Posts Tagged ‘museum’

When we went to Krakkó we took a side trip to Auschwitz. I felt like it was a very powerful and meaningful experience, particularly Birkenau. At the same time I’ve been trying to figure out for a month what to write about it, because as cliché as it sounds I don’t feel like I can convey the feeling of it. So I’ve decided to just post the pictures with captions. I hope it’s meaningful, if simple.

We went to Auschwitz first. Auschwitz had all the museum information, but most of it was in the buildings where pictures were not permitted. The displays were well done, though.

These were the blocks at Auschwitz where the prisoners slept. One of these buildings was a hospital, another was a prison. There were also buildings outside the main complex for the Nazi officers to live in.

The front of the blocks at Auschwitz. Auschwitz was originally military barracks, so the buildings were at least fairly well done.

Between the prison building and the hospital building was this wall called the death wall. They shot prisoners who had been “tried” here. Most of the victims were Poles. This is a recreation of the wall. The original was torn down.

This is the building where the first gas chamber and crematorium was. Later they built bigger ones at Birkenau and these were no longer used. The first experiments with gas were done on Russian soldiers and it took them a long time (I think days) to die. They got better at it later.

The double barbed wire fence circling the camp. There were signs in German warning anyone outside that it was electric and dangerous.

Then we went to Birkenau. It’s about 5 minutes away and there are free buses to take you there. Birkenau was built to house all the Jews and other prisoners after Auschwitz was full and wasn’t already in existence before WWII. There were brick and wood buildings and there are still examples of each, although most of them were destroyed as the Nazis left and tried to hide what they’d done. Birkenau is also where the gas chambers and crematoria were (except for the one that was used temporarily at Aushwitz) and where the Jews that were sent in on trains specifically to go to the gas chambers were sent.

Most of the buildings where prisoners lived were destroyed and all that’s left are rows and rows of these double chimneys that were inside each building.

Some of the buildings are still standing. This is one of the wood buildings. The chimney in front is all that’s left of the other buildings. In this one you can see the rows of beds in the back. Several people slept on each bed. Toilets were in a separate building.

These tracks led through the “death gate” and ended at two of the gas chambers at the back of the camp.

The gas chambers/crematoria were blown up by the Nazis as they left, but the ruins are still there. This is the entrance. The prisoners went in the door and down the steps where they undressed and then were put into the gas chamber. At the end is the room with the furnaces.

There were several dried pools where human ashes were thrown. This one has a memorial stones in English, Polish and Hebrew.

Auschwitz with kids: We went with our kids, but felt like the displays in the barracks at Auschwitz were too graphic for our 4 year old. We tag teamed it, taking turns going in and staying out to watch the kids. It took a lot longer that way, but it worked. Birkenau was no problem with the kids. Unless you know what happened there it’s just a pretty place with lots of grass and some buildings and ruins.

I would also recommend going early. They make you go with a tour after 10 (sometimes earlier) and I much preferred wandering at our own pace, and a tour wouldn’t have worked with the kids. With older kids it would probably be okay and in the Winter they don’t make you take a tour.


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Wednesdays are Ivan’s day that he doesn’t have classes, so we try to get out of the house and do something fun. Wednesday is also “pastry day” – our self declared day of the week when we go for a walk to the metro stop to get pastries for breakfast. It’s a nice little walk and we usually let Avery walk the whole way instead of strapping her down in the stroller. So this Wednesday we bundled up against the sub-freezing weather, stopped at the pastry shop at the metro station and headed to the Transporation Museum (Közlekedési Múzeum) for our weekly outing.

You have to pay extra to take pictures in most of the museums here and I don’t typically bother because most things in museums don’t lend themselves to unprofessional photography very well, but I think this museum might actually have turned out some good pictures. It had A LOT of models, replicas, and exhibits that varied in size from the size of your hand to the actual train in the picture that looks like it’s chugging out of the front of the museum itself. There were trains, cars, boats, airplanes, motorcycles, coaches, bicycles, ships, and even a model of the Russian Soyuz space capsule, complete with a landing parachute that stretched all the way up to the ceiling and back down again. It was pretty impressive.

They had a lot of cool things outside, too that I was able to take pictures of without having to pay extra. One of my favorite parts of the whole museum was the display of parts of the different bridges over the Danube in Budapest. Most of this display was outside and there were links and sections of the chain bridge especially, but the other bridges too.

This is a picture of a section of the chain bridge. I don’t know a whole lot about it and the links they have on display don’t look much like the typical links I think of when I think of a chain, but they’re pretty cool to see anyway. I think the bridges are one of my favorite parts of Budapest. This came as kind of a surprise to me. I’ve never lived in a place with a lot of bridges and it’s kind of fun.

Here’s another cool picture of the train. The thing is really huge. Dad – I took the picture with the airplane on the roof just for you. After I’m rich enough to buy you an airplane, maybe I’ll work on a museum for you to put it on top of too :)

Some basic facts for anyone interested: It cost us 1500 ft for both of us to go (Avery was free), not the 200 ft that Wikipedia said it was (we were a little surprised). Apparently Ivan was 1000 ft and I was only 500 ft because of Avery. That’s about $5.00 for Ivan and $2.50 for me. It closes early in the Winter (4:00 PM) again, not the 5:00 PM that Wikipedia claims (that was last week’s surprise).

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Fine Art

On Wednesday we went to Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest’s Museum of Fine Art. It’s a fabulous, huge building and they have a special exhibit called “Boticelli to Titian” that we went to see.  They had paintings on loan from museums all over the world, all showcasing the Italian Renaissance. The most interesting part to me was to see the development of 3 dimensional space. It’s probably kind of obvious and amateurish, but I thought it was interesting to compare the earlier paintings and their flatter, stylized figures and space with the later paintings that gave a definite impression of depth. Ivan was so convinced by one painting that he thought it really extended past the wall it hung on. He was a little shocked when he went around the corner and the wall behind it was flat.

Some highlights: the most publicized painting there was DaVinci’s “Lady with an Ermine,” although it wasn’t really my favorite. I liked Bellini’s “Angel of the Annunciation and Virgin Annunciate” and another by a name I looked at three times so I would remember it and still forgot. Boticelli’s “The Story of Virginia” was interesting.

The painting I keep thinking about the most was a kind of scary painting at first. I can’t remember the title unfortunately, but it pictured a woman sitting on a throne. The woman is very dark and has almost freakish coloring, and Ivan and I both were fairly repulsed by her. The interesting part is the difference in style between how she is painted and how the throne she is sitting on is painted. She’s very dark and one dimensional, while the throne seems to leap out of the painting around her. The plaque next to the painting described the effect a lot better, but it was an interesting contrast between the gothic and renaissance styles.

After the museum we went and took a look at Hősök Tere where there’s a huge memorial of the “coolest” Hungarians I guess you could say. Apparently it used to be the coolest Hungarians on the left and then the coolest Hapsburgs on the right, but after some damage to the monument during WWII the Hungarians found an opportunity to replace the not-so-cool-anymore Hapsburgs with some more popular Hungarians.

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Night at the Museums

I forgot to mention Rooibos tea in my last post. It’s very good with cinnamon. Try it. What more can I say?

Yesterday was Stake Conference, and as I was leaving the Hardmans told me about the Múzeumok Éjszakája that had started an hour earlier. The Night of Museums is a Hungarian tradition celebrating St. Ivan’s day on Midsummer’s night (I realize it’s probably St. John’s day, but I prefer to think of it as St. Ivan’s). It has been so successful that this year they decided to do the same for St. Martin’s day (November 14) and I’m glad they did!

All throughout Hungary a 1300 Ft pass (about $7.00) will get you into any of the participating museums (30 in Budapest) and access to all public transportation. They even have special bus routes for the night. Though the festivities start earlier in many places, admission to the museums begins at 6:00 and they stay open until midnight. Many have special attractions such as live music or demonstrations. They also allow vendors into the museum to sell holiday food such as goose. If they are right and “those who do not eat goose on St. Martin’s Day shall go hungry all year round,” I guess I’ll lose weight since we didn’t find any goose.

When the Hardmans asked if I wanted to go I didn’t have to think long before I said yes. I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity since they had everything planned out. They knew which museums they wanted to see and of course he actually speaks Hungarian which is surprisingly useful in Hungary. In particular it helps to read plaques and inscriptions of the type often found in museums. How else would I have known that those particular wines are good “in the company of women”? Or that the curator was encouraging us to take our picture holding the stuffed bear’s hand rather than chastising us for some infraction? My only regret is that I didn’t have my camera (though most museums didn’t allow pictures anyway).  I hereby apologize for the lack of pictures. Instead here’s a map of my adventures.

We began by going to the Közlekedési (Transportation) Museum which is right on the edge of the city park and perhaps 4 blocks from my house. I hadn’t gone yet because I didn’t think it would be that interesting, but I am definitely going to take Rachel when she gets here. They had everything from trains, planes, and automobiles to a model of Columbus’s Santa Maria and a Kocsi Kocsi, which is to say a Coach Coach. It may surprise you to know that the word coach comes from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs (cs makes a ch sound) famous for it’s coaches with steel suspension in 15th century. Not only did the museum have some gorgeous coaches and beautiful saddles but they also had some exquisite wooden model trains. Definitely worth another unhurried look in the near future, especially since it only costs 200 Ft!

Next we walked through the park to the Agricultural Museum which is housed in a castle originally made of cardboard and modeled after Vajdahunyad Castle in Transylvania (which of course was once part of Hungary). I personally love the building, and the wine presses were amazing, but the rest of the museum wasn’t as interesting as the Transportation Museum.

Next, we took the metro and one of the special Museum buses and headed to the Sziklakórház. The Hospital in the Rock is a secret hospital in the mountain under Buda Castle used during World War II. That’s about all that I know since we decided not to wait in line. We would’ve had to wait for over an hour and probably would have gotten in about 15 minutes before it closed. The fact that tickets are normally 3000 Ft is apparently enough to get people to wait in line. It’s okay though because Rachel will enjoy it once she gets here.

From there we took the bus, tram and metro over to Hungarian National Museum, better known as the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum. Although I didn’t literally kick or scream when they kicked us out, I was reluctant to leave despite the fact that by this time I was quite tired. It was simply amazing–exactly my kind of museum. Lots of armor, weapons, books, scepters, crowns, coins, jewelry, etc. not to mention the building itself. We didn’t even begin to see it all. I can’t wait to explore this one more.

After they kicked us out at midnight we went to the Metro, only to find that it was already closed. So much for the easy way home. We decided to walk about 4 blocks to catch the tram at Ferenc Körút. Unfortunately, we walked the wrong direction and ended up at Astoria, where we hopped on a bus that looked like it was going in an okay direction (all the busses change at night and our map didn’t have the night routes). The Hardmans got off at Blaha Lujza tér to catch the tram and I rode to Keleti pályaudvar. There I transferred to a bus that looked to be going in a little better direction. I was worried for a while since I didn’t recognize any of the stops (I’ve only been to Keleti pályaudvar once), but then we got to Amerikai út and I walked the rest of the way home and went to bed after ingesting a few much needed calories. I suppose the moral of the story is, don’t worry about getting lost in Budapest at night as long as you have a good sense of direction and aren’t afraid of walking.

Oh and, St. Martin + Museums = awesome.

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