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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 47.4984, 19.0408
We began our day with our usual breakfast fare at Casati Budapest Hotel and were again happy with the quality and presentation.
Then we were off to catch was a bus to Memento Park. Our walk to Deak Ter Plaza was a little more direct than our walk home yesterday. The bus took us across the Chain Bridge and under the hill to a more rural setting outside of the city. During the Communist fall in the late 80s and early 90s, some had the foresight to preserve Communist-era statuary and gather these items for the sake of historic preservation. We all recall images of toppling statues when regimes change, such as the famous image of Saddam Hussein during recent times. In fact, no statues of Stalin survived the 1956 Hungarian Uprising except for a very large pair of boots. These were mounted on a gathering area near the opening of Memento Park. Kudos to our handy Rick Steves' Eastern Europe book for providing the details for our self-guided walking tour.
Inside of the park entrance was an actual Trabant, the car dreamed of by many during the Soviet years. Small and uncomfortable, these cars required a 50% down payment and
a 6-7 year waiting period to acquire.
In the sweltering Hungarian sun, we walked through a series of six loops that taught us about Soviet style art and propaganda, which glorified the worker as a happy cog in the machine and who welcomed his or her Soviet occupiers as partners in peace. We saw a combination of Soviet leaders, Hungarian Communist leaders, and Soviet and Hungarian people (working) together in friendship. One statue featured a "martyr" who gave his life in suppressing the 1956 Hungarian uprising. This cost 14,000 Hungarian lives and led to an emigration of 200,000 Hungarians to other places. At this time, they could still get out. Another featured a Soviet worker marching into the future clutching the Soviet flag. Contemporary Hungarians joked that it was, in fact, a bath attendant racing after a customer who had forgotten his towel. A third, intended to demonstrate the shifting alliances of the old bourgeois class into the loyal worker class held a subversive message. Bela Kun, who helped orchestrate the transfer of ideals, stood under a lamp post. Little did the Soviets who commissioned the work know that the lamp post was a Hungarian literary metaphor for execution by hanging,
the very fate Kun met at the hands of the Soviets whose views he espoused. (Artist: Imre Varga).
The architecture of Memento Park itself served to illustrate the Communist experience with a number of grand facades that had nothing behind them, or entries heading straight into brick walls.
Outside of the park was an exhibit entitled "The Life of an Agent." It featured actual training videos about how the Soviet authorities "turned" citizens into informants through intimidation, how the informants communicated secretly and invaded people's privacy and even their homes through various surveillance activities including hidden cameras and snatched keys. These movies were so secret, that the projectionist was required to leave the room when they were shown to police recruits.
After 90 minutes, we reboarded the bus and headed back to the city. Construction traffic gave us a nice respite in our air conditioned comfort. It wasn't a bad place to spend out time during the hottest part of the day.
Next destination, a small market area near Deak Ter Plaza. We were able to acquire some unique souvenirs, including pieces by a young Hungarian graphic artist named Eszter Schall. Then we walked past the 2nd largest synagogue in the world and found
ourselves in the Great Market Hall. It was filled with fresh meats, vegetables, and craft vendors. We did not venture into the fish market in the basement... its aroma wafting up to greet us was enough. Hot and sweet paprika spices were our primary goal. Mission accomplished.
From the market, we caught the panoramic bus by stroke of pure luck as we weren't really sure where it stopped or, once it did, if our tickets were valid. (Jeannette was our hero, running through a crowd of pigeons to flag down the bus.) Our passes were valid, and we were off again along the Buda side of the river headed back toward the Chain Bridge and, eventually, to our hotel for a little R&R. Now, we are just finished enjoying a traditional Hungarian beef stew with noodles and cucumber salad at Menza, which intends to portray the decor of a Communist school cafeteria from the 1970s. Later tonight, we are meeting the son of one of Rich and Barb's friends who is a newly appointed economics teacher at the Central European University. Our meeting will take place at a "ruin bar" which are described as out of the way places with ramshackle
tables (rickety-chic). We will see you tomorrow!
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