Sometimes we only see the true value of things once they are no longer there. This is not the case yet at the Budapest Amusement Park but you should hurry up if you want to visit it – whether to say goodbye or to see it for the first time. On 30 September the 175-year-old park will open its gates for the last time and then close forever.
If you go for a farewell visit, you should first say goodbye to those attractions that are unique to Budapest Amusement Park. Make your first stop at the old carousel with horses, housed in an octagonal pavilion to the left of the entrance. The colourful carousel, finished in 1906, entertains both the children who use it and the adults who enjoy its spectacular richness of colour and detail.
The next stop is the Ferris Wheel, which is useful to gain both an overview of the dimensions of the park and the location of individual attractions that you want to try. No need to worry about the rust stains either. As Éva Árendás, spokeswoman for the amusement park assured us, safety is of utmost importance right until the last day.
Farewell walk in Budapest Amusement Park as…
…a piece of our city fades away
All active devices have the necessary certificates to operate and they undergo a daily test run.
Not far from the big wheel you can find the curvy tracks of “Whipp”, a true classic from the early days of amusement parks. Individual gondolas are thrown around on an oily steel chain. This very robust construction surrounded by the lingering smell of lubricating oil was built in 1925.
Thus it is almost as old as the park’s main attraction: the rollercoaster, or “Hullámvasút”, built by a certain Ervin Dragon in 1922. The almost kilometre-long track encompasses nine valleys that make your stomach feel funny.
This attraction, thanks to its age and the beauty of its wooden structure, will be preserved even after the park closes. In October, when the entire premises will be annexed to the adjacent zoo, the rollercoaster, the old carousel and three other attractions will be the only elements that will be kept in their original place and state.
All other devices will be either scrapped or sold. However, Árendás could not tell whether the rollercoaster will continue to operate or serve only as a monument. If it keeps going, Budapest would have the only zoo in the world with a working rollercoaster. But the well-being of the animals should also be considered in this question. So, just to make sure: don’t miss out on the chance for a last ride on the rollercoaster!
If you are looking for something very different from this loud, fast ride, you do not need to go far: just below the rollercoaster, in an artificial tunnel system, you can find the so-called fairy tale boat. You sit in little boats carried by a gentle flow and pass through a small cave system. The dark corridors are segmented by children’s story installations placed in illuminated caves – from the classic Grimm fairy tales to the Smurfs.
Traces of decay and neglect can be found everywhere in the park. Árendás mentioned the rapid fall in demand after the financial crisis in 2008 and insufficient funding (by the state and Budapest City Council) as the main reasons for the closure. After a walk through the park we get the impression that the reasons for its collapse lie deeper: it seems that no new investment at all has been made since the crisis, except for the limited acquisition of some modern equipment and maintenance.
It can be of sentimental value for a father to show his children the same things that he wondered at when he visited the park for the first time, 20 or more years ago. On the other hand, all these memories add up to such a depressing view that the operators did not see the park fit to continue.
However, no one should be too sad about the closing of the traditional Budapest venue because we can look forward to what the thriving zoo will make of the new possibilities.
Facts and Figures
Vidámpark, Állatkerti krt. 14-16, District XIV
Opening times: daily from 10am to 8pm.
Admission: HUF 4900 (adults), HUF 3500 (children 90-140 centimetres)
If you want to get an impression of the current state of the amusement park, there are photographs on the Budapester Zeitung website: www.budapester.hu .