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Friday, September 19, 2014

Budapest on 9/14: Drum Corps, Heroes & Terror

Even though we had gone to bed with visions of our 1st day in Budapest having clear, sunny skies, we woke up to more of the same chilly, mostly  rainy weather that’s been following us for most of the trip. We bundled up, making sure our duct taped ponchos were easy to get to in case of a deluge and set off to catch the M2 yellow line, the oldest metro in Europe. 

At Liz's suggestion, we had bought a 72 hour transit card when we got in the day before and what a valuable tip that was. Budapest is divided into distinct areas, Buda and Pest; most of the tourist attractions are located on the Pest side of the Danube River which is where our hostel was. We normally shy away from buying transit passes but since we knew we'd be going all over the very large city. It was a no brainer having the pass so we could hop on and off buses, trams and the various metro lines at will. 

Every weekend a huge flea market is held in City Park so we went first thing on Sunday only to discover when we got there that it was closed that day because of a huge race going on. Seemed like not only the rain was following us but races were too since the day before, there had been the race in Pecs. We retraced our steps through Vajdahunyad Castle, the castle in City Park built in 1896 for the Millennium celebrations. Each building represents a different style from the history of Hungarian architecture, Since there was a big fair going on, we dawdled for a bit looking at the craft booths.

 The castle; just dodn't ask me to spell the name of it again!

Leaving the castle and saw this building; Don't know what it was, but I liked the shot because of the reflection

We heard the distinctive sounds from a drum corps and headed toward what we then found out was Heroes’ Square, where we saw hundreds, if not thousands of runners, being encouraged to keep up a good pace by the drummers and enthusiastic crowds. Nina, all I could think of was how much I’m drawn to bands ever since watching you and the Dakota Ridge Marching Band at so many band competitions all 4 years you were in band. Anytime there’s a marching band competition in town, let me know so we can together, OK, hon.

Museum of Fine Arts in the background
Work on massive Heroes' Square, which features 2 colonnades and the statues of the 7 Magyar chieftains and other historical figures, began in 1896. The statue of the Archangel Gabriel, which stands on a  36m column, represents a pagan country’s adoption of Christianity.

The War Memorial just in case you hadn't guessed!

Atop one of the colonnades.
Archangel Gabriel

From Heroes' Square, we walked a long ways down Andrassy Boulevard, one of the most beautiful thoroughfares in the capital with its lavish residences and stately apartment buildingsAt Andrassy Ut 60 is the building formerly known as the House of Loyalty and now the House of  Terror which documents the ugliest monuments in Hungary’s difficult 20th C. The building at Andrassy Ut 60, was home to the vilest parts of 2 destructive regimes: 1st, the Arrow Cross (the Gestapo-like enforcers of Nazi-occupied Hungary), then the AVO and AVH secret police (the insidious KGB-type wing of the Soviet satellite government. 

At the entrance: the twin enforcers of terror in Hungary from 1944 to 1956.

Close up of victims killed at Andrassy Ut.

Saw wall after wall of these 'bricks' representing lard people were given to eat in lieu of butter.

In the cellar of the ‘House of Loyalty,’ members of the Arrow Cross tortured and killed hundreds of people. 

We have seen a number of museums this trip dedicated to the horrors of WWII but never extensive photos of the victimizers as here at the Wall of Terror. I wish every museum documenting man's inhumanity to his fellow man also put a personal face to the victimizers.

After experiencing the disturbing House of Terror, we made our way to the Holocaust Memorial Center which honors the nearly 600,000 Hungarian victims of the Nazis, about one in ten of all the victims. We toured the permanent exhibit called ‘From Deprivation of Rights to Genocide’, i.e. the gradual process of disenfranchisement, marginalization, exploitation, dehumanization and eventually extermination that befell Hungary’s Jews as WWII wore on.

The 'Memorial Wall of Victims' where the names of the victims are engraved in glass

Especially moving was the 'Tower of Lost Communities' which displayed the names of 1,441 Hungarian towns and villages where the Jewish communities have ceased to exist as a consequence of the deportations in 1944, as inhabitants lost their lives in concentration camps or forced labor service. Attached to the Center is a beautiful synagogue, photos of which are below.

Each of the glass seats had a photo and the name of someone who perished in the camps.

Wanting in a sense to get these sights of sadness done with on the same day, we then went to the Great Synagogue's memorial garden with the powerful 'Tree of Life ' monument to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. In the garden is the symbolic grave of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenburg who worked to save the lives of Hungarian Jews during WWII.

Entering the Synagogue's grounds.

The 'Tree of Life'

With the Jewish Museum in the background

It had been raining pretty well steadily all day, just in keeping with our choices of what to see after Heroes' Square of course. But, here at the garden, the heavens opened up and there was an absolute deluge that lasted about 40 minutes. We sought refuge in the covered, outside corridor trying to stay as dry as possible. Didn't know what else to do but to take the pictures below.

I apologize if this was, in part, a depressing post for you to read; that was certainly not my intention. For me, there was still beauty to behold amid the terror and horrific scenes. 

Wishing each of you and your families peace as always,