. I’ve spent the last week in Budapest with my wife, parents, brother and his wife too. It’s a beautiful city, with stunning architecture and amazing food (check out my goose leg with pumpkin & cabbage stack, complete with beetroot ‘foam’!)- unless you were willing to try this of course…

But I did take them all to two historical museums during our stay. The first was a complete accident, as we walked through the hills of Buda past the Fisherman’s Bastion, we stumbled across the Semmelweiss Museum of Medical History. It was an odd place, the woman on the desk didn’t speak the best English, and we were the only people in there! My brother soon took a seat at the end of the museum, but seen as my current GCSE historians study ‘Medicine Through Time’, I couldn’t exactly rush through! I did find it fascinating, containing original copies of texts by Ambroise Pare, Andreas Vesalius, and medieval transcripts of the Roman doctor Claudius Galen’s works- as well as a trephined skull, a mummified head, and even a mention of Joseph Priestley’s discovery of oxygen, in my hometown of Calne!

However, as a part of our original itinerary, we also visited “Terror House”, a museum dedicated to remembering the two very different occupations of Hungary by both the Nazis and the Soviets. This was not an easy experience, the subject was troubling, the material was moving. It was also heavy going- artefacts did’t contain English translations, and so each room contained an A4 sheet of information for you to pick up and read. There were over 30 rooms, and so I now possess an incredibly comprehensive essay on the Soviet occupation of Hungary (unlucky A2 students, you will be looking at this no doubt!).

From the early days of the Iron Curtain, to the 1956 Hungarian uprising and subsequent show trial of Imre Nagy- this museum had it all. The basement, reminiscent of the Hohenschönhausen prison museum in Berlin, contained reconstructions of the prison cellars and methods of interrogation used by the Soviets to deal with any form of opposition. The German museum itself had even donated a section of the Berlin Wall to the Terror House, proudly displayed outside its entrance.

Budapest is a beautiful city- I’d recommend a long weekend to anyone, and if you’re a historian- these two museums are a must! And finally, don’t miss the opportunity in Budapest airport’s departure lounge for a free game of table football (even if your brother does destroy you at it- won’t be challenging the VI Formers any time soon!)

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