Budapest / Szentendre : Cast Your Art, Communism & The Calm by the Bend in the River

Budapest Travel Blog

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'Cast Your Art'

Hmmm… okay, so as part of my self-inflicted budget penitence I’m having fairly frugal food for dinner in Budapest.  Last nights haute cuisine consisted of bread sold by the hunk, 1 Activia peach yogurt and some can of amalgamous soup gunk chosen purely by virtue of the weirdness of its name; a heated tin of the tongue-bendingly entitled ‘Burgonyagombócokkal’ from the somewhat appropriately named ‘Globus‘ company.  Mysterious, flavoursome and linguistically tantalising.  Ingredients included Ivóvíz, Marharhús, Burgonyagambóc, Zsemlemorzsa, Búzalizst, Konyhasó, Paradicsom, Füszerek, Színezék, Füstölt and Tejföll if that helps?  ‘Phewf!‘ of all the European languages I’ve come across Hungarian has to be the screwiest!  D’ya think you could knock that recipe together in LA Alice? ;)

So some more time in the city that’s so fine they made two bits of it.

Heroes' Square and victory column.
  Budapest. But first what activities might you want to indulge in in its immediate environs?  Well the one tourist attraction that gets touted a lot, adorns many an advertising poster and recurs again and again in Tourist Information brochures you’ll pick up is the Memento or ‘Statue’ Park that resides a little way out of town.  Despite hostel Matt’s statement that ‘aach, this park iz for bullsh*t! I much more recommend that you take a train trip to the village of Szentendre’ I decide I’ve got time to kill so may as well do both in my time in Budapest.

Straight up, if you’re not a die hard Communist Iconography nut you are likely to be slightly disappointed by Memento Park for the price.  Don’t get me wrong it’s an interesting enough way to kill 40 minutes or so.

Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic detail) 1
  Its main feature is the ‘Statue Park’ that comprises approximately 50 statues, stone and metal cut images and other Communist reliquary that were ‘saved’ from the precincts of Budapest following the fall of Communism.  A civic committee decision was taken to preserve them for posterity to memorialise a significant, if not well loved period of The People’s history.  So you stroll around in the blazing sun grinning at the oversized aspirational and Futurism-like thrusting, angular, static-energy forms of Socialist statuary, statues of ‘main man’ Lenin and other forms of revolutionary bravado.  There are a few show stoppers but it’s a fairly lacklustre gathering.  In many ways perfectly indicative of the rather smirking, comedic and marginalising view that History (depending on who’s writing it) and most of The West view this period in socio-political history.
'Forward!' - Memento Park statue
 

There’s an amusing cinema film of real Communist era, formerly top secret ‘How to be a spy’ instructional videos and also a small, eye-damagingly low-lit exhibition about Hungary’s enforced flirtation with Communism through the powerful 1956 Hungarian (counter-Communist) Revolution to the creation of the ‘liberated’ Hungarian republic proclaimed 23rd October 1989, approximately 2 weeks prior to demolition of the Berlin Wall commenced and 2 months ahead of the assassination of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu on Christmas Day of that year in neighbouring Romania. 

I am particularly amused by the following reference to the putting down of the workers demonstration in 1956 as ‘the revolt’ having been ‘ruthlessly squelched by Communist authorities’.

'Statues and Sky 3' - Memento Park
  Squelched being something one presumably does to an over ripe or rotten anti-Red tomato.  Hmmm, “WE MUST SQUELCH THIS REVOLUTION RIGHT NOW!!!” probably not a proclamation heard in dictatorial boardrooms with great regularity I‘d imagine… although Hitler did used to throw himself on the floor and start chewing the carpet if he couldn’t get his own way.  True.  But he was a bit of an odd boy wasn’t he now.

Szentendre (St.Andrews) is a great contrast to all this historical turmoil.  A perfectly charming little village/ town that sits half asleep and replete with all the trappings of provincial quaintness on one of the last significant bends in the Danube ahead of its entry to Budapest.

'Horse' 2
  Populated by cute little cafes and restaurants that often double as ad-hoc artists galleries, full on galleries, many a museum and a theatre Szentendre is disproportionately rich in artistic flavour and content for its size.  The smaller, artisan Siamese-twin to Budapest’s predominance.  Cobbled streets, pastel-shade coloured houses, a pedestrianised heart and kids playing in streams, winding back alleys and an abundance of cheery churches.  Ya know the sort of thing.  It’s all a very pretty way to spend half to a whole of a day, my time there curtailed only by fact of it being a Monday and so most of the galleries and museums closed for their day off. 

A destination possessed of great tranquillity and I find it a perfect pause from the relative (although not pronounced) throb and throng of Budapest.

The main square in Szentendre.
  Everything here is walkable so walk it I do.  A stroll along the wide and pretty Danube embankment puts me in a happy state of mind aided by the general absence or low level presence of cars.  It’s meant to be a great cycling region… but thanks, but no thanks all the same.  Great views of the Danube concourse to be had if you walk to one of the little higher up view points.  I chew my apple staring at the towns one horse and head back to Buda after posting a card to me Nanny.

There is so much to see and do in Budapest and there’s no need to pay for ingress into the sites in order to be satisfied.  The Parliament Building by day and by night.  Europe’s largest.  Stroll into the vaulted foyer entrance of the Széchenyi Thermal Baths that sit at the edge of pleasant People’s Park and admire the modern but stunningly executed mosaic décor high above your head.

Szentendre scene.
  Strike out the park Eastwards and ogle the columns and predictable but powerful ‘Victory’ statuary of Heroes’ Square before heading back down towards the Danube along the city’s grandest avenue Andrássy under which runs Europe’s oldest underground line… and then do this… and do that… and you might want to… and don’t miss… and and and this paragraph sounds so horribly like an entry in a Lonely Planet Guide that I must stop right now before I lose what modicum of creative self-respect I possess!

But for me, for now, it’s back to Széchenyi Iánchíd, better known as the Chain Bridge to throw my legs over the stone bank of the Pest side of the Danube and read and people watch and stare at Buda Castle as the sun slides westwards and down throwing a beautiful blazing golden finger of spangling light across the waters surface flowing just 4 feet beneath the worn out soles of my shoes that seems to point directly at me, touching my toes with glitter.

Stevie and the Chain Bridge and an early glimpse of the coming of Scary Beard!!! ;D
  ‘I’m putting on this show just for you Sunshine Kid’.  Why, I thank you Mr Sun.

It’s ‘World Music Day’ here at the ‘Nyár a Lánchídon’ Budapest Summer Festival and everyone’s chewing on giant sausages that flounder in mega-globs of mustard (including me), licking ice creams and yes, drinking beer from which I am prohibited [ see yesterdays entry for explanation ] whilst we await tonight’s headline act.  The rather funkily named Chango Boogie.  Dusk blossoms, its colours soon breaking down to night as a pink winged Unicorn flies across the skies… well okay, it was a child’s helium balloon so shaped.  Strolling along the Chain Bridge earlier this morning, wincing at the grafitti tags that not even this structure is safe from in Budapest one sticker had proclaimed 'Cast Your Art' an idea which I liked.

CHANGO BOOGIE!!!
  To cast creativity out into the air, the skies, our minds, imaginations, the internet...wherever.  And it is with powerful and fantastic musical verve and prowess that the lead musician of Chango Boogie, using a whole arsenal of wind-pipe instruments I’ve never laid eyes on before does precisely this, and helps to further broaden the smiles that spread across this great city and my soul as I contemplate with a little sadness my onward travel course.

[ Memento Park : There are a couple of means of getting there but the simplest is the follows.  A return coach (2 hour round trip) is put on by the park twice a day in high season (July - Aug) at 11.00 and 15.00 departing from the Memento Park marked stand (where other tour buses congregate too) on the South side of Erzsébet tér (Elizabeth Square) by Déak Tér metro station.

Chain Bridge at night.
  They want your business so ‘umm’ and ‘err’ about whether you’re interested until the ticket lady drops the price ( transport & entrance ) from 4,000 Hungarian Forint ( £12) to the student price (even if you’re not one) of 2,500 HUF (£7.50) which will work out marginally cheaper than the headache of the bothersome public transport option.

Szentendre : The train between Budapest and end-of-the-line Szentendre runs back and forth with great regularity all day and a return ticket can be purchased for 1,100 Hungarian Forint (£3.50).  The local train line runs from the Buda side of the Danube and the easiest station to point to and start from is ‘Margit Híd’ which sits literally underneath the Buda ( or West ) end of the Margit Híd bridge - the first bridge North of the famous Chain Bridge ]

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Cast Your Art
'Cast Your Art'
Heroes Square and victory column.
Heroes' Square and victory column.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic de…
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic d…
Forward! - Memento Park statue
'Forward!' - Memento Park statue
Statues and Sky 3 - Memento Park
'Statues and Sky 3' - Memento Park
Horse 2
'Horse' 2
The main square in Szentendre.
The main square in Szentendre.
Szentendre scene.
Szentendre scene.
Stevie and the Chain Bridge and an…
Stevie and the Chain Bridge and a…
CHANGO BOOGIE!!!
CHANGO BOOGIE!!!
Chain Bridge at night.
Chain Bridge at night.
Grafitti Babe
'Grafitti Babe'
Roof of the Szechenyi Thermal Bath…
Roof of the Szechenyi Thermal Bat…
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic de…
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic d…
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic de…
Szechenyi Thermal Baths (mosaic d…
Orange Oliphant
'Orange Oliphant'
The House of Terror Museum : exhib…
The House of Terror Museum : exhi…
No Man is Lonely when Eating Spag…
'No Man is Lonely when Eating Spa…
Memento Park (detail)
Memento Park (detail)
Statues and Sky 1 - Memento Park
'Statues and Sky 1' - Memento Park
Star - Memento Park
'Star' - Memento Park
Statues and Sky 2 - Memento Park
'Statues and Sky 2' - Memento Park
Lenin - Memento Park
Lenin - Memento Park
Lenins boots (replica) - all tha …
Lenin's boots (replica) - all tha…
Parliament Building at night.
Parliament Building at night.
Szentendre grafitti
Szentendre grafitti
Szentendre chipped door (abstract)
Szentendre chipped door (abstract)
A church in Szentendre.
A church in Szentendre.
The straight before the bend in th…
The straight before the bend in t…
Statues in artistic Szentendre.
Statues in artistic Szentendre.
The Statue Park in Szentendre.  …
The 'Statue Park' in Szentendre. …
Horse 1
'Horse' 1
Szentendre Kidz :)
Szentendre Kidz :)
A bust on a leg of Margit Hid br…
A bust on a 'leg' of Margit Hid b…
The Hungarian Parliament building …
The Hungarian Parliament building…
St.Stephens Basilica
St.Stephen's Basilica
The front of St.Stephens Basilica
The front of St.Stephen's Basilica
Budapest
photo by: Chokk