We somehow failed to notice that most of the city was closed for a national holiday (anniversary of the 1956 uprising against the Communists) for most of the day. We decided to visit Memento Park, which is a giant museum on the outskirts of town, filled with Communist-era statues. After lots of transport hassles (the Lonely Planet guidance is completely confused) and receiving really useful help from the dodgiest looking tout type, we made it to the park.
It has a decent collection of statues, mostly honouring the workers, or Russian-Hungarian “friendship”, or Russian soldiers “liberating” Hungary. Lesser-known Hungarian Communists are also honoured, as well as the obvious Lenin and Stalin. Most impressive is the pair of Stalin’s boots, all that remains of his statue that was destroyed on 23 October.
The museum also shows an interesting film, ‘Life of an Agent’, which is a documentary about the Hungarian secret police, much of which is taken from training films made for the police. It’s both fascinating and darkly humourous…the film “uses much screen time to draw striking aesthetic, stylistic and thematic parallels between those works and the Z-grade, cliché-ridden fictional thrillers of the day, thus demonstrating how the Hungarian government modeled its propaganda on the conventions of popular cinema.” (NY Times). It’s on Youtube, go watch.
We head back into town – the trams crowded with people going to rallies either for or against the government. There seems to be a real cult of personality building around the PM – I realise that the patriotic-looking posters that I’ve seen are not promoting the national day, or specific celebrations, but merely a speech by the PM. As if there were posters everywhere on ANZAC Day, using images or symbolism from the trenches, announcing a speech by the NZ PM. Seems totally inappropriate.
We’re out of sync with our meals and end up eating at a horrible, overpriced faux Mexican tourist trap. Should have gone to the Burger King down the road, would have been better and cheaper.