Sunday, November 30, 2014
Back in Budapest
My home for the next four nights will be Uniworld's River Beatrice, which is a fairly new river cruiser catering for 130 passengers, most of them it seems American Baby Boomers. My cabin is neat, plush, comfortable and a touch on the cramped side, but since there's only me in it, and I expect to be out most of the time, it hardly matters. There are much bigger suites just along the corridor, I couldn't help but notice...
I was one of them, regretting leaving my scarf on the boat, tripping over the cobbles as I followed the bank towards the Houses of Parliament. My goal was a memorial I'd read about only after my last visit: Shoes on the bank of the Danube. It's an installation of 60 cast-iron pairs of assorted 1940s shoes, a memorial to all the Jews lined up beside the river in 1944-45, and shot by the Arrow Cross - a Hungarian fascist group with Nazi-style beliefs. Their victims had to remove their shoes first, because they were a commodity during the war, but the people of course were expendable, and the Danube was a handy way of disposing of the bodies.
It's a grim bit of history, and the worn, battered shoes - men's, women's, children's - speak volumes, arranged untidily along a section of the bank. Flowers and flickering candles gave the rusty brown shoes some colour, but it was a literally chilling sight that was perfectly suited by the greyness of the day.