Have you ever stopped and really thought about what it’s like to be completely blind? This is something that 10% of those who living with vision loss actually experience. The Invisible Exhibition in Budapest allows you to personally experience what life is like as a blind person.
As a participant in the Invisible Exhibition, you have your own personal guide who takes you through what they refer to as a “unique interactive journey to an invisible world, where in total darkness you find your way only by touch, sounds and scent.”
As soon as I read about the exhibition on Spotted by Locals, I knew immediately that this would be high on my list of things to do in Budapest. It wasn’t only an opportunity to do something that was weird and offbeat but a chance to take part in something truly unique and beautiful. Through this experience, I’d gain insight and perspective as to what it’s like to be blind, better understand the challenges they face and more fully appreciate their extraordinary way of life.
Your experience begins with an introduction to your personal guide, who is actually a blind or near-blind person.
After meeting, they showcase different devices that help them in their day-to-day lives. I learned how to type my name on a Braille typewriter, had my weight embarrassingly announced after stepping on a set of scales and briefly played chess and dominoes with special game pieces. It was amazing to see how simple concepts like Braille and more advanced technology provides assistance to the blind. For example, my guide said she used to scan her university text books using a special software that would recite the text aloud to her.
Then it was time for the highlight of the experience. Asking me to give her my “blind trust“, my guide led me into the dark and patiently coached me as we made our way through seven different furnished rooms.
In one of the rooms, you stand in front of a building entrance where you must find and ring a doorbell in order to open a door. You then walk up a set of stairs, find the entry to a flat that you enter and explore by walking through the kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom. In another room, you journey “outside” against the loud sounds of traffic and attempt to navigate your way along a busy street.
Each room presented new challenges and daunting tasks. Even with my guide’s patient coaching, I moved hesitantly and slowly. I fumbled about bumping into things, tripping on an area rug when I walked from the kitchen into the living room. I started sweating and became anxious as she led me along the street even though I knew in reality I was not actually outdoors.
My guide also took time to explain different things, advising me to offer help to a blind person should I see someone on a street or in a bus station. She showed me how to properly escort someone by holding on to their arm and advise them of things that are on their path such as a step or a dip in the street.
It concludes when you sit down together in a cafe area where you can choose to have a drink or light snack and take the time to further discuss your experience and ask different questions. I learned that my lovely and kind Hungarian guide was well educated and travelled, spoke several languages, and worked 2-3 different jobs. We spoke about Germany and how she attended school there for sometime. She explained to me that through practice and training, most people living with vision loss lead fully independent lives.
It was moving experience from which I walked away truly humbled. Not only this, I walked away better educated and more informed. For these reasons, I highly recommend visiting The Invisible Exhibition while you’re in Budapest.
Tips – Admission for adults runs at about 1500 forints or 5 euros, with reduced rates for students and groups. Prices increase slightly on weekends and public holidays. Payment for tickets can be made in cash only.
Blind people and their immediate family can visit the exhibition for free.
Tours in other languages such as English or German can be arranged, just call or email in advance. The experience is best suited for children over 8 years of age.
Ladies, leave the high heels at home and put on a pair of comfortable shoes. Remember you’ll be walking through complete darkness for an hour and will most be likely stumbling about and bumping into walls from time-to-time.
For the more adventurous, they offer Invisible Dinners (much like Dinner in the Dark experiences held in Berlin) on Friday nights and you can even arrange to have a massage done in the dark!
The Invisible Exhibit
Kis Rókus utca 16 1024 Budapest, Hungary
If you’re looking for other weird and offbeat things to do in Budapest (and you also happen to be a sci-fi geek like me), why not take part in an interactive theatrical science fiction performance at the Area 51 project.
And if you’re a first timer to the city, be sure to read my Weekend Guide to Budapest.