I went to the Hospital in the Rock on my second day in Budapest. I had just finished up the free walking tour at Fisherman’s Bastion and walked through Matthias Church. I knew the Hospital in the Rock was near by and getting out of the rain while also learning something new sounded like an ace plan. I walked down the side of the hill that Buda Castle sits on and bought a ticket to the next English tour of the maze-like hospital.
The tour started with a nine minute video that was likely shot many years ago about the history of the hospital. The hospital opened in preparation for the start of World War II in 1944 to care for the influx of patients being admitted to Budapest’s main hospital. At the time, it was state of the art and it was also very safe because it was safely enveloped in the cavernous rock that Buda Castle sat upon.
The hospital was built to care for 60-70 patients but after the siege of Budapest in the second World War, the number of patients quickly climbed to 600. At one point during the war, supplies were nonexistent so doctors had to start re-using bandages, which, as you can guess, led the spread of disease and many patients died.
After World War II, the hospital was used once more after the 1956 Uprising against the Soviets. After the uprising, the hospital was used as a jail and then was turned into a Soviet nuclear bunker. The hospital was cared for by a Hungarian family after the Hungarians won independence and in the late 2000’s it was restored and opened as a museum.
The winding passages are claustrophobic and I can only imagine how horrible it was to have 600 patients in the tiny underground space.
The last part of the tour is about the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It described what would happen if a nuclear bomb was dropped in various cities (if you were in the first circle closest to the bomb, your body would burn up immediately, ouch) and ended with a room full of origami cranes to symbolize peace. Our guide told us that they included details on the bombs dropped in Japan to raise awareness in the hopes that these bombs are never used again (here’s hoping!). They even had the crane that Obama made when he was on his trip to Japan during his presidency.
Side note: In the operating room there is a anesthesia machine from 1944 that the producers of the film adaptation of Evita (starring Madonna) paid a lot of money to use in one scene of the movie (since they shot a lot of the movie in Budapest). Our tour guide said it can be scene for exactly 2 seconds in the movie.
Photos weren’t allowed inside but I snuck a few so those are below. You can see more on their website. If you’re into history, the Hospital in the Rock is definitely worth a visit.
(Left-right: A room staged to show overpacked with patients the rooms got; a Hungarian helicopter; the origami crane that President Obama made when he visited Japan)