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Under the mountains: a hospital in the rock

No, luckily it’s not the depressing youth series of the ’80s, which we watched every Sunday along with my peers, half-eyed, from that even years later had nightmares of the slimy, green aliens. The title covers a much nobler thing. Doctors, nurses, and civil people who, through their sacrificial and heroic work during World War II and later the 1956 revolution, saved thousands of soldier and civil lives from certain death. And where? Under the mountain, at the Hospital in the Rock.

I recently read an article that based on Tripadvisor’s ranking and visitor feedback, Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Budapest became the most popular museum in Hungary in 2018. I drove through several times in front of the Lovas Street institution, which with its entrance reminds me of a cellar, but so far I have not paid any special attention to it. Hence after reading the news, I thought it was time to overcome my phobia, as this is something very special I must look at. I did so and I was not disappointed. In fact, I would go back again at any time.

At the entrance of the Hospital in the Rock, many people waited for an hourly guided tour. I practically only hear foreign speaks and just a few Hungarians. There is no impatience or intrusion, the team sets off on a 60-minute guided tour with clockwork accuracy. After entering the building the second surprise after the cold was the lack of signal 10 meters after the entrance. No, at least I’m not clicking my phone to see who the message came from or who liked my pictures.

We already know it as Hospital in the Rock, but when it was opened in February 1944, it was called Székesfehérvár Surgical Emergency Hospital. With the most modern tools and equipment of that time, this hospital was built in the cave system under the Buda Castle on almost 2,400 m2. During World War II and later on the ’56 revolution, doctors and nurses of St. John’s Hospital worked here to save people’s lives. Clicking on the image a gallery opens with a lot of interesting information and explanations:

Hidden deep in the cave, the hospital and more than 200 wax puppets show the dark times of the war in detail: what happened under the siege, how human faces were distorted by pain, defense tools of the Cold War and chemical rescuers. Walking through the walls I could almost feel like in 1944, when the siege of Budapest completely abolished the connection between St. John’s Hospital and the Hospital in the Rock. There were no drugs or bandages, so the nurses reused gauze coils cut from the deaths without disinfection. There was no water, so they melted the snow to have water. There was not enough food, so the carcasses of dead were cooked and eaten.

Ending up the tour, we go through the secret bunker section, which prepared the doctors and nurses who practiced here until the late 80s for a possible nuclear attack. The 60 minute-tour ends with an exhibition on the tragedy of Hiroshima-Nagasaki. 60 minutes, which everyone sees about recent history. Despite the sad story, I don’t even have a depressing, bad feeling when I leave. In addition to the darkest hours of our history, the Hospital in the Rock also presents something that is eternal: to fight heroically and to remain human in inhumanity.

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