'Memento Park' socialist sculpures

  
  - darkometer rating:  2 (but weirdness factor 8) -

A permanent open-air exhibition of more or less wacky socialist realism sculptures and statues from the communist era, all moved to a communal place on the edge of Budapest. There's also a small indoor exhibition. 

>More background info

>What there is to see

>Location

>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations

>Photos

  
More background info: After the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regimes in the former Eastern Bloc, the traces of that era in the form of the many statues and sculptures celebrating workers or socialist leaders were mostly removed and often simply destroyed.
 
Very few such statues remain in their original place in most Eastern European countries. However, the further east you go, the less this is true, esp. in Eastern Russia – but there are also pockets where the Soviet look, including the statues, has been retained, Transnistria being a prime example, parts of Kazakhstan too. Occasionally, the statues were not destroyed but removed from their original locations and transported elsewhere, esp. out of town (and out of general view).
 
In Hungary's capital Budapest, they followed a special approach: statues were not simply moved away out of view but were actually collected in one place and arranged to form a weird kind of fenced-in exhibition. So 'Memento Park' (formerly known as "Szoborpark" – simply 'sculpture park'), on the outskirts of the city, is something like an enclosure for the extinct species of socialist realism statues (and other art) that used to celebrate communism and its heroes.
 
Another, more (in)famous such park is Grutas Park in Lithuania, also (unofficially) known as "Stalin World". But Budapest's 'Memento Park'/Szoborpark in some way tops its Lithuanian competitor, at least as far as some of the sculptures themselves are concerned – and the dense concentration of them (the area is much smaller than Grutas Park). It's indeed a weird sight to see all manner of socialist heroism grouped together like this. And several of the statues are both truly monumental and extravagantly over the top.   
 
 
What there is to see: A collection of socialist realist statues and sculptures, "penned-in" in a fairly small area with a brick wall around it.
 
Star pieces include: a bizarre 'mass sculpture' of what looks like oversized tin soldiers with a lamp post sticking out in the middle of the group, as is a kind-of leader figure guiding the way; then there's the flag-waving giant in mid stride (and what a stride! – it would be impossible for a human being). You can sit on his giant foot that's stretched out forward.
 
There are plenty of less frenetically flag-waving statues, Soviet soldiers, workers and of course more or less conspicuous commie celebrities, including a classic Lenin in classic gesture of pointing the way forward with his outstretched arm. Or the odd couple of Marx and Engels, looking strangely (a bit fittingly) sad as they look out into the world from the main entrance wall – a world now dominated by bourgeois homes and capitalist building sites.
 
There's an absence of Stalins, but his feet are atop a reconstruction (or loose replica rather) of the pedestal that he once towered on in central Budapest – until in the 1956 revolution (see Budapest). He was torn down from the knees up, just leaving the bronze boots as a sorry remainder … the pedestal is really more of a modern interpretation than a true reconstruction, though.
 
Another reconstructed pair of those Stalin-boots can be found in the new indoor exhibition. This exhibition focuses on the 1956 revolution, crushed by the Soviet military, and on the events of 1989/90 which finally did lead to the end of communism in the former Eastern Bloc countries.
 
A film about the work of secret agents is shown in the museum's theatre. And there's also a shop selling various communism-themed items, including a DVD copy of that film, as well as joke books, T-shirts, Stalin-candles, etc., etc. (see also House of Terror)
 
 
Location: far out in the south of Budapest, in district 22 on the western (Buda) side of the Danube, on the corner of Balatoni ut and Szabadkai utca.
 
Google maps locator:[47.4265,18.9999]
  
 
Access and costs: out of the centre and tricky to get to individually, but easy on organized excursions that are worth the extra money.
 
Details: The comfortable way of getting to Memento Park is to opt for the direct transfer package: special coaches depart from a specifically marked stop on Deak ter (the central square in downtown Pest, easily reached from virtually everywhere within central Budapest); times: daily at 11 a.m. (in July and August also at 3 p.m.). Total price: 4500 HUF, or 3500 HUF for Budapest Card holders and for students.
 
A cheaper and more flexible alternative, e.g. if you think you want more time at the Park, is to get there on your own by public transport, which is, however, a bit of an odyssey (detailed instructions can be found on the szoborpark website).
 
The regular admission charge at Memento Park is 1500 HUF, or 1000 HUF for students. If you have a Budapest Card most public transport is free, and you get a 40% discount at the exhibition park.
 
Another option is to take the 3-3.5 hour "Hammer & Sickle Tour" offered by Absolute Tours for 6500 HUF, which includes a visit to Memento Park and also some other communist-era related sights/relics, plus their own small exhibition (on everyday life under communism).
 
 
Time required: The package with direct transport from the centre of Budapest takes roughly 2 hours 15 mins (the "Hammer and Sickle Tour" by Absolute Tours lasts up to three and a half hours). If you make your own way to the exhibition park, getting there is likely to take longer each way, but it gives you the option of staying longer at the Park than the regular tours' 90 mins (and anything less wouldn't really make the long trek out here worthwhile). However, that will hardly be necessary – I found an hour and a half perfectly sufficient.
 
 
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Budapest.
 
 
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Budapest. As the Park is a far-out suburb, there is absolutely nothing of tourist interest anywhere nearby.
 
 
 
  • Budapest Memento Park 01 - a commie pantheonBudapest Memento Park 01 - a commie pantheon
  • Budapest Memento Park 03 - comrades come rallyBudapest Memento Park 03 - comrades come rally
  • Budapest Memento Park 04 - yeahBudapest Memento Park 04 - yeah
  • Budapest Memento Park 05 - scrambleBudapest Memento Park 05 - scramble
  • Budapest Memento Park 06 - ensembleBudapest Memento Park 06 - ensemble
  • Budapest Memento Park 07 - sportyBudapest Memento Park 07 - sporty
  • Budapest Memento Park 08 - LeninBudapest Memento Park 08 - Lenin
  • Budapest Memento Park 09 - past gloryBudapest Memento Park 09 - past glory
  • Budapest Memento Park 10 - past heroBudapest Memento Park 10 - past hero
  • Budapest Memento Park 11 - discarded and wrapped upBudapest Memento Park 11 - discarded and wrapped up
  • Budapest Memento Park 12 - no more guidanceBudapest Memento Park 12 - no more guidance
  • Budapest Memento Park 13 - Lenin nimmt seinen HutBudapest Memento Park 13 - Lenin nimmt seinen Hut
  • Budapest Memento Park 14 - chunky Marx and EngelsBudapest Memento Park 14 - chunky Marx and Engels
  • Budapest Memento Park 15 - light at the end of the starBudapest Memento Park 15 - light at the end of the star
  • Budapest Memento ParkBudapest Memento Park
  • Budapest memento Park 02 - striding giantBudapest memento Park 02 - striding giant


   

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