Ancient Hungary - "The Great Synagogue"

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by actonsteve on March 11, 2001

It is a miracle that this place has survived. It was located two streets away from the Gestapo headquarters in the second world war, as well as escaping the depredations of the communists. And is without doubt the most important synagogue in Eastern Europe, and may be the largest in the world. To truly understand what Budapest has gone through in the twentieth century - a visit here is a must.

It is easily reachable from the eastern end of the shopper street of Vaci Utca. To the right leads down to the Danube and the Elisabet bridge, to the left will take you across Lajos Kossuth Utca and the synagogue. It's outside appearance is striking with ornate red brick and a faintly oriental dome.

Before you enter there will be stringent security checks. When we were there a young man asked very searching questions and if he wasn't happy with the answers denied access. This is quite understandable as ROUGH GUIDE notes there have been firebomb attacks in the past. A small skullcap is given to visitors and must be worn upon entering the synagogue.

The interior is colossal with bubble lighting on the ceiling and rows and rows of pews. Above the altar is a vast dome encased in blue tiles which gives in an eastern feel. That was what so memorable about Budapest, it was Europe, but once in a while a wisp of the east could be detected.

Next door was a museum with priceless judaica down the ages on display. There was also a room devoted to the Holocaust. It was quite blatant in naming the guilty partners and there was a picture of Fascist Admiral Horthy standing next to Hitler and some harrowing pictures of the concentration camps. The synagogue stands on the old jewish ghetto and outside is a garden that was built over mass graves from 1944-45.

I would recommend this synagogue to anyone who is interested in Eastern Europe. And being much less crowded then similar attractions in Prague, it is well worth a visit.

Great Synagogue
Dohany utca, 2-8
Budapest, Hungary, 1074
+36 1 342 1335

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