Call Me, Maybe?

I was in Budapest again back in December. I have already visited quite a few museums in Budapest, but I yet to visit the Hungarian capital’s Telephone Museum. Not from want of trying, mind you. Last time I was in the city, it took me so long to track it down that it closed for the day before I could visit. The time before that? I didn’t realise it was closed on a Monday.

Rookie mistake, I know.

The Telefonia Muzeum in Buapest
The Telefonia Muzeum in Buapest


This time, I made my list, checked it twice, and made sure I did my research. I still got lost. The thing no one tells you, is that the top of Buda Hill, right up where the castle is, is as much of a labyrinth as the maze of tunnels that permeates the hill. Even if you find the right road, the right building, you’re still not necessarily there. My advice: follow the signs.

Eventually, you’ll find it.

Now, the Telephone Museum is one of those museums that has been recommended to me time and again, so I was eager to check it out. Telephones provide such a rich history to draw on; technological, social, design, just think about how much a part of our lives our phones are – even before they became the mini-computers that live in our pockets.

The telephone of King Charles (Karoly) IV, King of Hungary
The telephone of King Charles (Karoly) IV, King of Hungary

One of the key pieces in the museum is the telephone of King Charles IV of Hungary (other titles include: Emperor of Austria, King of Croatia, King of Bohemia and Blessed Charles of Austria). Charles was the last King of Hungary, but the first to have a telephone.

Life is all a bit swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?

Now, this phone is really quite something. Go on, take a look at it. Notice anything odd? Well, odd by more modern standards… There’s no way to dial! Of course at this point, there aren’t that many telephones around.. but still…

It’s hard to think of a time when basic telephonic communication was the massively revolutionary wave of the future. It’s harder to think of a time when an appropriate way to respond to this would be to create a commemorative figurine.

A figurine celebrating the arrival of the telephone network.
A figurine celebrating the arrival of the telephone network.

This figurine features female figures from the far-flung reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Budapest’s links to the Middle East. The angel in the middle, represents the phone line. As ‘angel’ translates as ‘messenger’ (if I recall my years of RE correctly) the winged figure makes a lot of metaphorical sense here.

The final room of the museum is more lighthearted than the rest. In there, we have two examples of my favourite things: museum mannequins

They are both waiting by their telephones. As the labels were mostly in Hungarian, I couldn’t tell what they were waiting for. I chose to come up with my own story; they are lovers, they have recently had a huge row and are waiting for the other one to call an apologise, because *naturally* it is all their fault.

The man, waiting by the public telephone, demonstrates that he doesn’t really understand how telephones work, which makes me think that whatever caused the row was probably his doing. His face is downcast, showing his remorse over what he has done. The woman is using her downtime to catch up on public affairs. She can do better.

The joy of a museum mannequin.

The Telephone Museum? Most certainly worth the hassle of tracking down.

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