03 July 2011

Fallen Idols

On our way out of Budapest we stopped at a curious place. Szobor park, or "memento park," is a wasteland of rescued statues off a desolate road in the borderland between urban outskirts and fields. Collected here are some forty-five relics from communist-era Hungary, monuments to a time that has largely been swept aside and left behind.
The statues of Stalin and Lenin that once stood over countless squares and boulevards have been cleared away from most of eastern Europe, replaced with new figures or with advertising billboards. They were generally melted down or just discarded, but some of them were saved and relocated. It's difficult to tell, at Szobor park, if the statues have been saved as curiosities or because the owners really cared about them.
The monuments are larger than they seem, using visual tricks to play with perspective. This running man, titled "Republic of Councils," is one of the larger pieces - the back of the brick stand is about five feet tall, to give you some idea of the size of him.
The replica of Stalin's grandstand, once located in central Budapest, is interesting because of its lack of a figure - only the statue's boots were left in place when the original monument was torn down in 1956. The enormity of the thing is actually clearer, I think, without the rest of Stalin attached.
In a small exhibition hall, a life size reproduction of the boots stand almost humorously in a corner. The original statue was twenty-six feet tall, and its toppling was one of the most remembered moments of that early revolution.
It's possible, at the park's store, to buy t-shirts and knick-knacks that are (half-jokingly) emblazoned with communist images and slogans. Entrance to the park costs 1,500 huf per adult, which is maybe a little expensive for a place like this - very capitalist.

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