I had watched a travel show last year about Budapest, and one of the parts that intrigued me the most was how the Hungarians used the natural limestone caves in the mountains for hiding while under siege throughout history. These caves also go underneath Buda Castle, a huge 18th century castle that has over 10km of interconnected caves, cellars and tunnels underneath it. With over 100 caves, early residents lived and used these caves for storage and more recently for a hospital and nuclear bunker.
From 1939 to 1944 the caves status was changed from public to classified while the local government built a bomb shelter and emergency surgical center, finally completing the hospital in 1944. The hospital was one of the most advanced in its time with state of the art surgical equipment, x-ray and it’s own power generators ready for both civilian and military personnel.
After WW2 the communist government upgraded the bunker with larger generators, air and water filtration systems and nuclear proof doors. Able to support approximately 100 people for 30 days, the people inside would be able to sustain an initial nuclear blast.
The museum of the hospital has just over 70 wax figures of doctors, nurses, patients, soldiers and dead people arranged about in various positions. After the war all the boxes with medicine was preserved and they still have a ton of original equipment for surgeries, medicines and bandages. It’s certainly how I would imagine a hospital and they’ve done a great job recreating the scenes.
Even though it was the most modern for it’s time, I sure wouldn’t want to get sick in there. There’s no open windows, it feels pretty cramped and while it was made to fit 300 people, often there were upwards of 700 with people in the halls. I’ll take my overfilled Canadian hospitals anyday!
I’ve always wondered what a nuclear bunker would actually look like, and this one pretty much summed it up. The bunker was meant for the doctors from nearby hospitals and their families, which they only had very limited time to arrive before the door was shut permanently with as little as 15 minutes given. The interesting thing about it is that with the supplies and water they had they would only be able to keep the 100 people and military staff alive for 30 days or so. Of course the severe radiation would be there for much longer than that lasting upwards of a year before they could even try to make an escape. I wonder how many doctors would have made it to the doors only to find them closed.
All in, the museum is worth your time to go in and checkout if your in Budapest. To see an actual 1940’s hospital and nuclear bunker is a sobering reminder of times past, and a caution for future generations.