Drivers honk at me as I stomp against the direction of traffic the side of the street of the Hungarian... I guess it's a motorway, although it seems more like a glorified country road. This is not what I had in mind when I was planning for a little untouristy trip in Budapest, after having gawked at the many beautiful buildings in Pest for two days.
Trying to find the bus to Memento Park was already difficult, but I decided it would be worth the pain as I have to admit I know very little about the history of communism in Europe. Here, the advertisement said, communist statues from all over Central and Eastern Europe were brought together in a giant park with a lot of fun activities. A communist Disneyland, judging by the brochure, and even on TripAdvisor, people were raving about the experience.
The pictures showed large groups of people covering every inch of the park, so I decided to get there on my own by tram and bus. The bus terminal was hidden behind a large, ugly building site, and frankly the area it was in looked scary at 2pm already. Still, I convinced myself to get on the bus, asked the driver to stop at the park, first just saying 'memento park', then asking him to stop in English. He nodded, somewhat confused, so I said the same again in German and bingo – he says 'Kein Problem'. I seemed to be the only tourist on the bus, but that didn't really worry me. 20 minutes later, I suddenly see the tops of a dozen giant statues peek out from behind the trees at the road side. I rush to the driver, asking 'Memento Park?' again. He snorts and laughs, then points behind him. We're already a mile past it at this point. He laughs some more, stops and throws me out in the middle of the road.
When I finally get to the park, there's nobody else there. Neither is there any information on any of the statues – which are very impressive, to be fair. Sure, they have titles, but am I supposed to make out of that? I don't recognise any of the names. I go back to the ticket booth and ask the lady if there is an information booklet or anything, but she just snorts and gives me a crazy look. Only on my way out do I find the small indoors exhibition about Hungary's history of the 20th century. But just half the information is written in both English and Hungarian, and so I come out not knowing more than I did when I got off the bus.
As for fun activities, you could sit in an old trabant car and have your picture taken, and listen to a tape of speeches by communist leaders – all in their respective languages, so not really helpful unless you speak Hungarian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, German and a few other languages altogether.
Unfortunately, I made similar experiences in other museums in Budapest – a lovely idea and interesting exhibits, but very little explanation – often, not even in Hungarian. Maybe it's so that you are forced to go their on a guided tour and spend more money. Or maybe, some visitors are happy just gawking at stuff and not understanding any of it, as long as they can take impressive pictures? That's the only thing I can say I got out of my visit to memento park: a bunch of pictures of statues.