Thursday, March 23, 2006

While baths, cafes, palaces, and churches appendage any European city that prides itself in luring foreign-currency-wielding-tourists-who-spend-most-their-trip-mentally-miscalculating-the-exchange-rate, our recent trip to Prague revealed an additionally bizarre limb extending from our tour of Euroquadrepeds: the monument to a socialist past that is Statue Park.

Sure, there's a tendency to topple any physical monument symbolic of past tyranny (note the yearly event at American universities). And despite this habit, angry mobs do fatigue and even the most revolutionary are a little weirded out by the abstract art that could replace stone figures in public squares. So since you can't break 'em all, Hungarian politicians and entrepreneur's came to a mutual, yet controversial, conclusion: gather all the stone leftovers from Hungary's membership in the Eastern bloc and let them stand together in some field 15 minutes outside the capital city.

Thus D and I found ourselves spending a Hungarian Sunday navigating a labyrinth of public transportation to visit this unique attraction. This involved leaving the city's thriving tourist district and venturing into some of the bleaker areas to find the bus that would take us directly to the park's gate. Advertised as leaving every 15 minutes, schedules do change because of road construction, and we were required to wait 90 minutes for a ride that wound through, basically, the industrial and rural ruins that surround Budapest (we did, I should add, pass the Curling Club of Greater Budapest on the way).

Upon arriving at Statue Park, our stares simultaneously darted back and forth between the handful of monuments corralled into an area half the size of a football field and the bus schedule proclaiming the next ride as arriving in either 10 minutes or 2 hours. Without hesitating in the cold Hungarian air, we decided to take the statues in at full speed to avoid standing around because, well, there wasn't even a ration stand in the near vicinity and it's not like these things perform tricks (at least in the winter). Here are two photographs from our collective red streak through the park:

D and Captain Steinmetz

Center: Liberation Monument complete with Tourist Action Scene. Right: Marx and Engels. Left: We're about to miss our bus!

All in all, Statue Park is an interesting place and one you may want to visit if you journey to Budapest. In our brief time there, we saw both fans of socialism and the historically conscious intermingling, reading guidebooks, and browsing through the small gift shop containing work song CDs, t-shirts, and watches. And yes yes, we may chuckle about our morning in a place that historicizes a difficult period in the 20th Century, but it's only because the area is wrought with the dramatic. From the massive front gate that never opens (you have to sneak around the side) to the self-guided tour that stops at a dead-end, you have to wonder about a museum that creates so many symbolic gestures in a move to subvert the past symbolism of socialist rule. The sheer size (in mass) of their collection is impressive, but the intended effect didn't really ring through.

If you go, the bus ride out of Budapest-proper may be interesting enough. Summer may also provide a better venue. Motivated by the weather to linger longer, visitor's should be able to view the grey statues in green surroundings all the while sipping a bottle of Leninade.


Blogger d said...

J! and I have actually enjoyed the cool, citrusy goodness of Leninade--before we ever even heard of Statue Park. You can get it (for those of you who live in Davis) at the Nugget.

2:13 PM

Blogger Arr! said...

Sounds like you give the statue park good marx overall.

5:59 AM

Blogger d said...

arrr-gh. that was a terrible pun.

9:41 AM


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