May 312010

The next morning was once again raining, but since my schedule was starting to get tight I decided (after a few hours of work) that if I’d have any hope of visiting Slovenia and Croatia on the way to meeting Peder in Belgrade I’d just have to suck it up and do some sightseeing in the rain.

First stop: a long bus ride through the residential outskirts of the city, bound for Memento Park.

One of Budapest’s most popular tourist attractions, Memento Park is essentially a dumping ground for communist-era statues deemed “unsuitable” since the early 90’s. Personally I didn’t find it to be even remotely worth the long ride out – just a few not-particularly-spectacular statues and a short film about the Secret Police and their shameful antics. But perhaps the fact that I couldn’t feel my hands and kept slipping on the muddy ground had something to do with it; only a minute or two elapsed before I was certain that another laundry day would be required in the very near future… 😛

Ah well, at least the ride out provided an interesting change of scenery from the city center; if it hadn’t been so icy cold I probably would’ve taken the opportunity to follow the bus route back on foot. But alas, I’d packed only a single sweatshirt for this entire trip, so such a walk seemed outside the realm of possibility (if I wanted to avoid ending up bedridden with a fever). So I caught another bus back to town and then a tram across the river to the Terror House. This time I KNEW they’d be opened.

For as unspectacular as I found Memento Park, I definitely enjoyed Terror House. Now a public museum, the unsuspecting building at 60 Andrássy út has bared witness to two “shameful and tragic periods in Hungary’s 20th century history,” as the museum’s own pamphlet states.

“In 1944, during the gruesome domination of the Hungarian Arrow Cross party, this building, known as the ‘House of Loyalty,’ was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis. Then between 1945 and 1956, the notorious terror organizations, the AVO and its successor, the AVH, took up residence here. 60 Andrássy út has become the house of terror and dread. This museum commemorates the victims of terror, but it its also a memento, reminding us of the dreadful acts of terrorist dictatorships.”

The museum itself was essentially a series of rooms with printed informational leaflets about the various stages of Hungary’s history over the past century – from independence to Nazi rule to communist oppression. It really shed a lot of light on how absolutely horrifying it would’ve been to live in a Soviet-ruled country, governed and controlled by threats, torture, and murder – where even the right to freedom of movement was not something the average citizen enjoyed. Every time I moved onto a subsequent room I was anticipating, or perhaps hoping for, a pamphlet to say “But at last, we had our peace.” But it just didn’t come – not until almost the 90’s. For each and every time it seemed like the Hungarians had managed to revolt and overthrow one oppressive regime, this poor isolated country became the stage of yet another massive battle, revolution, siege, or war – being destroyed and ravaged time and time again.

For a bit of interesting reading, have a quick look into Hungary’s history. It really is quite terrifying.

  5 Responses to “Communist Mementos”

  1. I went to a similar communist statue churchyard in Moscow and quite enjoyed it. It was also next to an infamous statue of Peter the Great that now requires a 24h guard since the Moscowites think it’s so ugly they have tried to blow it up several times.

  2. Haha….Peder the Great visiting Peter the Great? Sounds like a good caption for a Facebook photo 😛

  3. He he, but that is way too far back in the past.

    Here’s a pic of the monument:

    This gargantuan monument was built by Georgian artist Tsereteli (really famous!) and supposedly was a gift to one of the Central American countries. At that point the main figure was Christopher Columbus. But when the statue arrived, the recipients thought it was so ugly they actually sent it back to Moscow. Here Tsereteli changed the head and suddenly it was Peter the Great looking out over the city from almost 100m up. Yes, it really is that big, just look here:

    And since the Moscowites didn’t like it either, they tried to blow it up with dynamite, in true Russian fashion.

    On a side note, I accidentally met Tsereteli a few days later…

  4. Nice comment Justin

  5. War, what is it good for? absolutely…

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