As autumn turns the leaves from vibrant greens to smokey reds and yellows, we thought it would be an ideal time to revisit one of the more intriguing locations in the city: the City Park. You may recognize the plaza Hero’s Square, which is front and center in the park, as the location for Michael Jackson’s video for “History,” but there is so much else to discover. With that in mind, we revisit Városliget, Budapest’s City Park:
In 1882 Nikola Tesla was walking through the Budapest City Park (Városliget), when he envisioned how to make alternating current work to power a motor. He claims that he looked out over the trees at the sunset, recited a line of Goethe, and the solution came to him in a flash of inspiration. He etched a rudimentary plan for the motor in the park dirt with a stick. His invention would bring him to American and make him both rich and famous. Who can say whether the conditions of Budapest’s strange and relaxing city park helped him come to his discovery, but it sure makes reflection easy, while offering up its own strange inspirations.
The park comprises 302 acres of trees and paths, with museums, pubs, and even a zoo situated within its confines to keep park-enthusiasts entertained. OK, these amenities can be expected of any first-rate city park, but Városliget has a few peculiar monuments and structures that truly distinguish it and give it a unique character.
First off – and if you are American you are likely to do a double take here – the Városliget is home to one of the only statues of US presidents in Hungary: George Washington (the other, of Ronald Reagan, was recently erected in District V). Hungary’s great leader Lajos Kossuth was commemorated in Cleveland, Ohio, with a statue; Hungarians returned the gesture in 1906 with a statue of Washington. According to the Hungarian American Federation, at the unveiling “Thousands lined the streets to watch the parade through Budapest as the ‘Stars and Stripes and the Hungarian colors intertwined were to be seen everywhere’. ” Amazingly, the statue remained through the Communist era, and still stands today.
In striking contrast is the nearby pub called Pántlika (ribbon) for its red ribbon-like shape. Built for the 1970s, the structure was originally used as an information booth for a Socialist-era trade exhibition, and the red shape was intended to resemble a red star from above. These days it is a great place to stop for a bowl of traditional Hungarian bean soup or a traditional American hamburger. Note that the interior is loaded with authentic Communist paraphernalia, making it feel like a step back in time.
And, of course the Városliget is also home to Széchenyi Baths, which we paid homage to in a previous post, which you can check out here. Tesla’s etching of his alternating current motor has long been wiped away, but plenty more discoveries await at Budapest’s world class park.
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