I vividly remember the time I first saw the name "Danube River".
Back when I was just a little kid, I used to play this local board game called "Bishwo Ludu", which I guess is almost extinct now.
Anyway, in that game you roll your dice and travel all around the world.
It was quite fun and very informative at the same time.
I first saw the name of the river Danube while playing this game and this was probably when my fascination for world maps started growing.
The name Danube, however, had something in it; something that left a permanent imprint on my mind.
Later, while growing up, I saw that name again in some books and papers along with the names of other prominent rivers like Tigris, Euphrates, Shindhu, Nile, Amazon etc and I knew I had to visit this magical place someday.
Fast forward to 2017, I finally visited Budapest and ticked off the huge desire from my bucket list; seeing the mighty Danube River with my own eyes and walking along its enchanting bank.
Danube is the second longest river in Europe flowing through Budapest, the capital of Hungary, literally splitting the city in two parts.
Here is an interesting fact – I said "literally" because the names of the two separated parts are "Buda" and "Pest".
The west bank of the river is called Buda - with a hilly and classy topography, while the east bank is called Pest - with flatter lands.
Our hotel was at the "Buda" and it was a comparatively small hotel called Bi & Bi.
The hotel's most beautiful feature was a large world map hanging in the lobby.
People staying in that hotel would write their names on a small sticky note and stick it on their respective countries on the map.
The joy of tagging the paper with our name on it on the blank map of Bangladesh was truly incomparable!
Not wasting much time in the hotel, we rushed towards the bank of Danube.
We took the underground metro and got down at a station named Kossuth Lajos tér.
This station runs alongside the Hungarian Parliament Building – the most visited landmark in Hungary, which sits in a royal manner just by the bank of Danube River.
This hundred-year-old building is literally the icon of the city.
You can find it in postcards, fridge magnets, mugs, T-shirts and where not.
It was late afternoon when we finally reached there.
The magnificent building with unbelievable details and ornamentation was looking even more enthralling under the golden rays of the setting sun.
We started walking southwards by the river bank.
It was a dream come true moment for me to be able to walk by the side of the Danube River with a setting sun behind the hills of the west bank in my background.
We could see the famous Liberty Bridge - an iconic green bridge made with cast iron, connecting the two parts of the city.
Behind that bridge, the Buda Castle was also in view, resting elegantly on the top of the Castle Hill.
Walking a bit further, we saw a place where a few people were gazing at the stone-paved edge by the river bank.
Our curiosity led us to that place and we encountered something strange.
By the stone embankment, we saw hundreds of shoes randomly lying around.
The first impression it gave me was that there were hundreds of people here and something terrible had happened to them.
This made me think that they left the place in a hurry with their shoes scattered by the shore of the Danube River.
The thought immediately created a void of grief inside my mind.
A closer look revealed that they were actually made of cast iron, which gathered some rust over time and some of them even had grasses grown inside.
Nonetheless, we still sat as witnesses to something terrible.
Reading the texts on the marble plaque next to it, I understood that the setting was in fact a sculpture named "Shoes on the Danube Bank", made in commemoration of a brutal genocide from World War II.
From 1944 to 1945, during World War II, the Arrow Cross militia carried out a brutal massacre in Budapest.
Between December 1944 and January 1945, about 3,500 people were killed by this brutal force, of which about 800 were Jews.
All of them were killed by burst-fire while standing on the banks of the Danube River.
According to an eyewitness, all of their shoes were taken off and they were shot at the river bank so that the bodies could easily float away in the river.
Those rusty iron shoes, a 40-meter-long stone bench and three cast iron plaques were all that was needed to create this powerful, yet enticing, piece of sculpture representing the brutality.
The idea to commemorate the brutality was conceived by film director Can Togay, together with sculptor Gyula Pauer.
Can you imagine the hundreds of people standing barefoot on the bank of the river, waiting to be shot in the chest while the terror of inevitable death lingers in their eyes and the glum hope of being embraced by the ever so graceful river Danube flowing behind them?
Just 60 pairs of period appropriate cast iron shoes scattered around the stone embankment was a representation strong enough to make you visualise that moment clearly and create a void of sadness deep inside your heart instantly.
However, walking by the picturesque bank of Danube River with the mesmerising setting sun at the west horizon is definitely something I am going to cherish for a lifetime.
But during that scenic walk when you suddenly stumble upon this uniquely thoughtful sculpture, it is sure to bring you back to the harsh reality.
It might sadden you, it might create a void of grief, but it will definitely leave a mark deep inside you.
For me, it has now become a significant part of all the wonderful memories I created with Danube River in Budapest - an experience that made my memories worthwhile, an experience that induced more humility in me, an experience that attached itself to the name "Danube" forever.