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the collections. They very sweetly try to explain everything in Hungarian, even to guests who obviously don’t speak the language. Travellers might recognise this characteristic from museums in other cities, like London’s Sir John Soane Museum, for example. While the big museum means that the attendant (who perhaps has job insecurity) is alienated from the visitors, small museum attendants are indispensable, like family. For visitors this is an extra bonus. The Stamp Museum, for example, is one of Budapest’s most interesting small museums: Stamp Museum VII. Hársfa utca 47., www.belyegmuzeum.hu, open April 1 to October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rest of the year 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This small museum is really a big one, one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It is housed in a classic late 1930s modern building. It is a huge ministry building in a small, impoverished side-street which is lined up with “the least finished avenue” in Budapest. District seven’s Madách Imre út (beginning at Madách tér) was planned from the 1920s to the 1940s, but was never realised except for a big arch and the first 100 metres. The museum’s permanent exhibition of about 11 million stamps is displayed in quite an ingenious way (something had to be done, otherwise it would have taken up the whole building) on 3,200 pull-out metal frames, uniting the requirements of storage and exhibition. An Oversize Small Museum: Thermae Maiores – The Big Bath III. Flórián tér 3 – 5., www.aquincum.hu, www.btm.hu/furdo/furdo.htm, open from spring to autumn by appointment. Most Budapesters do not know about the Big Bath, they simply drive over it on the overpass on the M11 leading towards Szentendre and the Danube Bend. The Bath, a small piece of which was unearthed in 1778, is to many of us Budapest freaks, the symbol of a changed attitude towards the city. During its heyday in the first part of the 3rd century, the Roman settlement in northern Buda (called Aquincum) was a sizeable town with at least 10,000, and perhaps 12,000, inhabitants. There has been a museum here since 1892 featuring the extensive remains of the centre of the civilian town, “the municipium”. The area was the one-time Roman military settlement, and the immediate surrounding neighbourhood of Óbuda was bulldozed in the mid- and late-1970s. The most awful ten-storey pre-fab buildings were erected by the dozens. In 1981, when the pillars of the overpass were being dug, workers hit a section of the Big Bath exactly in the place where experts had predicted. It became impossible to continue with the construction and bury the ruins

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forever, as some construction lobbyists quite possibly wanted. Instead, the pillars were redesigned almost overnight, the site was excavated, and a unique underground passageway was built that criss-crosses around the open-air museum. In the underground passage there are dozens of replica statues and tablets and big glass-covered panels explaining the bath’s history. The glass seems to be a problem with the younger generation. The more liberal society became in the early 1980s, the more glass was broken here. The authorities should experiment with enameled, graffiti-resistant signs.

Eleven Other Great Small Museums György Ráth Museum Chinese art downstairs, Japanese upstairs. VI. Városligeti fasor 12. Pál Molnár C. Collection The charming family establishment of an artist much influenced by art deco with many stylish prints from the 1930s. XI. Ménesi út 65. Telefónia Museum The old, mechanical switchboard of the Castle District. I. Úri utca 49. “Golden Eagle” Pharmacy Museum An authentic museum interior, from the end of the 18th century. I. Tárnok utca 18. Lutheran Museum Sándor Petőfi, the great poet, was a slightly problematic student at this former school. Now you are shown around by retired ministers. V. Deák tér 4. Music History Museum A great 18th-century palazzo, now partly a museum of instruments and a research center (with a great riverfront view). It is part of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Letters. I. Táncsics Mihály utca 7. Jewish Museum adjacent to the Great Synagogue A history a Hungarian Jewry, and also a room for changing art exhibitions. VII. Dohány utca 2. The Imre Varga Collection The representative sculptor of the 1970s, Varga is still often around. III. Laktanya utca 7. Vasarely Museum For those who fancy the op-art master. III. Szentlélek tér 1. Museum of Electrotechnology Located in a massive, elegant art-deco building in the heart of the former Jewish District. VII. Kazinczy utca 21. Gizi Bajor Actors’ Museum Great for émigré eggheads, who usually remember childhood performances better than anyone. XII. Stromfeld Aurél út 16.

2011.04.20. 15:50:09

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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