Friday, July 13, 2012

In Memory - 1956 Uprising and Holocaust Memorial - Budapest

Finally the end of June 7th - Thursday

I ended the last post with us visiting Matthias Church and St. Istvan Basilica but still wasn't done with our day which started in Castle Hills.  I promise to finish Thursday, June 7th, in this post.  I promise.

Continuing to follow the walk that Rick Steves set out for us in his Budapest guidebook we found the Postal Savings Bank.  The designer was Ödön Lechner and when asked why he made the roof with colorful mosaic tiles, which few people could see (including us) he said, "To please the birds."

How fun is that!
Postal Savings Bank details Budapest

We continued on to Liberty Square where there is a Soviet War Memorial, commemorating the liberation of the Hungarian people from the Nazis by the Soviet in 1945.  We were thinking OK, we all know how that turned out, but what makes this interesting is the fact that finding the Soviet hammer-and-sickle in town is a very rare thing these days.

Soviet War Memorial Budapest

Here is a close up of the Soviet hammer-and-sickle.  The memorial has been defaced many times and now has a fence around it.  Many people of Budapest feel it should be taken out of the city because of how the Soviets treated them after they rescued them.  What a strange twisted time it had to have been for the Hungarians.

Soviet hammer and sickles on War memorial Budapest

Also in Liberty Square there was a surprise statue of Ronald Reagan. (Our guide book had a copyright date of 2011 but it must have been written in early 2011, because it did not mention President Reagan.) I found that this statue was unveiled in June 2011 to thank President Reagan for his role in ending communism.  It was a little strange but nice to be in a foreign country and run into a former President of our very own country. 
Ronald Reagan statue Budapest

Before Ronald Reagan helped to end communism, the Hungarian people came together in October 1956 to rise up against the Soviets.  The statue of the man pictured below is Imre Nagy.   He was a communist.  Why is there a statue of him, you might be asking.  Were you asking?  You should have....

Imre Nagy statue close Budapest

When the uprise of 1956 began Imre Nagy was drafted as the leader.  It was thought that since he was a communist (a liberal one) that he might have an inside to the Soviets and help to convince them to lessen the severity of the communist regime. The Soviets violently put an end to the uprise, which lasted less than two weeks, by bringing in tanks and killing thousands of people and causing hundreds of thousands to flee the country.
Imre Nagy was accused of being a traitor to the Soviets, was executed, and buried  face-down in an unmarked grave.

Another important part of the 1956 Uprising was the fact that the Hungarian people took a Hungarian flag and cut out the communist seal that had been added.  There were several of these flags representing this in Budapest.  This one was near Parliament in the area where the Soviet police from nearby rooftops opened fire on demonstrators two days into the uprising killing almost 100 people. 

1956 Uprise flag Budapest

This is the symbolic grave of those who died from the sniper attack described above.

195 Uprise Memorial close Budapest

I would like to say that now I have something upbeat to share, but that would make me a liar.  : /

This is Attila József, a famous Hungarian poet of the early 20th century.  He killed himself by jumping in front of a train at age 32.  Sorry, I warned you.

Attila Jozsef statue in Budapest  Hungarian poet

He is seen here in this statue re-enacting a scene from one of his poems called, "At the Danube." 

Here is the first part of the poem: 

 "As I sat on the bottom step of the wharf, 
A melon-rind flowed by with the current; 
Wrapped in my fate I hardly heard the chatter 
Of the surface, while the deep was silent. 
As if my own heart had opened its gate: 
The Danube was turbulent, wise and great."

I would like to say I got the symbolism, but I didn't.  I don't do that stuff very well...too gray for me!  If you want to read the entire poem you can find it here.

OK, OK, here is something that is nice and good and has no death in it.  

Tram time!  Tram number 2 is a great tram to get on.  It travels right along the Danube on the Pest side and allows you to take a "resting" tour of that sparkling river.

Budapest tram

Now, back to the ugly side of Budapest's history, no fault of their own though.  Along the Danube there is a Holocaust memorial called Shoes on the Danube. The Nazis would bring Jews to the riverbank, command them to take off their shoes and would then shot them.  They would fall into the river and their bodies would be carried away.

There are no words that I can express that even begin to encase my feelings.

Holocaust Memorial Shoes on the Danube Budapest

Mens shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial Budapest

Womans and child shoes  on the Danube Holocaust Memorial Budapest

Shoes on the edge of the Danube Holocaust Memorial Budapest

Now depressed, hungry, and tired we headed back to the hotel to end this very long day.  There was a Turkish cafe right next to the hotel called Star Kebab Török.  Now, I want you to notice the highlighted part in the picture below.

Bug zapper IN restaurant Budapest

That, my friends, is a bug zapper.  As you stand at the counter ordering, you are standing underneath that thing and it works. It works very well.  Zap!  Zap! Zaaaaaaaap! (That was a big one!) 

It was rather gross, but the food was protected from it.  We were not, but the food was safe and the food was good!  We had stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and beef gyros, which looked much better in the picture than the ones from the first day when we also had gyros.

Gyros stuffed grape leaves falafel Budapest

So hopefully the food picture made you a little happier after I brought you down with the history of Hungary and the death of bugs. I have to warn you though, that our next day in Budapest deals with more of the things they went through under the Nazis and then the communist.  

In order to heal, the history must be heard!  In order to not repeat, the history has to be heard!  We must hear the history and learn from the history and so we shall!