All The Communist Kitsch: Memento Park, Budapest
Say you’re a country that’s been hanging out behind an iron curtain. Suddenly, you’ve gone post-Communist, and yet these epic commie monuments are still hanging around. What to do?
Dump ‘em in a park and charge admission. Sort of a Communist playground.
When Hungary shed its decades of Communism in 1989, the newly democratic country was uncomfortable with all the bombastic Communist monuments lingering around Budapest. Instead of melting them down for scrap metal (which I imagine was tempting), the statutes were uprooted and dropped in a field on the outskirts of the city. Now it’s a strange little theme park of commie kitsch, offering a glimpse to the past and some excellent photo ops for anyone who ventures out there.
Even though that commie kitsch is completely my jam, I never came here the first two times I visited Budapest.
This time, however, I had a few days to kill after a work trip and I was staying with Nate from Yomadic, another fan of Brutalism, Soviet Realism, and all that fabulous ugliness.
So off we set, taking the metro (the new 4 line) to its terminus, a vaguely industrial residential area with little character. We paused for lunch, and with stomachs full of flaky Hungarian cabbage pastries, we caught the 150 bus to Memento Park.
It was a cold and muddy day and no other visitors had bothered to make the trek. After living for two years in Istanbul, long distances in these small Central European cities seem insignificant, but the distance has always been my main deterrent on past trips– it’s not that far, really. Just far enough to feel removed from the buzzing city, dropped into this park full of relics.
Memento Park is intended as an outdoor museum, a place to learn about Communism in Hungary and its visual legacy. We mostly spent our time there dashing around and gleefully snapping photographs; gushing over the Cold War relics like they were the Mona Lisa. At least one sculpture is actually a recreation—Stalin’s Boots, which symbolizes the massive Stalin statue that was removed during the thwarted Hungarian revolution 1956—but most are the real, historic thing, transplanted to the city outskirts.
The park is not so big, and perhaps uninteresting if bombastic statues of workers and Hungarian socialist army troops don’t do it for you. There’s nothing else to see around the park, unless you count the giant concrete water tank that looks like a UFO. (I do.)
There’s not much to DO there, except take pictures of intimidatingly large statues and pretend to drive an ancient and unmoving Trabant. But for me, there’s really no better way to spend a frigid winter day in Budapest. Bring on that Iron Curtain kitsch, please.
How to get to Memento Park: Take the #4 Metro line to its last stop, Kelenföld vasútállomás. From there, catch the 150 bus to the park. We just asked the driver to tell us when we were at the correct stop, which he very kindly did. Entrance is 1,500 HUF, or $5.30.