In the center of Budapest, Hungary, there’s a life-size bronze sculpture of a not-so-obvious cultural icon: Lieutenant Columbo. Played by the late American actor Peter Falk, Columbo was the title character of an influential U.S. television show that debuted in 1968 and continued, in a variety of formats and with some gaps along the way, until 2003. The fictional Lieutenant Columbo was of course a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, known as much for his rumpled appearance as for his doggedness when it came to solving murders.
So why is his statue in Budapest? It turns out Falk was rumored to be related to the 19th-century Hungarian writer and political figure Miksa Falk. While it’s clear the actor’s family had Hungarian roots, his connection to Miksa Falk has never been entirely proven. Even so, the Columbo statue was installed on Falk Miksa Street in 2014. The statue, in the context of a city that takes its statuary quite seriously, reflects a desire to preserve and celebrate native Hungarian culture following decades of political turmoil and foreign influence.
In the above video, Atlas Obscura’s Eric Grundhauser investigates the true meaning of Budapest’s Columbo statue. Oh, and, just one more thing… you can find more on this subject in the Atlas.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to explore more Atlas Obscura videos.