Friday, May 7, 2010

Budapest, Hungary: Walking the Parliament Grounds

A beautiful warm spring day along the blue-ish/gray-ish/black-ish Danube, perfect for a walking tour of the tourist sights on the Pest side of the river.

The walking tour began with a trek across the river to the Parliament building. People queued up for a tour of the Parliament building:

They offer tours in a variety of EU languages. And the tours are free ... if you are from an EU country. Apparently, Hungary is quite proud of the fact that it is a member in (kinda) good stead of the European community. [FOOTNOTE: "kinda" because they are not a member of the European monetary union. But Greece is. Go figure.] There are only a few English language tours offered each day. And you have to queue up by 8:00AM to get a ticket. Looks like I'm not going to be getting to see the inide of that building.

This is a flag from the 1956 revolt where Hungary tried to break free from the yoke of Soviet communism. Lots and lots of freedom fighters -- using the term for realsies and not just as an euphemism of political propaganda -- died right here on the grounds of this building:

Note the whole in the center. That's not wear and tear. The fighters cut the Soviet/communist symbol that was in the center of what was then the national flag. That flag with the hole in the middle became the flag of the freedom fighers. And here's the flag, flying on the Parliament grounds, with the Parliament building in the background:

I am attempting to provide a little symbolism of my own, armed only with my digital camera (which, by the way, is ginormous compared to the cellphone-sized digital cameras used by everyone else on planet earth, in case you'd like to know).

Here's the monument to Lajos Kossuth, the leader of an 1848 against the Austrian Habsburgs:

He's calling the peasants to arms. Echos of 1956?

Meet Attila József (1905-1937):

He's sort of the Magyar Dylan Thomas. The Hungarian national poet. Committed suicide. Beloved, but sullen. He even looks sullen and depressed in this monument.

Who this is, I don't know. I took the picture because I thought it just had to be someone trez importante. I mean, he's got a monument, where's he's up on a pedestal, right next to the Parliament. When it comes to monument placement, your relative importance is dictated by the three rules of real estate: location, location, location. Right? He looks sort of like a communist on a reviewing stand, so perhaps that's where he fits.

Budapest is packed full of monuments. Finally, here's the monument to Imre Nagy (1896-1958):

Nagy was the leader of Hungary at the time of the 1956 pushback against Communism / failed revolution. Again, the monument is laden with symbolism. Nagy is on a bridge. Budapest is spanning the Danube. More importantly, Nagy was trying to bridge the gap between western capitalism and Soviet communism. He's away from the current Parliament building, on the other side of the street, but not on the actual grounds (he was still a communist, just a reform minded one, a la Yugoslavia's Tito). He's facing and watching the current Parliament from a distance, not quite welcome on the grounds, but not quite separate and apart.

That's a lot of symbolism to pack into one human-sizd monument.

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