Budapest Part 2: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

We didn’t see quite as much as we wanted to in Budapest, because we slept nearly 11 hours the first night (guess we needed a break!) and really wanted to see a “Caravaggio to Caneletto” show at the Fine Arts Museum. Between that rather wonderful exhibit and exploring the Christmas markets, the trip went quickly. Buda Castle, and other attractions on the Buda side of the Danube, will have to wait until next time, I suppose.

Right before we left, though, we visited the Museum of Applied Arts that was three blocks from our hotel in Pest, just because it looked so interesting from the outside. This was a good plan. There was a terrific exhibit of Secession-era decorative arts as well as a lot of fun “curiosities” from the Esterhazy hoard (like Hapsburgs only Hungarian). And it was warm in the museum 🙂

After a quick visit to see St Stephen’s disembodied hand at his eponymous cathedral, and a yummy lunch at the Christmas market in the cathedral square, we headed back to Vienna–with a stop to see some Communist statuary along the way.

Memento Park is one those low-budget roadside attractions that often turn out to be lots of fun.

After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, Hungarians removed their monuments from public places as quickly as possible. I can see why. Socialist Realism can actually be pretty good (or at least interesting) at times. I’ve seen some very nice works in other places such as Prague and Vienna. Even in the United States, 1930s Works Progress Administration painting and murals are definitely influenced by Socialist Realism.

The Hungarian version of Socialist Realism, however, was just plain ugly. I mean, these sculptures are a hot mess. They do have undeniable historical value, though, and so a few have been displayed in a field at the edge of the city. An exhibit in an old barracks building provides some context.

It was absolutely freezing out there among the monuments, but I am glad we stopped. You sure don’t see stuff like this every day.

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