HungaryBy students ofPavel KřížkovskýHigh SchoolSpecialising in Arts Czech group, Budapest (by Dagmar Milotová) Introduction Five students from our school had the opportunity to go to an international students meetingin Hungary. We had not known what exactly to expect but it turned up to be a great week. Hungary isnot far from the Czech Republic but it is a completely different country: colourful and interesting. Theweek was amazing.1. Inhabitants The first two days we spent in the centre of Budapest and the capital of Hungary made a verystrong impression on us: a lovely city on the banks of a mighty river, a large measuring scale of thestreets and buildings and moreover all of which – although it cannot be observed – were built in ashort period between 1867 and 1914. Historic styles (Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque) served only asa free sampler for the creation of the frontispieces. We went by the oldest underground in Europe, sawthe hall of the Western railway station designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – Hungary tried toimpress foreigners at least in the capital then. Current Budapest lives differently than the provincialpart of the state as well – we noticed immediately that there are big differences between Budapest andthe rest of the country: whereas there are two million inhabitants in the capital and a millioncommuters, the rest of the ten-million country (apart from the western part near the border withAustria) is undeveloped.
Underground, Budapest (by Lucie Kalandříková) Not only jobs but also shopping possibilities are unrivalled in Budapest: in the huge shoppingmall of West End City Center by the Western railway station we got lost several times and comparedthe prices to ours. Whereas the Czechs pay less for food when at home, going shopping for designerclothes (especially quality shoes which are four times cheaper there: 5 000 vs 20 000 HUF) to Hungaryis worth it. This might explain why the Hungarians – in the view of the prices – tend to buy less foodbefore going on long travels abroad compared to other nations. The more surprising it was for uswhen we found out that the prices in restaurants are not that different from Czech prices – and theportions were big and tasty everywhere. Sometimes we were a bit surprised by some combinations ofside-dishes (rice and steaks, more side-dishes with one meal, relatively small choice of meals forvegetarians). In the Czech Republic, we have either rice or chips but never these two together. Rice and chips, Hungary (by Klára Rejdová) The more to the east, the more it is apparent that the rich Budapest is really far away –Sárospatak lies 12 km from the border with east Slovakia (and the nearest cultural centre of Košice)and 70 km from Ukraine whereas it took four hours to get to Budapest.
Night in Budapest (by Klára Rejdová) The inhabitants of Hungary mostly consist of the Hungarians as the minorities are practicallyneglectable. However, since the Treaty of Trianon, many populous Hungarian minorities have stayedin the neighbouring states. Although we could not notice and judge this ourselves, statistics show thatHungarian population is rapidly decreasing. As for the relationship between the cities and countryside, we learnt that during the longTurkish occupation the inhabitants often moved into countryside-type towns which were under directprotection of the sultan. Thus huge Hungarian areas were depopulated (i.e. forsaken = “puszta”) andit was there where after the era of the Turkish predominance people from other places (includingMoravia) moved. Speaking about the countryside, we were astonished when we saw a lot of fire in the fieldsbasically everywhere. We had thought that the country suffers from conflagration but we were toldthat it was a tradition when lazy people burn the field when they want to avoid ploughing it. Language abilities of the population are very similar to other central-east European countries:older generations speak German, the middle generation has forgotten Russian which they had to learnand the youngest ones speak English. Although Slovakia is near the place where we stayed(Sárospatak), the Hungarians spoke no Slovak at all. The grammar school at Sárospatak offers its students the possibility of quality languageeducation: English, German, Russian as well as Italian. It was very practical for us to learn a fewHungarian words and phrases which we highly recommend to all visitors of this country. The Hungarian population, despite of all the handed-down clichés describing their “fierytemper”, mostly behaves politely; pedestrians right of way is not violated at all. We were highlyamused by the fact that greeting common in the Czech Republic – when a girl kisses another girl – wasconsidered a clear sign of homosexual orientation. Some Hungarians asked if the Czech girls were
lesbians. And it was just a sign of friendship! As they were told by other groups, too, this custom hastaken practically all over Europe. We also noticed that – despite the visible neglected infrastructure (buses, trains, non-fixedfacades which are being repaired only recently) – the Hungarians are trying too have everything clear.You can observe this in Budapest: no cigarette butts on the ground, no spits. Who knows why it isdifferent in our hometown where people do not hesitate to spit on public places and make a lot ofmess. Also, the drivers seemed to be more careful, letting the pedestrians cross. To us, Budapest lookslike a very peaceful and quiet place.2. Visual style The relationship to folk art was very strong in Hungary since the end of the 19 th century. Likein other countries, the artists tried to join modern styles with components of folk art. We learnt aboutthe national romanticism of the end of the 19th century. Hungarian interest in folk art influencedromanticism as well as art nouveau: one of the best-known modern composers of the 20th century BélaBartók collected folk songs too. However, we considered some current pieces of art really strange, e. g.the decalcomania at Holloház (many thanks for the possibility to decorate their great ceramics withour own ideas): the functionalist traditions are apparently stronger in Brno than in Hungary… Thelast works of Imre Makovecz that we could see in Sárospatak look really magnificent but reminded usof stage set: compared to the impressive foyer, the halls of the grammar school are rather narrow, highrooms unpractical and surely not of much use in winter, they say that the interior also suffers fromrains and snow… The local spa by the same architect is also strange as the most attention was paid notto the swimming pools but to the entrance towers… As if carefreeness and a certain operetta stagescenery (long live the Csardas Princess!) were preferred to grey reality… Similarly funnily looked theuniforms of the Hungarian policemen: children’s paper cut-outs (see later). Grammar school, Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová)
Grammar school, Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová) Cultural centre, Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová) You see, not only buildings attracted us visually: the clothes that local policemen wore lookedlike made of paper. In the Czech Republic, there are lots of jokes about policemen and authorities assuch so… policemen wearing “paper” do not look serious. We liked them, anyway.
Policeman, Budapest (by Lucie Kalandříková)3. Music We learnt a couple of Hungarian songs and it was quite surprising that these had sadmelodies and optimistic or at least neutral lyrics. We were told that when a typical Hungarian ishappy, s/he cries. Very interesting. We also learnt some typical Hungarian dances – most of themquite fast so that we had to listen to the rhythm carefully not to step at someone else´s leg…4. History The Hungarian relation to their own history is evidently an important part of their own story– national memorials, statues of their personalities, turuls (mythical birds) who brought theHungarians into their current homeland. The coronation jewels that we could see under the dome ofthe parliament are not just museum exhibits but also symbols of statehood around which guards ofhonour walk.
Coronation jewels, Budapest (by Dagmar Milotová) On the other hand, the protection of historical sights is sometimes really catastrophic inHungary: on the top of a hill in the castle district a cross vault of a cloister was “restored” as a part ofthe Hilton Budapest hotel, the castle has the most awful plastic windows imaginable, the ruins of acastle that we visited are mostly hopelessly embedded in concrete, next to the nicest baroque churchin Pest there is a modern administration building, the National Theatre was nonsensically demolishedbecause of underground construction in the sixties (and now they call it the “national hole”)…Unfortunately, Sárospatak does not fall behind: the gothic church is “decorated” by the designfeatures of the seventies – glass blocks or confessionals that look like public toilets… However, on theother hand we can find very carefully preserved café interiors including all details and at Sárospatakwe admired great stonemanson´s renaissance works… Hilton, Budapest (by Dagmar Milotová)
Church, Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová)5. Environment During our travels through Hungary we did not only visit historic sights but also their “hills”– e. g. Zemplen with the castle ruins. Apart from the Matra Hills with the highest peak of Kékes, thepossibilities of mountaineering are very limited. The Hungarian natural riches that attract tourists themost include thermal spas: not only those in Budapest as the biggest spa city in the world but alsothose in the small country towns which surprise tourists with incredibly low entrance fees. It is notsurprising that the Hungarians stand out from water sports! Unfortunately it was impossible to fail to notice frequent fire in the landscape which – as wewere told – are started by farmers so as they do not have to work on the fields.6. Religion The partner school set the topic of religion and our relation o it as a basis for our presentation.Unlike in our country, religion is very important in the lives of the Hungarians, the towers of Catholicand Calvinist (reformed) churches are typical of all their towns and so it is in Sárospatak where next tothe building of the grammar school was a Greek Orthodox church (Carpathian Ruthenia is reallynear). The kaleidoscope of Hungarian towns was completed by the Moorish features at thesynagogues (of which the biggest we could see in Budapest and we tasted kosher meals in a nearbyrestaurant). Apart from Budapest, after WWII there remained no bigger Jewish communities and thesynagogue at Sárospatak changes into a shopping centre. To this day, there is a clear division of the population according to their faith, i. e. Catholics orreformed Calvinists.
Grammar school, Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová)7. The place where we stayed: Sárospatak Sáros means mud or muddy and Patak stands for a spring or water. Thus, Sárospatak can betranslated as Muddy Waters (like the blues musician from Chicago). We went to check if the name fits.And the answer? Yes, it does. We saw a river and a lot of mud all around. If you are walk down the streets at noon, you can hear készenem, sziésta or egeszegedreeverywhere. People look and most of them are very peaceful and nice to everybody. Castle in Sárospatak (by Klára Rejdová)8. Miscellaneous You can see that we had a great, truly Hungarian experience. We would like to take theopportunity to thank all the teachers and host families. We made a lot of new friends and saw placeswhere we would like to go again.
We are going home from Sárospatak (by Dagmar Milotová)