Arts, History, Witches and Booze
by Lucas Aresin
Knowledge is power, and few places have such large amount of knowledge in them as museums. Budapest is a city of many museums, and this entry marks our third dive deep into the world of learning. But WAIT! It's not boring at all. We don't send you off to visit the five dustiest buildings in Budapest! Instead, this entry covers five very different museums, inlcuding arts, history, witches, and booze. Yeah, you read right. If you want to find out more about unique and traditional museums in Budapest, check out our other article.
Located within the wings A, B, C, and D of the Royal Palace on top of the Castle Hill, the National Gallery of Budapest does not only look impressive but also opens its doors to knowledge-hungry visitors and art enthusiasts every Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am and 6 pm. The National Gallery carries its name with pride, as its topic is the Hungarian painting throughout time. You will learn about the history of Hungarian painting and go to time-travel through different periods to understand how the craft has developed since its inception. With the help of audio guides and guided tours, you will venture through the impressive, ornamented halls and marvel at art from the 12th-century Gothic church paintings in the Hungarian kingdom over medieval stone carvings all the way up to modern art, and particularly how it has changed after 1945.
Dr. Zwack, the royal physician to the Habsburg Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, created a unique drink over two centuries ago. It's dark, bitter, and made from more than 40 herbs. The recipe has been kept secret for since then, and the drink is known as Unicum, one of the most famous Hungarian exports, easily recognized by its dark green, round flask. It's an acquired taste, but definitely a unique one (pun intended). The Zwack Museum will bring you closer to the heritage and past of history of this special liquor. If you need more encouragement, you'll definitely be able to get a sample taste.
"This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship." This is what architect Ákos Előd says about the Memento Park, which displays the monumental sculptures and statues that stem from the fifty years between '49 and '89 when Hungary was under communist rule. There are two sections which can be explored: Statue Park and Witness Square. The first part is home to forty-two monuments and statues. The second part has a replica of Stalin's boots and contains two buildings with more exhibitions in them, which are designed to look like internment camps. The design is simple but telling. Memento Park is as fascinating as it is gloomy.
Definitely one of the more unique museums in Budapest is the Kresz Géza Ambulance Museum. Ambulances, as most motorized vehicles, have been around for a bit more than a century for now, and that gave ample time for them to develop and improve. The ambulance museum highlights that. You'll see stretchers, first-aid kits, types of emergency lights, variations of transport incubators, sirens, and more. The museum halls carry the name of Géza Kresz, a Hungarian doctor and also the founder of Budapest's Voluntary Ambulance Society. Accidents happen, and ambulances like the ones you'll find in this museum will be there to help out. In this case, you'll receive financial aid, since the admission is free.
Even more unique, possibly, is the Witch Museum. This ethnographic, historic museum exhibits the history of witchcraft and aims to clear up some of the misconceptions and stereotypes about people known and feared as witches. The exhibition is interactive and allows you to get your hands in there. It examines why people were afraid of witches, and why people are still fascinated by them today. The museum is open every day of the week, except Sunday. Be aware, though, that you can only pay with cash. Like in the old times. The witches would be proud!
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