Greetings from Hungary!
When students arrived in Budapest at the very end of January the weather was still a bit wintry and even when they visited the ‘Hungarian sea’, Lake Balaton at the beginning of March they found it partly frozen. Even if the weather has not changed a lot meanwhile, CIEE students have had various enjoyable experiences during this month in Hungary.
Right at the beginning of the semester CIEE students attended a cultural program. In February as part of the ‘Ethnicity, Rural Society and Folk Culture in Historic Hungary’ course several students from the whole group were fascinated to see the dance performance of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, which provided a captivating insight into Hungarian folk culture. The Ensemble, which consists of 30 dancers, chose such choreographies from their repertoire which are based on authentic dances, some of them were collected in isolated villages with dance elements dating back hundreds of years.
Great Market Hall
Students are achieving considerable progress in learning Hungarian language as the semester moves on. Nothing illustrates this better than their ability to go shopping in the Great Market Hall hunting for the best Hungarian candies while the language of communication is nothing else but Hungarian.
Students are now discovering not only Budapest, but the whole country as well. Two wonderful CIEE trips took place at the beginning of March. Students first visited the 1000-year-old Benedictine arch abbey in Pannonhalma, a World Heritage Site in Western Hungary. The arch abbey stands like a fortress on a hill in the middle of the lovely countryside where Small Plains meets the Bakony hills. Pannonhalma is also famous for its lavender grown in its gardens and various medicinal plants and herbs.
The group then set off the discover Lake Balaton – or at least one of its most beautiful parts, Tihany. The village is a favorite tourist destination, and the best view of the Lake is from the tip of the peninsula.
The following day students explored three gems of the marvellous Danube Bend. The group started the day in Esztergom and visited the Basilica, the seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary. Following the curving river students arrived in Visegrád. In the Solomon Tower fanfare of drums announced the arrival of the royal guests, the CIEE students, who had the possibility to attend a spectacular tournament re-enacting the battles fought for the King’s and Queen’s grace in the 14th century’s Visegrád. One of the CIEE students had the honour to be elected as the King and enjoy the tournament form the throne.
After students travelled 500 years back in time and admired the view of Danube Bend they enjoyed a unique medieval feast in the Renaissance Restaurant.
The last station of the one-day trip was Szentendre, with its charming cafés, souvenir shops, numerous museums, galleries and artists.
At the end of this unforgettable day perhaps the students have also felt something from the famous Hungarian poem ‘By the Danube’ written by Attila József:
‘As if my own heart had opened its gate:
The Danube was turbulent, wise and great.’
(Translated by John Székely)
Celebrating the Hungarian Revolution
In the middle of March, students in the Hungarian class also took part in the celebration of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 on their own way: they prepared hand-made cockades from ribbons with the national colors: red, white and green to pay their tribute to the revolutionists.
As the midterm exam period is now over, the spring break is ahead of the students, who can hardly wait to go on the overnight CIEE excursion to Transylvania in the middle of April!
Elizabeth Simon, Ph.D.