Tag Archive: 1956



Hungary has heartbreaking stories to tell. And many stories are told in powerful symbols that are poignant reminders of a sad history. On the Pest side of the Danube, an evening stroll along the riverbank promenade is both refreshing and heartbreaking. The memorial is just a few meters south of the Parliament and consists of 60 pairs of shoes made of iron. Cast iron signs have the following text in English (also in Hebrew and Hungarian) : “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militia Men in 1944-45. Erected 16 April 2005″.

I thought the victims were ALL Hungarian Jews. And that they were executed by Nazi Germans. I’m wrong on both counts. Many Hungarians were killed by fellow Hungarians and Germans. The Arrow Cross Party, who shared the same ideologies with the Nazis, took as many as 20,000 Jews from the Budapest Ghetto. It is claimed they were all executed at the banks of the Danube River. In February 1945, the Soviet forces “liberated” Budapest from the Germans. And that’s another sad story.

From Nazi Germany to Soviet Communism, Hungary suffered. Typically, I skip places where I feel negative vibes. But I was drawn to these symbols. The hole on the Hungarian flag hoisted over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A dove shedding a tear. Old photos from a not so distant past. The chilling story of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Just look at that flag above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The hole is right where the Communist Coat of Arms used to be. It was cut out and this symbolism became the battlecry of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against its Soviet-influenced, Soviet-backed government. There is a sad ending here where the uprising was crushed by Soviet tanks rolling into the narrow streets of Budapest. Power and might to crush a Revolution. About 2,500 Hungarian protesters died, and 200,000 fled as refugees. Many Hungarians consider this as the nation’s worst tragedy.

They’ve been through a lot, and these monuments and memorials reinforce that sad memory. No one forgets. ๐Ÿ˜” One can’t help feeling impressed with the resiliency of these Hungarians.


Flanking the Danube River are Buda on the West and Pest on the East Bank. The “tale of 2 cities” merging into one has been subject of many discourses and inevitably comparisons are drawn. Our hotel is on the Pest side. This is where the Parliament is, best viewed from across the Danube in Castle Hill. A very handsome building which is only 3rd largest in the world.

Pest is flat, but bigger. Where Buda is more formal, even reserved, Pest is more vibrant. Nightlife is certainly livelier on the east bank of the Danube. It may not be “quiet and less crowded” as its hilly half, but this is where the action is. The coffee and bar scene here is tops and while relatively “new” and “young”, its bolder character gave way to many prominent edifices like the Parliament, Heroes Square, the “ruin bars”, the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the many bronze statues scattered all around. But in my mind, nothing beats the eclectic bronze shoes lined at the edge of the Danube. The story goes that Hungarian Jews were told to take off their shoes, put whatever jewellery they have inside the shoes, and stand by the river edge. Then they were summarily executed and their bodies fell into the river as they took the shots from Budapest’s Arrow Cross Militia who shared the same Nazi ideology during World War II. The bronze shoes are poignant reminders of this dark period in Hungarian history.

The Central Market Hall is another iconic landmark in Pest. The market has a 2nd floor catering to tourists wishing to buy souvenirs and feast on Hungarian cuisine. There are many souvenir and handicraft for sale here, as well as food stalls where one can try Goulash, lecso, Hungarian smoked sausages, stuffed cabbage, meatballs, langos and many more. We’ve tried it here and it was forgettable if it weren’t our worst lunch. Well, it was a food court after all. But Pest is really teeming with nice shopping places, coffee bars and fine-dining restaurants. One only needs to do a little research. Thankfully, one of my friends made sure we ate very well here. ๐Ÿฝ

Michael Jackson fans would love it here. There is an MJ Memorial Tree in a tiny square corner just right across Kempinski Hotel where the late pop idol used to stay. The tree has assumed a Shrine of sorts with MJ photos plastered around the trunk. And Hungarian fans still gather here on MJ’s birthday, performing MJ’s popular dance moves. Nearby is the Hungarian Eye, much like the London Eye. It’s colossal but I feel it’s an eyesore amidst the many beautiful and historic buildings in the area.

Budapest has a number of popular thermal pools or baths, clearly something they must have picked up from the Romans and Turks. It was tempting to check out Szรฉchenyi or Gellรฉrt if only to watch old men play chess while half-submerged in hot thermal waters. We passed on this one and chose to instead hear mass at St. Stephen’s , enjoy a good dinner then take an evening Danube cruise to see the Hungarian landmarks all lit up. We enjoyed both Buda and Pest. But when I do make a next visit, I’d likely try a hotel in Buda if only to feel its more sober night life.