on October 16, 2009
What is a country to do with the symbols of a hated totalitarian regime when the oppressors are overthrown? Usually, it is not long before the statues and memorials that honour the regime are overturned and destroyed amid scenes of joyous celebration. Conversely, no matter how much a society wants to forget reminders of a horrible past, the obliteration of historic truths does not have a place in a modern democracy. This was the dilemma that Hungary faced when Soviet hegemony fell apart in the year of 1989.Budapest resolved this issue by establishing a statue park in the southwest of the city.The park opened in 1993 with 41 works that had previously occupied prominent positions in the city. A niche at one side of a monumental psuedo-classical red-brick entrance to the park houses a statue of Lenin; on the other side is a Cubist style carving of Marx and Engels. Revolutionary music blares out of a ticket office from early morning until dusk. From the same office you can also buy drinks with such names as Molotov cocktails and kitsch items such as Marx T-shirts and Che Guevara socks, to cans of 'the last breath of socialism.'Huge statues of pre- World war II Hungarian communists and assorted Soviet heroes are arranged in six groups. A fierce, flag waving soldier based on a call-to-arms poster issued by the communist government in 1919 typifies the chunky totalitarian style favoured by Soviet art lovers. The statue was moved from its former position at the foot of the Liberation monument on Gellerthegy. Less imposing but quite evocative is the monument depicting the 1919 Hungarian revolution leader Bela Kun urging a crowd of soldiers and workers on towards the dictatorship of the proletariat. Given the nature of Communist ideology, it's not surprising that some statues commemorate groups, such as Spanish Civil war martyrs, rather than individuals. The statue park was always on my list of things I should see in Budapest but I was really disappointed with the whole affair. I enjoyed the short journey out of the city by bus but the fact that the park is just plonked in the middle of nowhere has no appeal whatsoever. It is quite exciting to see the heads of Lenin and Marx rising above the field from the coach window as you approach the park. Howevver, it seems to me that the authorities have just picked up the statues of old and deposited them in a dusty field with no thought or organisation. There is very little information regarding the statues and once you have walked around and taken a few photographs there is very little else to do except go to the toilet which are very basic but clean, or buy some postcards or a piece of kitsch. It would make economic sense to open a small cafe or at least a rest room where videos of these turbulent times could be shown so people could understand why the statues are detested by the people of Budapest. The park is dusty and very flat with no protection at all so I can imagine in autumn and winter it will be very cold and windy walking around. The road leading away from the park leads on to a main road which is a bit hectic. People waiting for the bus sat on a the bank of the road as there was no specific bus stop or shelter. If you are a quick viewer and find you have finished the tour of the park before the bus back to Budapest is due I suggest you turn left as you come out of the park and walk along the main road where you will come to a small village shop. Here you can buy soft drinks and other foodstuffs. They don't sell pre-packed sandwiches but if you buy a bread roll the assistant will make you a cheese or ham sandwich. To visit the Statue Park you can catch a non-stop bus that leaves daily from Deak ter (Mar - Jun, Sep-Oct - 11am and 3pm).July - August - 10am, 11 am, 3pm, 4pm; November -Feb, 11 am.Ticket price includes admission and return trip (allow 1 hour and 45 minutes in total). Alternatively, you can catch a No 7 red bus at Ferenciek ter to the Etele ter terminus and then go to stands 7 or 8 and catch a No 7 yellow bus towards Diosd -Erd.
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