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Stalin’s Boots

They tore down the statue of Stalin first thing when the Soviet troops left. Sawed it down at the ankles, leaving only the boots, which remain, collosal boots that greet you as you enter Memento Park, Budapest’s collection of Communist-era statues. Altogether fitting to see this place now, in the summer of 2009, the 20th anniversary of Hungarian independence from Soviet rule. And of course, I’ve forgotten my camera. The statues are all of a type: square-jawed Soviet supermen grasping hands with noble, but inferior, Hungarian laborers. Steely-eyed men with hands raised pointing the way toward a bright utopian future of torture, land confiscation and forced industrialization. I’m sure the official story was that the Hungarian people spontaneously erected the statues in thanks to their Russian brethren for helping them cast off the yoke of German occupation and put on the yoke of Russian occupation. Given the seething hatred for the Russians you can hear coming from the tour guide’s voice, a hatred apparent in almost every guidebook, every document about the Communist past, it really is an impressive feat of restraint that the Hungarians didn’t immediately destroy these statues. But they view this place as a memorial to a dark age of slavery and repression, a time that they forget only at their own peril, a past that must be preserved and remembered because to forget is to become slaves again, to be conquered again. And that is something the Hungarians will never allow. They are the most fiercely democratic people I’ve met, the most rabidly free. They fight tyrrany with every weapon in their arsenal, with irony, wit, remembrance, creativity.
The gift shop sells a T-shirt with the words “East Park,” depicting the heroes of the Soviet Union, Stalin, Lenin et al, as South Park characters. Devastating. Tyrants never have a sense of humor about themselves, which makes humor the best weapon against them.

They also seem to love vampire novels here. Specifically, erotic vampire novels. I’ve seen ads for three separate books by three separate authors in the subway stations. They’re all over the bookstores as well, simply mad about them. To be expected, perhaps, since it is Hungarian that gives the word ‘Vampire’ in the first place, and living in this city, surrounded with its thousand year history, awe inspiring architecture, and infused with an obscure, inscrutable language, one must believe in all kinds of monsters here. The organist plays Bach’s Tocatta Air at a concert at St. Stephen’s. Of course he does.

Do not ‘visit’ Budapest, as I have. It is imposible. One cannot visit this place and expect to see even a tenth of it. One must live here to really see it, I think. When you come, you will buy an apartment in the posh area around Parliament, for 100,000 euros. You’ll buy a bike, too, since this is the best way to see the city, and allows you to avoid the Budapest cabbies, may God forcibly sodomize them all with his most mighty and divine wang. You will buy th best camera you can afford, and the largest hard drive available, and you’ll need both, and you’ll spend a lifetime trying to record the beauty of this place. It will take you six months to be able to order food and understand basic instructions in Hungarian. Within a year you’ll be able to pound out basic sentences. In another year you’ll be able to enjoy Hungarian TV. But you’ll never speak it well. You’ll dance with locals on the shores of the Danube, dance until 5am, until they put on “Summer of ’69,” because really, there’s only so much a brother can take, and you’ll walk home and watch the sun come up over the Danube, AGAIN, as joggers pass you on their way to work.

And this will change you.

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  1. J
    July 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Wow… your excellence in the realm of descriptive prose is showing again, Vagabond. Might want to check on that =]

    Saw this and thought of you. It took me a couple moments of Googling/Wikipediaing to get the joke, and then it made me think of you even more.

    Why do all roads through Physics and Sex lead back to you?

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