An Adventure A Day

Because "life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all" – Helen Keller

Travel Theme: Intense

October 3, 2015

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To travel is to live intensely. You are constantly inundated by new sights, new sounds, new smells, new languages, and new experiences. To travel is to learn intensely. History leaves the pages when you see the places, walk in the footsteps, visualize the realities of the people who lived their lives in times that shaped the world.

Travel can elicit intense emotions, especially when you encounter memorials. In Europe, you’ll pass a memorial in nearly every town. There are war memorials, memorials to Christian Martyrs, memorials to victims of plague, to victims of communism, and to victims of the holocaust. There are large memorials, and small memorials, memorials that are well-known and well-attended, and memorials that are all but forgotten.

The travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is intense, and I wanted to focus on one of the most intense memorials I’ve observed. The story behind the memorial is a lesser known event in the history of World War II, intense in its callousness. The memorial itself is simple, and the intensity lies in the simplicity of design, of what is given to you to interpret. The memorial is Budapest’s Shoes on the Danube.

Within sight of the Chain Bridge, in the shadow of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, sixty pairs of metal shoes line the banks of the Danube. They remain a silent reminder of a horrific period of history. The monument was erected in 2005, conceived by film-maker Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer to honor the memories of the Hungarian Jews who were lined up and shot by the Arrow Cross Militia on the banks of the Danube River between 1944 and 1945. The location was chosen to allow the Danube to sweep away the bodies – after the victims removed their shoes.

The memorial includes shoes in all sizes and styles. There are men’s shoes, women’s shoes, and children’s shoes. There are work shoes, and dress shoes, old shoes and new. Standing before this row of shoes you are forced to consider not only the individuals who faced such an undeserved death, but the perpetrators of such a crime. Intense indeed.

Visit Where’s My Backpack to view more Intense travel.


Travel Theme: Strong

September 20, 2014

The travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is Strong.

I find the best travels are the ones that evoke the strongest reactions. The places that make you feel, make you think, make you question. These are the ones that remain with you. That change you. As a student sitting in my university history classes, I never imagined that one day I would have an opportunity to visit the places I’d studied.

In Prague, we visited the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The memorial to the 7 parachutists killed in a gun battle following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich is a simple one, and extraordinarily moving. This represents so many facets of the word strong: strength of character, strength of belief, strength of courage, and a strong love of country.

You can read about Operation Anthropoid here.

Another Prague location sure to bring strong memories is Wenceslas Square. Always a place of strong resistance and emotion, it is the location where in 1918, the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia was read. Where in 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Where in 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred.

Read more about Wenceslas Square here.

In Budapest, Hungary I found another strong, simple reminder of the tragedies of the past. Not too far from the Chain Bridge in the shadow of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, you will find the Shoes on the Danube Bank. This moving memorial is dedicated to the victims of the Arrow militia, who were shot into the Danube River in 1944 and 1945. This beautiful, strong, quiet statement is the perfect place for reflection.

You can read more about Shoes on the Danube Bank here.

Not all strong travel encounters are historical. Sometimes it’s all about the food. Here are some of the strong flavors of Hungary!