Historic Budapest is smaller than people realize when they first arrive. Since this is an ideal walking city, many attractions are easily reached on foot from the city center or if you would rather save some time, public transport will get you there too. As you stroll from one place to the next, look up at the buildings even if you have to stop a minute. There are so many missed treasures above normal views that go underappreciated by many. Regardless of a building's decay, take into consideration it probably has a long and interesting history associated with it. Many people have commented to me about how fine some of the buildings would be if they were restored, but they forget this city was heavily bombed during World War II. That rubble falling from the facade most likely has a story to tell. Clean and neat buildings are easy to look at, but what historical secrets have they sandblasted away? It is like telling your grandmother you would enjoy looking at her more if she had a facelift.
This city is a grand old dame that has seen plenty and survived the hardships.
Statues, Which Statues?
By now, most people have forgotten that the city was littered with statues to Lenin, Marx, Engels, and the other representations of the Communist times. If you have some recollection of them and are wondering where they have disappeared to, here is your answer. In the aftermath of 1989, they were not wanted any longer being constant reminders of difficult times. A plan was conceived for an outdoor museum, Memento Park, created in 1993 and expanded since then when funds allow.
Besides the 42 statues, you will find a lot of symbolism. As you enter the park, the statues are in three sections, each with a theme. Each section if viewed from above would be symbolic of an eternity symbol; Communism was meant to last all eternity. However, if you are standing at the front gate and follow the path forward, you will see a brick wall ahead of you. Communism ran into a brick wall. I fear that I was under the impression that the dry ugly grounds were from lack of care, but my guide explained this is a metaphor for the ugly realities of Communism.
The new exhibition hall created from an old army barrack has fascinating pictures of the past with English translations. A movie-viewing area continually shows an uncovered authentic training film for spies. It runs 50 minutes. I did not have time to watch it all, but was intrigued enough to return.
Located in the XXII district (extreme Southern Buda) on Balatoni út (tel. 1/424-7500; www.mementopark.hu), the park is a memorial to an era, to despotism, and to times of fear. The tiny museum gift kiosk sells Communist-era memorabilia, such as T-shirts with flamboyantly modern, humorous sayings, medals, and cassettes of Red Army marching songs. The park is open daily from 10am to dusk and admission is 1,500 Ft for adults or 1,000 Ft for students. To get to the park, take either bus no. 7E or 173E from Ferenciek tere to Kelenföldi pályaudvar, the end of the line. Buy round-trip tickets for 420 Ft for the yellow Volán bus for a 10-minute ride to the park; ask the driver where to get off. The Volán bus is not a city bus; passes and transit tickets are not valid. The other options are to take bus 150 from Kosztolányi Dezso tér or take the convenient direct bus service from Deák tér for 3,950 Ft or 2,450 Ft for students (admission ticket to the park included). The timetable varies by season, but the 11am departure remains constant with an additional run at 3pm in July and August. Personally, the guided tour totally changed my opinion and appreciation for the park, so I highly recommend it. Tours on-site for those who come by public transport are 1,200 Ft.
Other statues have replaced those in this park, while others are in spaces not formerly graced with artwork. One statue that just about every tourist sees is The Little Princess, but without a plaque, it is often mistaken for a jester. It sits on the railing on Vigadó tér, a straight shot down to the river from Vörösmarty tér. You will see by her knees that she has been rubbed in admiration and luck for some time. The sculptor is László Marton, who also created the incredible statue of Attila József, the famous Hungarian poet, as he gazes toward the Danube by Parliament. Sculptor Imre Varga created the statue you will find on the tiny Vértanúk tér across from Parliament. He also created one of the pieces in the park. The man on the bridge is Imre Nagy, Hungary's prime minister during the '56 revolution, who tried to build a democratic Hungary by negotiating with the Soviets and gaining Western support. His place on the bridge is a metaphor for being caught in the middle. He was later taken prisoner by the Soviets and executed. Varga is also the artist who created the Weeping Willow in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue. And back again to Vigadó tér, you will find the fairly new Girl with a Dog, a playful statue of a child playing ball with her canine friend, by artist Dávid Raffay. All of these artists are contemporary, still living and working at their craft.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.