Historians still argue what to call the events that were triggered by a peaceful solidarity rally of Hungarian students with the Polish people on October 23rd, 1956: a rebellion, revolt, uprising, popular uprising, revolution, counter-revolution, or War of Independence.
The best definition comes from Sándor Márai’s poem, Angel from heaven,
written for the Christmas of 1956: “A nation said: Enough!”
The events of 1956 shook not only the communist world, but had lasting effects on world politics. The brief period of breathing “freedom at last” gave courage and strength to Hungarians to survive the rest of foreign tyranny until it finally collapsed in 1989.
During our private tour we will visit five iconic places connected to the fast-evolving events, and reconstruct those days from a personal perspective.
- Reliving the events of October 23rd by visiting sites of the most important events
- Learning about the history of the Revolution through eyewitness accounts
- Studying documents and relics connected to the uprising
- Gaining a deeper understanding of the real nature of communism and tyrannical regimes, not only in Hungary but throughout the Eastern Bloc
- Evaluating the legacy and the afterlife of the Revolution
- A drink at Budapest’s classic Bambi café, and a final drink at the Corvin Cinema, the last holdout of the Revolution. Guests are welcome to ask personal questions.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
Participants meet our expert historian guide at Bem tér, on the Buda side, at the Jozef Bem statue, or by request we can pick you up at your hotel. This place was the gathering point of the student march on October 23rd, where the celebration of solidarity led to events escalating into a new independence movement. Here we’ll have a coffee at the Bambi Presszó café, considered by many as the last city stronghold of communistic catering culture.
From Bem tér we will proceed to Kossuth tér, a central place of major events of the 1956 Revolution – including the massacre on October 25th – and also pay tribute to Imre Nagy, the martyr Prime Minister, by his statue on Vértanúk tere.
Our next destination is the Magyar Radio building on Bródy Sándor utca, where violence erupted in the late evening of October 23rd and street fights started. We’ll also visit the nearby National Museum, where Sándor Petőfi recited his famous poem of “Shall we be slaves or free?” on March 15th, 1848. It gives us a good opportunity to draw parallels between the two revolutions, and see how the ’56-ers modeled their uprising on the 1848 one.
We will finish our tour at Corvin köz, the major resistance center, where youngsters fought with Molotov cocktails against invading Russian tanks. A final drink will follow with more questions and informal talk.
Included: handouts, a communism-related souvenir, two free drinks, and a light snack.
Not included: other drinks or food, public transportation tickets or pass. To maintain the time-frame, it’s advisable to use public transport. Three tickets are needed per person.
The 1956 Revolution Memorial Tour
I’ve been on several Fungarian tours but I have to say that the 1956 Revolution Memorial Tour eclipsed them all. For some reason, I’m a sucker for Hungarian history and on this tour you really get under the skin of Budapest 60 years ago. I had tears in my eyes on several occasions.
The tour starts at Bem Tér, a place I would probably never have found on my own. Here the students gathered in what became the start of the revolution. After this, we went for a refreshment at Bambi – and this was the only occasion where the guide’s words didn’t ring true. We were told that the waiters at this old communist hang out are completely stone-faced but I’m pretty sure I saw a hint of a smile on one of the ladies working there… 🙂
From here we moved on to the Parliament square. Today it’s so peaceful and beautiful so it’s hard to believe that snipers hiding on the rooftops would suddenly open fire on their own countrymen in the square below them, killing women, men and children on behalf of a rotten regime. It’s such a sad moment in European history and one of the biggest massacres after WW2. See if you can get the time to go down into the underground memorial.
The Magyar Radio Building is another venue that I probably wouldn’t have found on my won. This place also played a significant role during the revolution. Here the students and other protesters wanted their demands read aloud on the air. Obviously, they were f***ed over. From this you go to the National Museum which is also worthwhile. The Hungarian history of revolutions was put into perspective here.
Finally, we arrived at Corvin Köz which is the most heartbreaking part of the tour. This was the last stronghold (along with Csepel) of the revolutionaries, long after the Western regimes had decided to turn their back on the Hungarians and focus on their own investments at the Suez Canal. The statue of the child soldier tells its own sad story. These kids did all they could to help and, after the revolution, the communists saw no problem in executing these children.
If you only do one guided tour while in Budapest, do this one.