Hospital in the Rock: A different kind of museum
There are so many museums in Budapest – you will be spoilt for choice. It is likely that you are going to spend at least half a day on Buda side of Budapest, and visit Buda Castle or Fisherman Bastion.
If you want to go somewhere, which is different from a usual art gallery or museum environment, I recommend to visit the Hospital in the Rock, which offers fantastic opportunity to see a secret place and hear stories of the people, who was working or was treated there.
Hospital museum does not sound very exciting, but I assure you that you will change your mind as soon as you sign up for their guided tour. A word of warning: due to distressing nature of some objects on display, the museum is not suitable for children under 6 years old. As a suggestion, you can always take turns if visiting with small kids, as there are plenty of cafes and open spaces for kids outside of the Museum entrance to run around if they are too young to visit.
However, I think for older kids the museum is a must, as it shows how difficult life was at the time of the World War II and the hardships, that people had to live through. It is great we are living in peaceful times now, but I think it is important to educate the kids about war and its awful consequences for everyone.
The visits are conducted by the guided tour, as you wont be able to find your way around on your own. The tour lasts just under an hour and is available in other European languages with prior booking. Fruzsina was showing us around and it was a delight to listen to her, she was also happy to answer any questions we had. I personally think that if there is a guided tour in the museum, it gives you so much more in terms of information and an insight, which you are unlikely to get just from looking at the exhibits.
Museum displays are far from boring, in fact the scenes from the daily life of the hospital were recreated using historical archives and photos. Also there are some medical instruments on display, which belonged to some of the doctors , working in the hospital.
From talking to Fruzsina, it appeared that the museum also has a great outreach programme, and they know many people, who either worked at the hospital or was treated here. The tour gains a whole new perspective, as it does not just tell you how the hospital was functioning, but also highlights the stories of real people and their experience.
Second part of the museum is dedicated to the times, when the hospital was planned to be used as a nuclear bunker. Surprisingly, the Hospital in the Rock was classed as a secret location and was turned into museum only very recently in 2008.
If you like to learn how it would be possible to survive in the nuclear bunker during the attack, the guided tour will have all the answers for you. You will also be able to see some pretty cool equipment for air cleaning, cisterns for fuel storage and protective clothing.
The museum has taken nuclear theme further, as part of the exhibition is dedicated to bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, showing the devastating effect on the environment and population.
I found this part quite upsetting, especially when you see personal belongings discovered after the bombings or learn the fact that people, who are closest to the centre of the explosion simply evaporated due to extreme heat, without leaving a trace.
There is also a touching display of paper cranes, symbolizing wish for peace and telling us the story of Sadako Sasaki . You would also be able to see a replica of the crane, folded by former US President Barack Obama, when he visited Hiroshima.
Once your visit is over, don’t miss fantastic souvenir shop, as you will not be able to buy such souvenirs anywhere else in Budapest. They have gas masks, syringes, war-style belts – I thought it was a great touch, rather than selling run-of-the-mill pens and key rings.
Have you ever been to a museum, which was unusual and not what you expected? Please share your experience in comments and we might go and visit it one day!
Disclaimer: My visit was hosted by the Hospital in the Rock, but all opinions are my own.