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Unhappy news: Vidámpark closes doors

A 175-year-old institution in Hungary has ended its historical run, as this week Budapest’s Vidámpark closed doors to all but a handful of its theme park attractions, another victim of economic malaise – and perhaps simply because of changing times.

Only those items which are considered national heritage sites will be preserved and remain operational; included among this lot are the 1922-built Hullámvasút wooden roller coaster, said to be the largest in Europe and one of just 10 remaining in the world; the carousel built in 1906; and the 1912-built cave railway.

In its colorful history, Vidampárk had continued to entertain through everything from the 19th-century reimagining of the public space as a fair-type exhibition of inventions (telephone exchange creator Tivadar Puskas is known to have displayed his gadgets there) to bombing runs during World War II to a disastrous fire – not to mention redesigns and refurbishment with every change in government from empire to socialist to capitalist state.

Despite the characteristic adaptability of a true national landmark, however, the amusement park could not survive the realities of the 21st-century. Whereas some 2.7 million came to Vidámpark in the six-month open season at the all-time peak in its popularity in the mid-1970s, fewer than 300,000 visitors came in 2012.

Vidámpark has been facing imminent closure since at least 2010; at that time, officials reported the park was running at a HUF 70 million operational deficit and was getting by on municipal credit.

Some 17.3 hectares of freed-up space may be devoted in full or in part to an expansion of the city zoo in 2017, according to some local media outlets.