Greetings from Budapest!
It is hard to imagine that the semester is coming to an end. Students will take their final exams after next week and we will close this term with a farewell dinner. A lot happened since our last newsletter, so we would like to share with you some of the highlights.
Excursion to Eger
In March we visited the northern part of the country. The weather could not have been more beautiful and we all enjoyed being able to spend a lot of time outdoors. We discovered the lovely historic town of Eger. Eger is a gem of medieval monuments, home of one the most famous Hungarian fortresses, whose heroes and heroines successfully defended it during the Turkish invasion. Students enjoyed exploring the Fortress of Eger as we made a torch-light tour in the underground Casemates.
Emily’s story: Returning home
Emily shared her story with us about her trip to Veszprém.
“While attending 6th grade at a small Hungarian school in Veszprém, living in Balatonfüred for a year, and periodically vacationing in Hungary, I have developed many family-like relationships with people throughout the country. A few weekends ago I visited one of these dear families in Veszprém. Upon my arrival we decided to take a day-long road trip to see the countryside and Lake Balaton. Our destination was Szalafő, a small town where we learned how pumpkin seed oil is made. The Hungarian countryside is absolutely beautiful; an incredibly peaceful place where the Hungarian culture and importance of relationships can be felt. I am so thankful for welcoming friends who are willing to teach me more about Hungary each time we are together. I will cherish these memories of being with people I love and taking time to revisit the places I have come to call home”
Dylan’s family tree adventure:
“At age eleven, in accordance with a school project, I initiated a dedication to research my family background. That undertaking would spark an interest that carries on to this day. Of what would become probably the biggest passion of my life, genealogy has now carried me to places I never thought I'd go. With the mission to discover my family and learn and preserve the legacies of my ancestors, this hobby has now brought me to learn new languages and travel to distance places. Now, almost ten years later, an interest in my family tree has brought me on the journey of a lifetime. Last weekend I decided to pay a visit to my great-grandfather's home village of Magyarpolány in the Bakony Hills of western Hungary. Growing up I in fact did not know I was Hungarian. My last name had been changed and knowledge of the old country had been lost within my family. It took me years to discover where our roots truly stem from. After realizing I am Hungarian, I have now made it my mission to bring back the language and culture into my family. Now with the opportunity to live in Hungary, my dream is coming true. Traveling to my great-grandfather’s village, the culmination of my undertaking occurred. Upon arrival to this town, I hoped to do research and perhaps track down a living relative. My expectations of discovery were nowhere near what I would indeed find. With the help of some extremely nice locals, I was directed to the house of a woman of eighty-four years old. The grandfather of this woman was my great-great-grandmother's brother. Talking with her I was able to learn about the history and culture of my family, as well as find a true connection to this place. In addition, over the weekend she cooked me traditional Hungarian meals over which we bonded and reconnected as family members. Overall this trip helped me discover a branch of my family I never knew much about. I am very proud to say I am part Hungarian. Although I am American, I still find it important to remember where my ancestors came from. This country holds a rich and fascinating culture and language of which I am eager to embrace. This voyage has been wonderful and I am overwhelmingly grateful to have such an opportunity.” /Dylan, Spring 2015/
Western Hungary; Pannonhalma, Tihany, Szentantalfa
Our excursion to western Hungary included a guided visit of the 1100-year old Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma, a World Heritage Site. The Archabbey’s scenery and especially its library amazed our students. After a group lunch in a small town of Veszprémvarsány, we visited Lake Balaton, the “Hungarian Sea”. Though the weather was not very warm, some brave students decided to swim in the lake in Tihany. We closed the day by learning about organic farming as we visited a small family-run winery in Szentantalfa, dating back to the 18th century. We were welcomed warmly, learned a great deal about wine making, and were even were treated to great stories and delicious, home-made biscuits.
Excursion to Transylvania
We traveled to Transylvania, Romania for a 4-days excursion. We visited the beautiful Kalotaszeg region, a special, Hungarian ethnographic area of Transylvania. We lived with local village families, experienced their warm hospitality, enjoyed their delicious, home cooked meals, and witnessed traditional, rural living and folk culture.
All forms of folk art have reached high level of sophistication in the Kalotaszeg region. In Körösfő, it is wood carving, and we visited a local small shop where chess figures are still made by hand. Our host was happy to show us his skills. We learnt about local customs and traditions inside the beautiful village church where we also saw many beautiful pieces of embroidery made by local women.
Weather was summer-like when we arrived in Torda. We hiked through the famous Gorge of Torda, where nature did its best. Here a mountain is split in the middle and the sight is simply spectacular.
Torockó with the monumental Székelykő (Székely Stone), a three-thousand feet tall rock was another highlight of the trip. Students were full of energy and decided to hike to the top of Székely Stone. The hiking trail was safe, marked clearly, and conditions were just right for this great bonding experience.
With this Newsletter, we say goodbye for now. We hope our students will leave Budapest with experiences and memories lasting a lifetime and will have the opportunity to share their stories with you.
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator