Lajos Kossuth Ter (Square) and the Kossuth Ter Massacre Memorial.
Part 1: THE SQUARE
Kossuth Ter is the very large city square—and symbolic center of Budapest—on the banks of the River Danube and surrounded by great public buildings, the main one being the Hungarian Parliament Building. The others are the Museum of Ethnography and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Over the years it had many names and underwent various changes, but was renamed in 1927 in honor of Lajos Kossuth, (1802-1894), the Hungarian Regent-President who led the 1848-49 Revolution against the Hapsburgs.
The square has many interesting monuments and is redolent with Hungarian history, perhaps the most famous being the 1956 Uprising, or the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (the worst day of which was the Kossuth Ter Massacre). Later, it was the scene of anti-government demonstrations against the Prime Minister in September-October 2006. Then it was closed to the public until March 2007, which caused a lot of controversy.
It was closed again in 2012 when Parliament decided to restore the square to its original pre-1944 plan, and it re-opened in 2014 as a no-traffic zone, with underground parking and a special Memorial to the 1956 Uprising (the Kossuth Ter Massacre Memorial—see next article).
A large part of the center of the square is paved with granite flagstones, while the north and south sides have lawns and flower beds divided by pathways. It’s fun to wander around the square and admire the statues and the outside of the very attractive Parliament Building. It’s also an opportunity to try and understand some of Hungary’s complicated history, first with their problems of being under the Hapsburgs, then later with WW2 and the aftermath of German takeover, followed by Communist takeover, and the Hungarians’ battle to regain their autonomy.
On the morning we were there, a fine mist was floating over the central paved part of the square—sprayed out by nozzles in the flagstones—which created a lovely, almost mysterious atmosphere. We later found out that special sensors in the paving ‘read’ the weather so, when the air is too hot or too dry above the granite pavement, built-in humidifiers improve the conditions. Great idea for all the visitors in hot weather!
On the east edge, by the tram tracks, is the National Flag, and Eternal Flame statue honoring the victims of the 1956 Uprising. Two soldiers stand symbolically guarding the flag and they march back and forth between some bronze markers on a regular basis.
Since the new make-over of the square, the entrance to the Parliament visits has changed. Now, on the north side you’ll see a wide staircase going down to the modern Parliament Visitors’ Center and ticket office below the square, right next to the Tisza Istvan Memorial—go early as tickets run out fast, and you need to take a guided tour. Tours of the Parliament Building are offered through the day in many languages. There’s also a pretty good souvenir shop there and a cafe.
On the north end of one lawn is the large white Kossuth Memorial. There was originally a bronze statue of the square’s namesake, Lajos Kossuth, which was damaged and officials are hoping to repair/replace it, as it was an important national symbol and scene of official celebrations.
On the south lawn there’s a large bronze equestrian statue of another rebel, Ferenc Rakoczi (or Francis 11 Rakoczi), who valiantly (but unsuccessfully) led the Hungarians in their War of Independence (1703-1711) against the Hapsburgs, as did Kossuth more than 100 years later.
Next to the Visitors’ Center entrance is a large sculpture, which is the Tisza Istvan Memorial. Tisza (1861-1918) was prime minister of Hungary twice, but was never wildly popular. He was assassinated by roaming armed soldiers. Because he was murdered on the first day of the 1918 revolution, the “counter-revolutionaries” soon came to adulate him. These days he is regaining some popularity. This monumental statue is a reproduction of one erected in 1934, and apparently many Hungarians think it is very unattractive.
On the far south side of the Parliament Building is another large bronze equestrian statue, this one of Andrassy Gyula. Count Gyula Andrássy was the country’s famous former Prime Minister who presided over the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867 and later became the joint state’s foreign mini