Greetings from Budapest!
Warm greetings from Budapest where we have been having typical winter weather: gray, overcast sky and short days, but snow has not fallen yet. Holiday lights are everywhere and students have been enjoying the Christmas market in the middle of the city at Vörösmarty square. This week is the last week of teaching and final exam week is coming next. We will close the semester with a Farewell Dinner together with students and faculty.
But before we say good bye, we would like to share with you some highlights of our program:
Excursion to Transylvania
Anticipation was great as we left for a 4-day Transylvanian excursion in November. 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.
Torda and Torockó
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. According to the legend, St. Ladislaus, the great knight king of Hungary and his army were pursued by Cumanian fighters when, by the miracle of celestials, the huge boulder split in two before the Hungarians. The king and his soldiers escaped, but their attackers fell into the ravine.
We are ready to hike through the tall cliffs of the Torda Gorge
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 (Secler Stone), a three-thousand feet tall rock, beyond which the sun rises twice. Weather was cool but sunny so all the students accepted the challenge find the remnants of centuries-old iron mines by climbing to the top of the hill close to Székelykő.
Fall 2016 group with the Székelykő (Secler Stone) in the background
Traditional dresses are still worn on festive occasions in Kalotaszeg and trying them on is an adventure.
The Transformation of Steve and Anna in Kalotaszeg style
On the next day we were welcomed by Albert, the chess maker, in the village of Kőrösfő. The village is famous for wood carving and embroidery, and we marveled as chess figures were being carved by hand. Producing and selling hand-made objects are the main revenue source of the local community.
Students are amazed by the talent of Albert, the chess maker
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.
Hungarian class on ice and at the Christmas market
Learning Hungarian language is fun, especially if you are trying it on Europe's largest outdoor skating rink behind Heroes’ Square.
Nate, Betsy, Clara, Camille, Sage, Jamie and Jen with Eszter – the European karate champion of her age group (!) (in the middle), the daughter of the Hungarian professor, Mónika
Though Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Hungary, we celebrated it with a wonderful group dinner in the dormitory. Food was plentiful as students also contributed some of their special favorites such as cranberry sauce, Mac and Cheese and mashed potatoes.
Abigail, Kyle and Ally having fun at Thanksgiving dinner
The Hungarian Santa is actually called Mikulás and it is celebrated on December 6th, on St. Nicholas' Day. In anticipation of Mikulás’ visit, children put their polished shoes in their windows the night before and Mikulás leaves presents in them: all kinds of chocolates and candy. This year Mikulás also visited the CIEE office to leave some goodies for our students.
Students are happy to receive their Mikulás goodies!
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 Spring 2017. We wish you Happy Holidays and a prosperous, healthy New Year!
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator
Dóra Kovács, Program Coordinator