Budapest’s Hadtörténeti Múzeum
Budapest is more than a city. It is actually three cities in one, each with just a bit of unique color and flair. With 1.74 million inhabitants, the Hungarian capital today is made up of the old cities of Buda, Óbuda (Old Buda) and Pest. Overlooking this metropolis is Buda Castle, the historic castle and palace complex located on Castle Hill over the Danube River. It is a World Heritage Site but it is also much more than just the palace.
In fact Buda Castle actually now encompasses much of the hill and is a city within a city. With the castle walls dating to the 13th century, Budapest was the site of many sieges and battles, the most recent being the 1956 uprising against the Soviet rule. Heavily damaged during the Battle of Budapest at the end of World War II, the palace complex was almost completely gutted during the 1950s and many important exterior details around the complex – including the Habsburg Steps and the Royal Stables – were destroyed!
However, the grandeur of the Habsburg Era through post-World War I to the modern day can be still be seen today, while the military history of the modern Hungarian people can be best understood at the Hadtörténeti Múzeum (Museum of Military History). Located in the army barracks, which were built in the 1830s, this museum chronicles the history of Hungary’s struggle for independence, as well as its role as part of the dual monarchy, which operated from 1867 to 1918. It was not until after the First World War that a truly independent Magyar nation – the Republic of Hungary – was finally established. With that so was the first military museum of Hungary, which was founded in the 1920s.
While not readily visible, the walls of the museum reportedly even have a cannonball or two within them from the 1848-49 revolution.
The Hadtörténeti Múzeum includes numerous artifacts from the period of 1848 to the modern day, but as the city suffered greatly during the Second World War the building was heavily damaged and much of the original collection was lost. However, the museum recovered and has amassed an impressive collection, which includes many hands-on displays for children.
The museum is currently renovating its collection of First World War artifacts in anticipation of the 2014 centennial anniversary of the outbreak of the war. It is also worth noting that over the years the “political attitudes” of the Hadtörténeti Múzeum have changed. During the Cold War, the 1956 uprising was hardly touched upon, whereas today it is a proud moment of Hungarian resistance against the Soviets!