Memento Park, Budapest

By Wednesday morning we had completed all of our tours so we grabbed a bus (and a tram, and a subway, another tram and another bus) and headed off to the one of my “must sees”, Memento Park, about six miles outside of town.

In 1989, when the Soviet empire crumbled and the various eastern European client states were finally free to shake off the communist yoke, they reacted like most folks seem to do whenever this kind of history unfolds. The got a bunch of hammers and hacksaws and began attacking all the “Soviet Realism” propaganda statues that had been erected all over Hungary.

Possibly remembering the 1956 fate* of a towering, 8 meter Joseph Stalin statue in Heroes’ Square (a gift of the grateful Hungarian people on his 1951 birthday), cooler heads tried to safeguard as much of this art as possible, collecting it for future group display in what became Memento Park.

*For those unfamiliar with the Stalin statue’s fate during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, I cribbed these from the web:

Now to the park.

The entrance to the park is an impressive gate structure, built to be monumental from the outside but obviously a hollow facade from inside. This was intended by the park’s designer to symbolize the whole communist era.

Lenin was here in several poses. This was obviously not intended to portray him as a well dressed, if legless, beggar but that is the only interpretation that comes to my mind.

Betty doing tourist shtick. We will not apologize for our touristy-ness.

A symbolic handshake between the Soviet Commissar and the previously downtrodden Hungarian prole he liberated.

Everybody’s favorite pose: “Lenin hails a cab”.

Liberated Hungarian women? Doves of peace? Scaring away the pigeons with a picnic blanket?

Possibly a commemoration of the 1972 USSR Olympic basketball victory or maybe AllState Insurance.

Monument to the socialist partisans who fought for the republic against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War.

Check the thighs on these guys. I bet they could march for days!

This was supposed to be someone heroically supporting the commies against the 1956 rebels. The guide calls it “Bath worker chasing customer who forgot his towel”.

There was lots of this stuff in the park but one character was conspicuously absent.

There were no surviving statues of Stalin. Evidently they were devoured by the mobs before they could be saved.

Poor hated Uncle Joe is only remembered with this recreation of all that was left after the 1956 rebels had their way with his statue.
He was famously sawed off at the boot tops. After the revolt failed, the authorities removed what was left and never felt compelled to replace him on his pedestal.

Probably my favorite display, East Germany’s answer to the VW, the two stroke Trabant. The only auto even remotely available to the masses, the “Trabi” was a four cylinder, two stroke smoke machine that developed 26 HP and maxed out at 70MPH. The body panels were made of Duraplast (recycled industrial waste) and it got 34MPG. After putting half the purchase price down, you had to wait 6 to 8 years for delivery. And often they were finally delivered missing key components. Like doors.

Not big on legroom or anything else.
Built from 1958 to 1990, there were once thousands of these cars in eastern Europe.
I saw maybe two parked and one actually driving.

Having a Trabi on display here was in keeping with how many Hungarians treat the Soviet era. With mockery and disdain, old military uniforms, flags and insignia are marketed as tourist kitsch.
Hard to believe it was only 23 years ago when this was part of the Soviet bloc.

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