So what do you do with the monuments after the revolution? In most cases, these most visible reminders of the past are ceremoniously destroyed, disposed of, and forgotten. But not in Memento Park. Located just outside Budapest, this park preserves the past in a truly unique collection of statues from the communist era.
The monuments assembled from across the city are reminders of the socialist past. You will walk among statues of Lenin and a variety of communist era leaders. There are monuments of heroes, soldiers of the red army, depictions of Hungarian-Soviet friendship, and of course, statues dedicated to the workers. This is not a celebration of communism. The statues collected here tell the story of the fall of communism.
I watched, bemused as my children scrambled up for a closer view of Lenin’s head. I found myself thinking back to a time when this man was still so revered that it would be hard to imagine children gleefully referring to him as “Lemon” as they got closer to peek inside his nose. We walked around, taking pictures with the giant statues for most of the morning. The children soon lost interest in long-winded talks about long dead communists and spent the rest of our time there chasing lizards. The lizards and “Lemon’s” head were their favorites, but they also enjoyed mimicking the poses of the frozen giants surrounding them.
I spent the morning engrossed in observing the socialist realism. In college I had studied Central and Eastern European history. Being surrounded by these enormous reminders of that bygone era was spellbinding. The sheer size of the statues shows you your place in society. The lack of identifying features reminds you that the individual is of no importance here.
As someone who grew up on the other side of the iron curtain, my experience in this park, standing among these colossal reminders of the past is vastly different from that of someone who remembers when these statues filled the streets of Budapest. It was a moving experience nonetheless. For me, it was a stunning visual representation of the end of the communist era, the fall of giants, if you will.
“The words of architect Ákos Eleőd, the conceptual designer of Memento Park serve as its motto: “This Park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy. After all, only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship. Or about democracy, come to that! Or about anything!”” From the Memento Park website.
If you have time in your travels through Budapest to visit, I would highly recommend it. Children will enjoy “calling” former communist leaders from a telephone booth at the entrance. The phone booth plays the speeches of different leaders, and my kids took the time to dial each of them. They will also enjoy climbing through the East German Trabant Car, parked near the entrance to the park. My husband and I truly appreciated the historical significance of the space.
Admission is 1500 HUF ( approximately 7USD or 5 Euro). The park is open daily from 10 am until sunset. It was an easy drive from the city center, but there are plenty of public transportation options to get you to the park.