An International Day of Remembrance

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Memorial Day. Memorials throughout Europe honor the memory of individuals who were killed during the Holocaust and serve as a daily reminder to be vigilant.

History and responsibility are very clearly taught here.

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Max Oster of Oslo, Norway; born 1884, deported and killed 1 Dec. 1942

Germany and many other European countries pave gold “stumbling blocks” into the sidewalks to draw attention and promote reflection. Engraved with a name, the tiles are placed in front of the person’s previous residence. The last names and birth dates included allow you to speculate about the relationships between the people – often parent and child or husband and wife. It has the arresting effect, in the middle of the day, to make you suddenly imagine the person or persons living at the address in front of you and then see them being taken away.

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Family from Bamberg, Germany; deported and killed between 1941-1943
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August Klotzbach of Wiesbaden, Germany; arrested for treason in 1935 and survived

Date and/or place of death is often marked as unknown. In those cases, any known information about the person’s deportation is listed. Cities that are listed are mostly in Eastern Europe (as all death camps were purposely located outside of Germany): Auschwitz, Poland and Riga, Latvia being among some of the most common.

Munich is apparently the only German city that doesn’t use the gold blocks, as they feel it’s disrespectful to have names of the deceased underfoot.

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Frankfurt’s Holocaust Memorial Wall

In Frankfurt, a memorial wall also stretches around the old Jewish cemetery. Similar to the gold street bricks, small plaques jutting out display the names and fates of former Frankfurt residents who perished during this dark period of history, including Anne Frank. Visitors pay respects to those lost by placing stones on the protruding plaques that stretch on for rows upon rows upon rows.

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Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

For more on how Berlin remembers victims of the Holocaust and the National Socialist regime, see Berlin Remembers.

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Neologe Synagogue in Brașov, Romania
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Old New Synagogue in Prague – oldest active synagogue in Europe
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Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary – largest in Europe
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Memorial in the Dohány Synagogue courtyard

Today, the oldest still-active synagogue in Europe is in Prague, Czech Republic and the largest synagogue in Europe is located in Budapest, Hungary. We happened to visit Budapest during Rosh Hashanah and saw many families on their way to services both at the Dohány Street Synagogue and a smaller synagogue in the same area.

 

Interestingly, the relatively new Memorial for the Victims of the German Occupation currently stands as a hotly contested source of criticism in Budapest. Intended to memorialize Holocaust victims, its use of symbols is intended to misconstrue history, according to daily peaceful protestors. Specifically, they take issue with the representation of Hungary as an angel being attacked by the German eagle. Protesters demand that Hungary not deny the complicity its government and some of its citizens took with the Third Reich during the Holocaust. Their goal is to replace what they consider a gross misrepresentation of history with a more fitting memorial.

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Budapest memorial in question
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Protesters’ issues explained
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Call to the Prime Minister: “Mr. Oban, Tear Down Your Monument!”
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Pictures, stories, and artifacts in front of the monument
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Stones, candles, and plants honor lost lives

Both the monument itself and the surrounding controversy serve as an important reminder that how we portray history becomes how we remember it.

Never again.

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Budapest: Memorial to people lined up and shot into the Danube 1944-45
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European Feast

European Feast

In honor of not cooking this Thanksgiving, here are some of my all-time favorite food and drink pictures from all over Europe over the last three years. Guten Appetit & Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: I wasn’t too big on taking food pictures until recently. A few not pictured favorites include mussels in Belgium, Indonesian food in the Netherlands, Sacher torte (a kind of chocolate cake) in Austria, stuffed peppers in Romania, Scotch and shortbread in Scotland; Guinness in Ireland, fondue and Raclette in Switzerland, pasta-sauerkraut-cheese stir fry in the Czech Republic, smoked salmon in Sweden and Norway, and gelato, coffee, pizza, etc., etc. in Italy.

Something from Nothing: Post-Communist Nightlife in Budapest

Pest at sunset
Pest
View of Buda at sunset
Buda

I’m glad we arrived in Budapest at night. From rosy sunset skylines on the Danube to funky, fantastic nightlife, there’s no better time to experience it.

After falling into disrepair during forty years of communist rule, the Hungarian capital, like many other Eastern Bloc cities, has slowly been rebuilding. You can see it in the remainder of drab gray buildings, construction of once-grand rubble, the occasional leftover Traband, and a homeless population that rivals that of Dublin.

But out of the still-musty graffitied and abandoned buildings and disused alleys, the younger generation has recently made something from nothing and it’s redefining the character of the city: some of the hippest, maybe even hipster-est, nightlife spots in Europe.

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Simpla Kert: outside & in

Simpla Kert

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In recent years, the city has become famous for its so-called Ruin Pubs, which I would more accurately term dive bars. Furnished with bathtub couches, piano frame shelves, old-timey radios, mismatched stools, newspaper fringe chandeliers and whatever else could be scrapped together, these hotspots rise with an eclectic sense of ingenuity out of ruin.

The coolest of the ruin pubs that we found was Simpla Kert, a multi-level mess of scrap decor and hookah smoke whose only brightly lit room houses a tattoo parlor.

Like most of the popular ruin pubs, Simpla Kert is in the former Jewish Ghetto, a now up-and-coming party district of the city. By day much of the area looks shabby and empty, but by night it’s colorful, lively, and entertaining.

Street art in the Jewish district
Street art in the Jewish district
Ellátó Kert
Ellátó Kert, a Mexican themed bar
Ellátó Ház
Ellátó Ház, a mostly outdoor bar
Entrance to Fogas
Entrance to Fogas
Fogas
Inside Fogas: Coca-Cola and American oldies rock-n-roll music… when pigs fly
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Club Instant
Instant
More weird decor at Instant
Yellow Zebra bar and bike rentals
Yellow Zebra bar and bike rentals

Fitting into the modern scene, craft beer and international street food (including tacos) are entering a renaissance here. Besides bars, these can also be found at stands around the city, including those in the Street Food Karaván alley next to Simpla Kert. The same alleyway contains a community garden.

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Street Food Karaván alley
Karaván
Karaván street food stands

Traditional Hungarian street food deserves mention here too. We found that it involves a lot of tasty fried dough. The most traditional street snack is Langos, a flattened fried dough topped with rich, mild Hungarian sour cream and cheese. Kürtőskalács (which we’ve also found at German Christmas markets) is the cinnamon and sugar coated funnel cake-esque dessert wrapped around a rolling pin and cooked over an open fire. More Austro- than Hungarian in style, we found sausage sandwiches drenched in your choice of gooey sauce.

Langos
Langos
Kürtőskalács
Kürtőskalács
Sausage sandwiches
Sausage sandwiches with cheese sauce and chili sauce

And while craft beer may be on the rise, Hungary is traditionally known for having excellent quality red wine. One of the heartiest varieties is Egri Bikavér, (figuratively) meaning bull’s blood.

Cheers from Budapest!: Egészségedre!

Egészségedre!