13 Oct 2008

Jewish Budapest

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and has one of the highest number of Jewish citizens per capita of any European city.  It is also home to the second largest synagogue in the world, which survived WWII because because Nazis used it for strategic reasons.

June 1944 saw the forced deportations of Jews by Hungarians. Today they are remembered by a metal Weeping Willow Holocaust Memorial. This “Tree of Life” memorial resembles a weeping willow whose leaves bear the names of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The inscription on top of the memorial reads: "Whose agony is greater than mine."

Also of special interest is the Shoes on the Danube Promenade: a memorial to the Budapest Jews who fell victim to Hungarian pro-Nazi militiamen on January 8, 1945. It depicts sixty pairs of shoes left behind by Jews shot on the banks of the Danube River. It was erected April 16, 2005 by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay to commemorate the 60 year anniversary of the Holocaust.

Also of significant importance is the Statue of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian who worked to save Hungarian Jews in 1944. With the help of Swedish diplomats, Wallenberg issued protective passports and housed several thousands Jews, saving tens of thousands lives.

As usual I strongly suggest a private guide for greater leaning. I arranged a guide in Budapest through


07 Oct 2008

Manley Beach, Sydney, Australia

If you enjoy a nice day at the beach I recommend Manley Beach. It is a half hour ferry ride from Circular Quay (near Opera House) and has the added benefit of a beautiful harbor tour. In fact even if you don’t want to spend time on the beach, the ferry is basically a harbor tour for a much cheaper price.

When you get to Manly, don’t be fooled by the mini beaches adjacent to the Ferry terminal. You will walk a couple enjoyable blocks on The Corso and actually cross from Sydney Harbor to the Pacific Ocean.

You’ll like the ambiance, pubs, beautiful ocean and beautiful people. If you need serenity then this is not the place for you.


01 Oct 2008

Jewish Australia

The Jewish community in Australia is relatively new. The first Jews that arrived there were convicts from England, similar to many other immigrants. Australia was open to Jews during the War, and was then settled by many Holocaust survivors.

There are 100,000 – 120,000 Jews in Australia, some living in Melbourne and most of the rest in Sydney. Melbourne has a particularly active community with over ten Jewish day schools and thirty Congregations.

Both Sydney and Melbourne have outstanding Jewish museums that merit visiting.

In Sydney, it is basically a Holocaust museum which is particularly moving in that the guides tend to be Survivors who are willing to share their stories.

Melbourne’s museum, technically the Jewish Museum of Australia, is about typical Jewish life and traditions.

I was surprised to see it was so basic in its presentation although it is extremely well presented. It turns out that most of its visitors are not Jewish. It is a great learning experierience for those who want to learn about our traditions.

Separate and distinct, they have an extremely well done Holocaust Centre.


29 Sep 2008

Sydney, Australia

Sydney is one of the great ports in the world to arrive by ship. It has a gorgeous skyline and about 200 miles of coastline. The city is built around Port Jackson, which includes Sydney Harbour. It is noted for the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

The cruise ships dock right downtown within walking distance of the world famous Opera House. Know for its expressionist modern design, the Opera House is made up of a series of pre-cast large concrete shells and covered by over one million Swedish-made self-cleaning tiles.

Typically cruise ships will arrive very early in the morning. If you are on one, be sure to wake up and enjoy the arrival. Of special interest is the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, locally nicknamed The Coathanger. It is the world's widest long-span bridge, and its tallest steel arch bridge.


27 Sep 2008

Athens 2004 Summer Olympics

In August 2004, the Summer Olympics returned to Athens. It was the first time since 1896 that the Olympics were held in Greece, and the first time the flame travelled around the world to all former Olympic cities. My wife and I visited the sitghts in July while on our honeymoon cruise.

To this day I am amazed that they finished in time for The Games. As you can see, they not even close to finished with the construction just a few weeks before. They did not even seem to be working.

The "Running Man" statue you see below is outside the stadium. It is at least double life-size and is made from horizontal pieces of glass. It’s one of my favorite modern sculptures.