If all you know about Budapest is bridges and ruin bars, you are doing it wrong. Leave the city’s grandeur behind and head to a semi-industrial area on the outskirts — there you’ll find Memento Park. Pharaonic statues of Lenin, Marx, and Engels flanking the entrance will welcome you into this esplanade that looks like a megalomaniac’s junkyard, or a propaganda Legoland. Scattered around the gravel are 42 statues and artworks dating back to communist-era Hungary. These include pieces from a mural to Hungarian-Soviet Friendship, versions of which can be found across Eastern Bloc countries, to a less common monument in support of the fighters in the Spanish Republican Party.
Scattered across the park without order and lacking any accompanying explanations, the statues may leave you feeling confused, but that is exactly the point according to the park’s administrators. There is no single takeaway from Memento Park. It is not a critique of dictatorship or communism, but supposedly meant to encourage visitors to think about the responsibility of historical thinking. No matter your knowledge of Hungarian history, this open-air museum will wake you up from your Széchenyi-baths daze and, possibly, inspire questions about how individuals and countries relate to their own history.
— If you were to look at just one thing in the park, let it be Stalin’s boots. These are a replica of those that belonged to a gigantic statue of the communist leader that stood in central Budapest where parades were held during public holidays. On 23 December 1956, crowds revolting against communist oppression sawed the statue to its knees, but left the boots as a caustic reminder of the figure that once towered above them.
— For the spy-story enthusiasts, head to the park’s learning centre and watch a montage of scenes from films made between 1958 and 1988 to train the Államvédelmi Hatóság, the Hungarian Secret Police.