You think you’re safe with the world’s biggest boots? Have a look at these –boots that were made for crushing a nation.
Scot-Buzz co-editor BILL JAMIESON was in Budapest this week – a capital city of architectural splendour, magnificent avenues and street cafes to die for. But the biggest visual impact to capture the soul of this city is to be found on its outskirts – and in a bizarre park of gigantic monuments.
Here is where the massive statues of the Soviet era have been gathered for history, with huge bronze sculptures of Engels and Marx. One of the biggest is a statue of Vladimir Lenin – his worker’s cap so big that if it ever blew off it would block the Danube.
But amid the massive concrete depictions of heroic workers striding forward to greet the Red Dawn is the most bizarre of all. Positioned at the entrance to this grotesque collection, on a plinth that the leader of North Korea could only envy – rests a gigantic pair of boots.
It’s all that remains of what must have been one of the biggest statues ever erected to honour Joseph Stalin.
Until the Hungarian Uprising of October 1956 it dominated one of the central squares in Budapest. Here was where workers and peasants were gathered for “spontaneous” demonstrations of obeisance to the Great Leader.
In October 1956 students hacked for hours at the statue until it finally came crashing down – leaving only Uncle Jo’s boots on the plinth.
Few acts more epitomised the hatred of Hungarians towards oppressive Soviet domination. Critics and waverers from the Party Line were arrested and jailed. Many were executed after absurd show trials.
The Uprising was brutally crushed, its leaders executed or jailed for life.
Hungarians never forgot this outrage.
Today the Uprising is marked by a moving exhibition beneath Kossuth Square by the parliament building where many met their deaths at the hands of Soviet gunners.
Most chilling of all is the House of Terror – the former secret police headquarters at 60 Andrássy Street. Cine photography of the demonstrations, the arrival of Soviet troops, desperate radio broadcasts for outside help, the trial of Imry Nagy and photos and newsreels of the era – all manner of material has been preserved so that decades after the Uprising the world can see and experience what a brutal era it was.
And it is worth remembering now given the strains in Hungary’s relationship with the EU and the finger-wagging from Brussels on the country’s constitution. You can see why, given what the country has endured, it needs no finger-wagging lectures from Brussels on human rights
And yes, Scot-Buzz was much discussed in the beautiful Café Gerbeaud in the heart of the city – one of the most beautiful cafes in all Europe.
A visit is strongly recommended for all Scot-Buzz readers – particularly those partial to double espresso with lashings of whipped cream. And the caramel and coffee ice creams are from another world.