Greetings from Budapest!
Warm greetings from Budapest where we have been having typical winter weather: gray, overcast sky and short days. Snow has not fallen yet. Holiday lights are everywhere and students have been enjoying the Christmas market in the middle of the city. They look for presents or just stroll around tasting chimney cake or mulled wine. This is our last week of classes. Next week is final exams and due dates for term papers. We will close the semester with a Farewell Dinner together with students and faculty.
Here are some highlights since our last newsletter.
Excursion to Transylvania
Our longest organized group excursion of the semester was the 4-day visit to Transylvania, which is always a big excitement among students. The area we visited was the Kalotaszeg region and we stayed with local families in the village of Kalotaszentkirály, which allowed us to experience their warm hospitality and gain an insight into their traditional way of life and customs. We visited the annual market in Kőrösfeketetó (Negreni) – a centuries old annual event - a huge fair selling traditional goods as well as antiquities. It is the biggest market event of that region and it attracts thousands of people. During our visit, our host village was holding its annual harvest festival which included a big dance in the evening. Folk music and dance are still a living part of the community’s tradition. As it was a dance for all, our students soon were trying their feet and it was great fun when they were asked to dance by the locals.
Torockó and Torda were other highlights of the trip. Torockó, for centuries the center of iron mining and manufacturing in Transylvania, received the “Europe Nostra” award for cultural heritage in 1999.
Torockó’s Hungarian inhabitants are Unitarians, a religion that was founded in Transylvania. We marveled the beautiful snow-white houses nestled below the monumental Székelykő (Székely Stone), a three-thousand feet tall rock. Weather was great so we climbed to the top of the hill.
Our next stop was the Torda Gorge, a beautiful spot in Transylvania. Here students learned about one of the legends of the great Hungarian ruler, King St. Ladislaus of the 11th century, and much revered in Transylvania. The Torda Gorge became a nature reserve in 1938, and it is on the list of UNESCO’s most important natural monuments of the world.
We were welcomed by Albert, the chess maker, in the village of Kőrösfő. The village is famous for wood carving and embroidery, and we were lucky to see chess figures were being carved by hand. Producing and selling hand-made objects are the main revenue source of the local community.
Our four days went by very fast, we had to say goodbye. The excursion helped us all to better understand and appreciate rural and traditional way of life.
Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Hungary, but we marked the day with a traditional American celebration: stuffed turkey and all the trimmings. Food was plentiful as students also contributed some of their special favorites. Green bean artichoke casserole and sweet potatoes were among the favorites.
With this newsletter we say good bye for this semester. Thank you for your interest and we look forward to sending you news again in the spring semester. We wish you Happy Holidays and a prosperous, healthy New Year!
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator