February 7, 2011

Hungary Travels: Andrassy Avenue Part I

Andrassy Avenue is one of the most fascinating streets in Europe and also one of the few that has preserved its character, the fact that was decreed by the Unesco as World Heritage has for sure helped to avoid a commercial transformation and even today it preserves a class that few more famous streets in Europe can boast.
The street is still home to splendid literary cafes and old 19th century buildings, shops and restaurant perfectly preserved.


It was decreed to be built in 1870, to discharge the parallel Király utca from heavy traffic and to connect the inner city parts with the City Park. Its construction began in 1872 and the avenue was inaugurated on August 20 (a national holiday), 1876. Its palaces were built by the most distinguished architects (led by Miklós Ybl) of the time, financed by Hungarian and other banking houses. These were mostly finished by 1884 and mostly aristocrats, bankers, landowners and historical families moved in. It was named in 1885 after the main supporter of the plan, Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy.


The construction of the Budapest Metro, the first underground railway in Continental Europe, was proposed in 1870, since the capital had always been opposed to surface transport on this road. Construction began in 1894 and was finished in 1896.
Budapest Metro has preserved a Belle Epoque style and it still gives you the impression to enter into the past with his decorated tiles, wooden finishing and gargoyled steel posts (at least until a ugly train approaches the station).















The boulevard was renamed three times in the 1950s; a testament to the rapid political changes of the period. It became Sztálin út in 1950 during the Soviet occupation. During the 1956 uprising it was renamed to Magyar Ifjúság útja (Avenue of Hungarian Youth). The following year the governing communists changed the name to Népköztársaság út (People's Republic boulevard). The former name of Andrássy was restored in 1990, after the end of the communist era.
Not surprising that Andrassy Avenue hosts a quite unique museum dedicated to the years of Terror.


House of Terror is a museum located at Andrássy út 60. It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building, which was a secret prison during the dictatorial years.
It is not a traditional museum, all the exhibitions are strongly multimedial, sounds are blasted all over the building to reinforce the message of brutality and original videos and audios guides you through the extensive documentation and the infamous cells of the secret police.If you want to know what is life under a dictator well visit the museum and the multimedia experience will give you a taste of its brutality.

If you want to relax after an overdose of violence and brutalities just walk north (103 Andrassy Avenue) and you will find the Ferenc Hopp Museum. Ferenc Hopp (1833–1919), a wealthy optician, travelled around the world five times between 1882 and 1914. The Museum was founded in 1919 and it contains 4,000 items of Oriental purchased  during his round-the-world trips and at World Exhibitions.
The best part of the Museum is the Oriental style garden with a lake, a small stage and an Indian corner. All the museum is an oasis of peace and it is well worth a visit, it is quite small and therefore will not take long to go through its collection.










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