Out of Sight and Out of Mind? Budapest’s Memento Park

Out of Sight and Out of Mind? Budapest’s Memento Park

Out-of-Sight-and-Out-of-Mind-4In the summer of 1989, the statue of Lenin in Budapest’s City Park was removed ostensibly for maintenance, never to return. Instead, it eventually found its way to the Statue Park, located in suburban Budapest along with other communist relics from the post-­Revolution period. At the park, visitors enter through a side gate and find themselves literally walking in circles as they take in statues that once adorned the public spaces of Budapest but now have been corralled into this site “safely away” from the masses.

Inside, statues and memorials exist to Hungarian communists as well as Lenin, Marx and Engels. Conspicuously absent are relics from Hungary’s Stalinist period. Across from the park one can find a replica of Stalin’s boots that serve as a memento of the 1956 revolution. This is located between two military barracks located outside the Statue Park’s gates, with the entire site known as Memento Park.

Out-of-Sight-and-Out-of-Mind-2The site is rich with symbolism, from the gigantic façade before the statue park, to the path one takes to examine the statues, as well as the barracks located across the street, evoking Hungary’s nickname as the “happiest barrack” during the latter stages of the Cold War. The site, which is quite understated, stands in stark contrast to the House of Terror located in Central Budapest.

Out-of-Sight-and-Out-of-Mind-3Additionally, the barracks host an astonishing exhibit on the culture and protocols of spying and surveillance during the communist era (including a training film used to indoctrinate citizen informers with English subtitles) as well as an information panorama on the fall of communism in Hungary. Your accompanying historian will meet you right in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Deák Ferenc tér (Deák Ferenc Square) at 10:45 to help you get tickets for the 11 a.m. bus to Memento Park. During the 30 minute bus ride your guide begins a discussion of the regime that produced the sculptures you will encounter. The visit to the park lasts 1 and ½ hours. After returning to Central Budapest (another 30 minutes bus ride), you sit down with your guide in an atmospheric Budapest Café to talk through and process the weighty experience of viewing these overbearing artifacts of 20th Century totalitarianism in Europe in an intimate and thoughtful setting, over coffee and refreshments. The entire experience lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes, from 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Bus tickets and entrance tickets to the Park are not included in the price of the tour.

Andras Schweitzer Andras Schweitzer is senior lecturer at ELTE University, Budapest, focusing on contemporary political history. He holds a PhD in International Relations (2006, Corvinus University of Budapest). Besides his alma mater, he took courses on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied contemporary Hungarian history at the Eszterházy Károly Főiskola (Eger) and East-Central European history at the Central European University (CEU). He had worked for 17 years for HVG, Hungary’s leading political-financial-cultural weekly magazine („The Economist of Hungary”) as journalist and section editor producing and editing feature and news stories, interviews, reportage among them some award-wining ones. He covered a wide array of topics in- and outside of Hungary at conferences from Boston through Copenhagen and Nové Zámky to Seoul. His most recent articles appeared in The Guardian, in Hungarian Spectrum, in Intersections – East European Journal of Society and Politics, in The Hungarian Quarterly. He is a vice-chairman of the Hungarian Europe Society.
ZoltanZoltán Csipke was born and raised in Los Angeles. After starting his PhD in History at the University of Liverpool in 2006, he moved to Budapest in 2007 for his research, where he has lived ever since. Zoltán’s research focused specifically on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and collective memory, with a wider interest in the Cold War. He formerly lectured at Eötvös Loránd University and the Balassi Institute, having also been a senior editor at the All Hungary Media Group, where he focused on Hungarian politics and Budapest nightlife. He can frequently be found wandering the streets of Budapest with his camera as he indulges in his hobby of cityscape photography or providing impromptu history lessons at a table with friends in one of the city’s cafés or ruin pubs.
RunaRuna Hellinga is a freelance journalist, writing for Dutch newspapers. She came to Hungary in 1989 when communism was just collapsing and the century’s most exciting political, economical and social changes were unfolding. From 1994, she spent a number of years in South Africa, covering the end of Apartheid in that country for the Dutch press. In 1998 she returned to Hungary as a freelancer, and has been living in the country ever since, first in Budapest and the last couple of years in the small Baroque town of Vác. In 2008 she wrote a book about Budapest, covering the city’s history and culture, but also the social and political developments from the times of the Romans until today. Together with her husband Henk Hirs (also a journalist) she organizes themed tours, covering subjects from Jugendstil architecture and the remnants of the Turkish occupation to the communist past. As a correspondent, she can also offer a lot of insight in recent Hungarian political and cultural developments. On request, she also organizes tours around special subjects like Hungarian literature or current social issues.
HenkHenk Hirs is a Dutch radio and newspaper journalist who first came to Hungary in the summer of 1989, when the country was in the midst of pulling down the Iron Curtain. He has been reporting on its many ups and downs ever since,getting to know the people, their turbulent history, their various cultures and their impossible language in the process. Between 2006 and 2010, he was editor in chief of Business Hungary, the monthly magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. After living in Budapest for many years, in 2008 he moved with his wife, Runa (also a distinguished journalist), to the lovely little Baroque town of Vác close to the Hungarian capital. Suddenly, he got to know “the other Hungary” of gracious suburban town life. He has published several books on the country, among them a tourist guide which he updates yearly. He is also the (co-)author of various Dutch-language blogs on current events and tourism developments.
CsabaCsaba Tibor Tóth Born and raised in Szeged, Csaba acquired a distinguished interest in the history of his country quite early on, finishing his BA studies in 2010 at the University of Szeged, with a double major in history and cultural anthropology. On the cultural anthropology track, he finished a thesis on the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish Folklore in the 1890’s, then he expanded on with this topic at Central European University, where he achieved a MA with Honors in 2011. In order to study Jewish history and culture in a broader context, Csaba went through a second Masters program at the University of Southampton, UK in 2012. He currently works at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center in as a guide and educator, while regularly blogging in Hungarian about the country’s history and daily politics.


Additional Costs:
Bus & Memento Park Tickets
Your bus leaves from Deák Ferenc tér (accessible by all Subway lines M1, M2 and M3), from the bus stop marked Memento Park. Cost is HUF 4,900 per person, which includes return transportation and entrance fee to the museum.

Your guide will help you to purchase your bus/park tickets at your Deák Ferenc tér meeting point.
Starting Location:
In front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Deák Ferenc tér (Deák Ferenc Square)


Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

Cancellation and Tipping

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