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Memento park – Icons of Budapest’s communist past

What do you do with all your iconic communist statues when they’re no longer welcome in the squares and parks of central Budapest? At Memento Park they’ve found a great solution – banish them to the outskirts of the city and make them into a prime tourist attraction.

At Memento park outside Budapest, Hungary

At Memento park outside Budapest, Hungary

We visited Memento Park after our first day in Budapest on the way to Lake Balaton – there is a bus that goes there from Deák Square once a day but it’s much easier to reach by car. After the fall of communism in Hungary in 1990, the city council agreed that the statues of the communist era ahould be moved to a statue park and a design competition was held that was won by a young architect, Ákos Eleőd. His design encapsulated a philosophical message about the Communist era in an imposing brick facade with little substance behind it and ending in a wall, symbolising a road that leads to nowhere.

At   Memento Park near Budapest

At Memento Park near Budapest

We decided to take an English guided tour which was well worth it to hear all the little stories behind each statue – it’s easy to forget that young Hungarians now in their 20s grew up under communism and were ‘little drummers’ and ‘pioneers’ as school children, enjoying summer camps and groups activities while soaking up the communist ideaology. The flag carrying Soviet soldier once stood on Gellert Hill on the Buda side, overlooking the whole city, guarding the female figure with a palm branch that stood above it, symbolising Hungarian liberty, which obviously could not do without her Soviet protector. In 1990 the Soviet soldier and the communist star above him were removed and the guide joked that the girl was quite pleased to get rid of her overprotective boyfriend.

At   Memento Park near Budapest

At Memento Park near Budapest

Our guide pointed out the symbolism of other statues such as the memorial of Hungarian-Soviet friendship, where the sculptor managed to encapsulate the inequal relationship between the two parties – the military Russian figure more imposing and reserved, extending only one hand, while the civilian dressed Hungarian figure is offering two hands in a more genuine hope of friendship. At the entrance you’ll find the statue of Engels standing behind his mentor, Marx and in the park the statue of Lenin, with hand outstetched that once stood at the entrace to a factory, exhorting the workers to do their best. The sculpure of hands are containing the fragile ball of communism, offering it to everyone and the red communist star that was once found everywhere is now only seen in the flower bed at the centre of the park.

At   Memento Park near Budapest

At Memento Park near Budapest

At   Memento Park near Budapest

At Memento Park near Budapest

At the entrance to the park there were some entertaining exhibits in a phone box where you could get a ‘hot line’ to listen to the voices of various communist leaders and an old Trabant car that you could pose by to have your photo taken, for nostalgia value. The only leader that has been banished completely is Stalin who was so reviled after his death that his enormous statue was pulled down, leaving only his boots that now sit on top of the plinth opposite the entrance to the park. We also sat and watched an extremely spooky communist training film for secret agents, showing you how to covertly film suspects or follow them unobserved. I’ll be highly suspicious of people who place their large bag or briefcase on a cafe table near me in future. in case it contains a hidden camera.

If you’d like to see more of the statues at Memento park, do take a look at the slide show below.

I’d highly recommend a visit to Memento path and our children really enjoyed it too, especially hearing on the guided tour about the history of communism that stood behind the statues, and watching the secret agent film. May be they’d have rather enjoyed being Pioneers and Little Drummers too.

The entrance cost was 1000 HUF (aprox £3, €3.50, $4.50) per adult and the guided tour was 1200 HUF  per person but look out for discount vouchers in your hotel or you can also use the Budapest card for a 30% discount.

While visiting Budapest we stayed at Art’Otel Budapest

Compare prices and book Art’Otel Budapest with Hotels Combined

More Budapest Articles to enjoy

Relaxed Indian style at Mandragora Boutique Hostel, Budapest
Sour cherry soup at Salföld in Hungary
A Postcard from Budapest

 

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heatheronhertravels' Budapest - Memento Park photoset heatheronhertravels’ Budapest – Memento Park photoset


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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Anil
    September 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Does it cost anything to get into the park?
    Anil´s last blog post ..Kiel City Hall- Germany

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    September 9, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    @Anil – good point, I’ve just added the costs in the article – around €3.50 or $4.50 per person – we found that Hungary was very reasonably priced compared to other parts of Europe.

  • Reply
    Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences
    September 10, 2010 at 11:42 am

    This has always been my top tip for Budapest. LOVED this park. It’s a little weird to get to, and yes, it’s just a dusty lot with some statues, but wow does it ever bring Hungary’s vivid past to life.
    Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences´s last blog post ..Backpacking with Simplicity

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    September 10, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    @Andy – yes, I remember seeing your article on what to see in Budapest and making a mental note of the Statue park – but I don’t think you could call it a dusty lot! You clearly weren’t buying into the hidden message that the guide explained to us of the facade with not much behind it, the park that ended up with a wall on the road to no-where and the figure of 8s that always brought you back to where you began, never taking you onwards – all of it obviously representing Communism.

  • Reply
    Review of Art'otel, Budapest in Hungary | Heather on her travels
    October 24, 2010 at 12:54 am

    […] Indian style at Mandragora Boutique Hostel, Budapest Memento park – Icons of Budapest’s communist past Sour cherry soup at Salföld in […]

  • Reply
    Visit the Hévíz thermal lake in Hungary | Heather on her travels
    December 6, 2010 at 11:15 am

    […] Memento park – Icons of Budapest’s communist past Sour cherry soup at Salföld in Hungary Relaxed Indian style at Mandragora Boutique Hostel, Budapest […]

  • Reply
    Where Heather travelled in 2010 | Heather on her travels
    January 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

    […] a very popular holiday destination for Hungarians and Germans. In Budapest we drove out to Memento park to see enormous statues that had been preserved from Budapest’s communist era, climbed up to […]

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    Review - Top 10 Budapest Eyewitness Guide from Dorling Kindersley | Heather on her travels
    January 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    […] Memento Park, situated on the outskirts of the city contains statues and icons from Hungary’s Communist past, and is recommended in the guide as one of the Top 10 highlights of Budapest. I’d agree with that, as we really enjoyed our visit in August, although I suspect that the place might be a bit bleak in winter. […]

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    15 Hungary holiday - Budapest and Lake Balaton - podcast | Heather on her travels
    March 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    […] also enjoyed the Palatine Baths on Margaret Island, admired  the statues of the communist era at Memento park and spent our last day exploring the castle district and the Hungarian festival of folk arts that […]

  • Reply
    Lance
    November 3, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Great post. We did a communism tour in Budapest, but it focused on the actual events (not the artifacts), so we never made it out to Momento Park. I guess this is another reason to get back to Budapest! I love the statue of the man running.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      November 3, 2014 at 9:02 am

      @Lance I’d highly recommend Memento park if you go back although best when the weathers warm

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