The House of Terror sounds like Madame Tussauds or a haunted house show, but it is in fact far darker.
We are staying in an apartment next to Budapest’s main Synagogue, which sort of means we do tourism just while being here. That’s good because we did a lot of being in the apartment today – after a terrible, jet-lagged night’s sleep we had a really slow start.
One we did get moving, around midday, we walked through a beautiful winter’s day to the House of Terror. Pre-war and through the Soviet occupation this house was used as the headquarters and main prison of the various secret services. It is now a museum focussing on the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation. As an actual museum it is slick but slight. Most of what you see are videos, there’s very little in the way of artefacts or real experiences beyond the screen. But that said, the story it tells is sobering indeed. The explicit story of the Nazis and the Soviets, and the more slightly covered story of the quisling right-wing government’s oppression of Jews, can only lead to a view that people are pretty awful. In large brush-strokes, various groups took turns at being awful to each other, for little better reason than that each group needed someone to blame, someone to be the ‘other’. It’s hard to find much in the way of a positive view of humanity amongst the arbitrary torture and death; beyond, perhaps, the ability of some of the victims to forgive.
We were not happy souls as we left the House of Terror and walked the couple of kilometres up the street to Hero’s Square which was a centre of activity in the short-lived uprising that was crushed by the Soviet tanks in 1956.
Behind the Square there’s a fanciful castle, that is more a triumph of fantastic architecture than real history; but is very photogenic regardless. We cheered ourselves up with marzipan from the bordering Christmas Market and threw more snowballs until ww were chilled enough to have to retreat back home again.
Hopefully to a full night’s sleep this time.