Outlasted all others
In just one large room the exhibition provides a whistle stop tour in English of Hungarian history, since the Carpathian Basin exhibition is naturally primarily about the people that managed and still manages to hold its own in this sought-after and permanently contested area in Central and Eastern Europe for far longer than any other peoples. The “also-rans”, Romans, Huns, Slavs, Mongolians and many others, and their attempts to gain a foothold in the region are presented only on the margins of the exhibition. “Surviving amidst neighbouring peoples that are not positively disposed towards them is one of the strengths of the Magyars,” says Rothhaar with reference to one of the leitmotifs of Hungarian history.
The exhibition, however, is not just about the fight for survival, but also about achievements in the fields of science and sport. Naturally visitors will find a list of the surprisingly numerous Nobel prize winners for such a small people, as well as Hungarian inventors (before now visitors may only have been familiar with the name of Rubik cube inventor Ernõ Rubik). Nor does Rothhaar’s exhibition skip the many Hungarians who have put Hungary’s name on the map in the world of film. These include the classic Dracula actor Bela Lugosi (originally Béla Blaskó) and the actress Marika Rökk, who is best known in the German-speaking world. A display board is also dedicated to the five-time Olympic winner and later Tarzan actor Johnny (originally János) Weissmüller.
The show is impressive, not only with regard to Hungary’s achievements, but also the fact that Rothhaar managed to put the exhibition together with his family and a few other helpers in just four months after acquiring the right to rent the premises that formerly housed a carpet shop. That period included not only development of the concept, but also its visual implementation and acquiring the exhibits. It is not his first museum, though. In 1991 he established the chocolate museum Schokoland Alprose in Lugano, Switzerland. It is still in operation today.
Giving something back
The exhibition stands out for the clarity with which the abundance of topics is reduced to a small space. The former Stollwerck manager certainly does not regard the entirely privately financed museum as a financial goldmine: “After just over 20 happy years in Hungary, I regard the museum as a gift to my host country”. He makes no bones about his intention of boosting Hungary’s reputation abroad. “I would like to contribute to guests to the museum taking home a positive image of Hungary with them,” Rothhaar told The Budapest Times.
Carpathian Basin: 2000 Years of History
District V, at Március 15. tér and Petõfi tér
Open daily from 10am to 10pm.