Today we visited many statues and memorials devoted to the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Hungary pre-1989. Even though technically the Iron Curtain was a border between countries and not between sections of Budapest, our visit started from across the Parliament building which still shows the bullets made by police shooting at the crowd during the 1956 uprising.
The Hungarian people really suffered during this period. Food was strictly rationed, and people had to go without soap or other essentials. Many people only ate lard on bread.Our local tour director Andrea told of her own family experiences which made the experience all too real. Her own grandmother was imprisoned on a trivial charge and her grandfather was in a labor camp.
The most sobering experience happened at the ‘House of Terror’ museum which is located in the same building used by the Nazi Secret Service and later by the Soviet KGB to interrogate, condemn and execute hundreds of innocent Hungarians. The worst of it for me started with a 3-minute elevator ride during which a video was shown of a former guard describing in detail the whole execution process, ending with a tour of the actual prison cells in the basement. We saw tiny cells which were used to deprive prisoners of sleep by not allowing them to move from anything but a standing position, with nails protruding underneath their feet. Other cells were continually damp, and we were told that when your shoes and socks are constantly wet, your skin will come off when the wet socks are removed. We also saw portraits of the people who used to stay in these cells. Because we were not allowed to take photographs inside the museum, I found this video on YouTube which shows the interior of many rooms.
Honestly, I think what heightened the profoundly disturbing experience was the somber music piped into individual rooms, consisting of musical sequences which never resolved (for you music theory types, those are called deceptive cadences!)
In the afternoon, Charles and Laurie Wheeler and I went back to visit the Cave Church which we missed yesterday. The natural cave was about 10 deg. cooler than the outside and was founded in 1926, by a group of Pauline monks after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. I’m guessing that the acoustics in the cave would be great for music! I felt tempted to sing a couple of notes to test it out, but chickened out because of the other visitors to the church.