Travel Writing

I have written a few travel articles and stories inspired by places I've visited over the years. I have visited China, Japan, Australia, East Africa, India and South America but have travelled most extensively in Europe. 

I won a Daily Telegraph travel writing competition with an article about a trip to Budapest. I think that you have to subscribe to read the article, so have included it below.

Budapest's Moving Memorials

The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, while visiting Budapest at the end of the 19th century, apparently remarked that although the city on the Danube was most pleasing, he desired to know why there was such a lack of monuments.

On my recent visit to the Hungarian capital, it was clear that the city's sculptors had been extremely industrious since then, as the place is now liberally adorned with memorials, ranging from the colossal to the small and quirky, perched on every peak, park and piazza.

I discovered towering embodiments of freedom, such as the fabulous female Liberty monument on Gellert HIll, one of the most distinctive features of the Buda skyline. I also found Hungarian heroes aplenty, including the swashbuckling figure of Kossuth, the gallant leader of the failed 1848 uprising; the most supremely smug lions ever sculpted, in front of the Parliament buildings; and even a foppishly bowing statue of William Shakespeare.

While neighbouring countries have often destroyed their symbols of a totalitarian past, Hungary has found a novel solution to the plethora of Soviet-style statues that were removed after the collapse of communism. Like retired shire horses put out to graze, the giant depictions of Marx, Lenin and idealised workers now inhabit Memento Park, six miles west of the city. Rather than a sculpture garden, the place had the atmosphere of a natural history museum, where you gaze in wonder and fear at the dinosaurs that used to rule the earth.

I found evidence, too, of a wry Hungarian sense of humour. In Liberty Square, which contains the last of the old Soviet-style monuments commemorating Hungary's liberation by the Red Army in 1945, locals had erected a smiling, life-size statue of Ronald Reagan.

I also discovered a monument that is causing much controversy. The memorial in Szabadzag Square was unveiled overnight in 2014. It depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a rapacious German imperial eagle. It is dedicated to the victims of the occupation during the Second World War, but many people believe that history is being whitewashed by its failure to acknowledge the role of Hungary's own fascist party, the Arrow Cross, in sending 450,000 Jews to their deaths.

It is this dark passage in Hungarian history that has resulted in a truly poignant piece of art known as Shoes on the Danube. Sixty pairs of rusted iron shoes, in a variety of styles and sizes, have been placed by the waterside. They represent the Jews who were rounded up by the Arrow Cross, told to remove their footwear and then shot, with their bodies falling into the river.

The bleak simplicity of the installation made this the most moving memorial of all.