Greetings from Budapest!
Our semester is running fast: we are already over our midterm exams and we are making preparations to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Hungary, but we will use the occasion to reflect, take stock and enjoy delicious home-style stuffed turkey. Since our last newsletter, the major event of our program was the field trip to Transylvania and here are some highlights.
Excursion to Transylvania
Anticipation was great as we left for a 4-day Transylvanian excursion in the middle of October. 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
Torockó and Torda were other highlights of the trip.
The salt mines of Torda date back more than 800 years. In the Middle Ages Transylvania, as part of the Kingdom of Hungary, was Europe’s major supplier of salt. It was also in this city that the first Act of Religious Tolerance was issued in 1568. Students had fun when tried rowing a boat at the bottom of the salt mine on a very salted lake.
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 a bit foggy but all the students accepted the challenge to climb to the top of the hill.
Katherine’s shared her thoughts about this visit:
"The hike up Mt. Székelykő was easily my favorite part of the trip to Transylvania. It definitely was a challenge. The hike was very steep and slick due to the mud. It didn't help that it also began to rain. A few of use complained going up, but the elation of making it to the top quickly changed our mood. We also sang several songs (I'll make a man out of you from Mulan was a definite favorite). By the end we were quite muddy but incredibly happy! It was a fun experience to have as a group."
/Katherine, Fall 2015/
Zoe turned 21 while we were in Transylvania and we thought it would be really memorable for her if we surprised her with a birthday cake. And she was really surprised! The cake was delicious and we all enjoyed the time together.
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.
This sums up one of our students experience:
"Transylvania was my favorite trip of the semester so far. I have never been to a place that is so rich in folk culture and truly dedicated to preserving the traditional way of life. Our home stays were a wonderful way to interact with local people, understand rural life, and most importantly, eat delicious home cooked Hungarian food. One of my favorite parts of the trip was attending the community Harvest Festival. It was incredible to see the young people uphold the traditional values of music, dance, and singing. Transylvania was an experience that I will never forget!" /Katie, Fall 2015/
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator