This is a post that I was not planning on writing, but someone asked me to post a few photographs from my trip to that great relic of the communist era in Hungary, the infamous Memento Park, so here it goes. For starters, getting to Memento Park is quite an adventure. You’ll hear that it is in Budapest, but it will take you a few bus transfers before you actually get to its remote location next to a dusty concrete factory of sorts. Your first reaction after being unceremoniously dumped at the small bus stop is confusion as to where exactly you have landed in Hungary. That’s because the bus stop is a few hundred yards from the park, and the somewhat industrial feeling of the place (even though there are houses around) is kind of disorienting. Only after spotting what seems like the top of a brick wall over some concrete-dusted trees behind you and across the street, do you realize that you’ve found the place.
The Hungarian people could not have done a better job in hiding all these relics, and the world could not have done a better job at ignoring them. While a mere 45 minutes away Budapest is a beehive of activity and excitement, the dusty Memento Park sits alone, desolate, and forgotten. Sure, a few curious souls do manage to trek there out of curiosity, but this communist resting place doesn’t appear to rank very high on most visitors’ to-do lists (on the day four of us visited, there was only one couple there taking pictures). When you think about it, though, Memento Park with its sun-drenched, sterile landscape and grotesque statues, is perhaps the right memorial for a failed ideology that enslaved millions of people a short generation ago. It is a graveyard of sorts–the last resting place of the symbols of coercion and subjugation by a political system long relegated to the ashes of history. That the people of Hungary endured and survived such historical catastrophe with such a positive attitude towards the future, is nothing short of remarkable. What surprises me is that Memento Park exists at all. Maybe the Hungarian people need a point of reference by which to measure how far they have come since those dreaded communist days. Whatever the case, this park is part of a Hungary that no longer exists. Today’s Hungary is enjoying itself by the Danube with its eyes firmly gazing at an Europe that not too long ago seemed like a far-away mirage. It is remarkable how times change.