Budapest: a city of remembering

First impressions of Budapest are of a beautiful city full of grand architecture in the 18th century Viennese style.  Churches, the Opera house to streets lined with ornate apartments are emblems of the Austro-Hungarian empires grandeur.  The landmark 19C grand parliament buildings on the edge of the Danube suggest confidence and permanence.  Yet the state of disrepair of many of these old buildings is an indicator of the politics of the past 100 years: 2 world wars and 50 years of communist rule. Since the 90‘s, transition to democracy is slow but the memory of a grander history is kept alive in the architecture, the museums and the arts.

In amongst the throngs of tourists there are many local people drinking coffee, smoking, engaged in vibrant conversation at the numerous sidewalk cafes and squares.  In our dialogue with some residents one senses the frustration with the the government and corruption, but also hope and energy for progress and change.

Parliament Buildings

Grand ecclesial architecture.

Neglected railway station, Buda

Rebuilt Chain Bridge. Original demolished in WWII From Buda side looking over to Pest.

A large part of the Jewish population of Budapest identified with the Hungarian culture.  Hungary’s alignment with Germany early in WW II and the ensuing resistance of the government to cooperate with deportation, allowed the Jewish community to fare better for longer than in other countries under Nazi control. Then near the war’s end, in 1944 the Third Reich occupied Hungary and thousands of Jews were contained in ghettoes where they died of starvation or were deported en mass to Auschwitz-Birkenau. As they disembarked from the trains, the vast majority were ‘selected’ for the gas chambers. This story is sensitively preserved in the many synagogues, walking tours of the former Ghetto area, a very comprehensive Holocaust Museum as well as art installations throughout the city.

Jewish persecution during WW II.  About 100 Jews were tethered together and taken to the banks of the Danube. 2 or 3 of them shot, falling into the river and pulling the rest with them to die by drowning. This is a double exposure of an art installation:  cast iron shoes along the banks of the Danube.

Jewish persecution during WW II.  About 100 Jews were tethered together and taken to the banks of the Danube. 2 or 3 of them shot, falling into the river and pulling the rest with them to die by drowning. This is a double exposure of an art installation:  cast iron shoes along the banks of the Danube.

Stones of Stumbling. Plaques in the pavement in front of homes where Haulicaust victims were known to have lived. A way of remembering.

The Tree of Life: a symbol of hope. An art installation at the Holocaust Memorial, The Great Synagogue, Pest. The leaves are inscibed with names of victims.  

Croatia; a backdrop for reflecting

My memories of Croatia are primarily visual impressions of stunning landscapes, seascapes, architecture; of life in the markets and in fishing harbours.   It was a time of fighting tourist crowds in Dubrovnik, Korcula and Plitvice Lake Park. A time of reflecting on the violence during the wars of independence in the former Yugoslavia while walking through quiet cobbled streets, along deserted beaches and being embraced by the residents of small, out of the tourist loop villages. It was a time of unprecedented weather: unseasonably high temperatures and ear shattering thunder storms accompanied by torrential rain.

A perspective on Split from the seafront walkway.

Wedding festivities in the Diocletian Palace precincts. Split

Plitvice Lakes Park

Another choice in wedding venue! heavy rains submerged the boardwalk through the waterfalls at Plitvice lakes Park. Crowds lined up to navigate single file across the flooded area.

Dubrovnik

Trpanj, coastal village

Art in the ordinary, fish nets