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HOW DOES A CITY FUNCTION IN TIMES OF WAR?
When bombs are falling from the sky, collapsing bridges, destroying roads, making food and basic supplies scarce or non-existent, how do you deal with emergencies?
Where do you cure the wounded?
In Budapest, during the Second World War the answer was the Hospital in the Rock.
Built in a series of natural caves stretching 600m underneath Buda Hills, this peculiar medical institution was indeed one of the very few places safe from the raging Soviet - German battle which left the city in tatters.
The hospital was built back in the 1930’s, when it became clear that a new large-scale conflict was going to erupt in Europe. It was connected to the city’s main tunnel system, thus making it easy to reach in case of need.
During the siege of Budapest between 1944-45, when the Red Army and German forces were both given to order to “conquer Budapest at all costs”, the hospital (which had been designed to treat around 70 patients), had to welcome over 600 wounded soldiers and civilians.
Many lives were saved, but sadly during the last months of the siege, many were lost due to lack of water and basic medical supplies.
After the war, the Hospital in the Rock was used just once. In 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution. It was then transformed into a nuclear bunker that would serve as shelter for about 100 nurses and doctors, who could then re-emerge to treat the wounded in case of a nuclear attack.
Today the Hospital in the Rock, provides a very interesting, albeit less known, way to take a glimpse into the city’s past. The museum vividly recreates the ambiance and feel of a real wartime hospital, with all of the original equipment and wax figures of doctors and patients.
It’s open year-round and guided tours are organized everyday. If you’re looking for an usual way to dig into the city’s past, this might be just what you need.