A Travellerspoint blog


Family that Lives Far Away But Always Close to Our Hearts

Day 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 Veszprém

sunny 25 °C

After a lovely first night so warmly embraced by family and fed until we almost popped (and Hungary won!), we spent a truly special six days in Veszprém - time that was way beyond anything we could have expected or had hoped for, and will always cherish.

My Mum was born in Szengál, a town close to Veszprém (an hour and a half by train, south west of Budapest) where my relatives all now live. It was a wonderful feeling to drive down the same driveway to familiar sights from when I was here the first time as a skinny 11 year old in 1972 or as a curly haired (still skinny) backpacker in 1985 sporting a very impressive Dennis Lillie moustache!

My first cousins, Láci and Váli, brother and sister, live as neighbours with their families, back to back, with a path joining the two homes beneath cherry trees laden with delicious ruby fruit.

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My Aunty Esti lives close, only 6 doors up the street.

We stayed with Láci and his partner Éva.
We were treated to visits to Lake Balaton,

the castle at Sumeg,
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the castle and old part of Veszprem,
Tihany, Kesenthy and Herend.

Herend is famous for its fine porcelain factory, an enduring industry in the area, operating since 1826 and is one of the world's largest ceramic factories. Both Váli and her daughter Váli have worked there, helping to craft the beautiful fine porcelain. We were treated to a wonderful tour by the artists, showing us how they create the pieces, from filling moulds with porcelain, forming the figures, cutwork, glazing, painting and decorating.


My Mum has many many beautiful Herend figurines and tableware - even I was responsible for bringing a few magnificent Herend figurines to Australia in 1972 - smuggled out of the country under the noses of Soviet Customs Officers in a purpose built oversized overcoat - who would suspect a skinny little kid sneaking national treasures out under their noses! Mum loves them all, treating each one as if it is a treasured pet. Jen and I even possess a couple of special pieces, gifted by Mum for our wedding. The factory and museum tour was amazing and we saw a number of pieces that are sitting in my Mum's loungeroom. Each piece is individually crafted and painted so are quite the collectors items. I bought Jen a brooch and Váli and Váli bought here a pendant, a treasured memento.

These Harlequins are about three feet tall and are collectors items, retailing for about $20,000.

We also visited thermal hot water springs at Hévíz. Being Aussie, when presented with a large body of water in which to swim and appropriately attired in swimming costumes, naturally, Jen and I - swam. Gleefully swimming around the entire lake. Apparently however, "swimming" is not the done thing. Hévíz has therapeutic qualities and is high in many compounds including sulphur with medicinal, healing, restorative and preventative properties. Accordingly, older Hungarians afflicted with the usual aches and pains of ageing, often with the prescription of their GP (enabling them a discounted entry fee) soak in the lake.
Most Hungarians can't swim so they all float about in the water with their rubber pool noodles - not really doing anything, elaborate hairstyles are safe as not a splash of water is created, and even very little conversation. It seems Jen and I caused some consternation amongst the locals as we free-stroked our way around. We believe complaints may have been raised as the resident lifeguard was sent over to hover over us to calm us down - and communications over the two-way about those "Englishpeople" [in Hungarian] was fairly self evident.

The sulphur turned our silver rings the most amazing burnished gold colour!

The food was amazing and Jen loved the traditional home cooking delicacies Váli, Váli, Láci and Éva kept bringing out for us. Each meal I had was like stepping back in time with memories of my childhood and my Mum's cooking - even breakfast was a trip down memory lane
Things like: letcho, langos, fish soup, palacsinta, kolbasz, fresh bread, fresh cherries off the tree, paprika chicken with nokedli, gulyás soup, chicken soup, meat soup, egg soup, cherry strudel, walnut strudel, Apple strudel, shredded cabbage soup. I even had tripe! Each dinner meal would also start with either a shot of Parlinka or Unicom, both were to kick start the digestive system and aid in good health, or so everyone tells us.

Jen and I concocted our lunch one day unsupervised from Hungarian leftovers out of the fridge. The family was incredulous about what we did and how ridiculous it was. It tasted good to us! Food is a great passion of everyone - particularly keeping true to the traditions. Everyone is a great cook.

One afternoon we received a cooking tutorial on a few of our Hungarian favourites to make when we get home. Láci even sourced a Hungarian Cooking Book for us so we're all set to attempt to recreate the wonderful flavours at home, bring a little part of Hungary with us.

The real highlight was the special time with my relatives and extended family.

I spent time with my cousin Tündi and her mother Mimi Neni who I met the past two times I was Hungary and always had fond memories.
We also met my other cousins and their family for the first time, Károly and Kornél.

Károly and his wife, Lilla's darling daughter Janka, found a new play thing. Jen didn't speak Hungarian, Janka didn't speak English but delighted in saying Jen's full name, escorting her around the house all night, explaining the toys, counting, showing Jen the fish and so on.

We visited the cemetery in Szengál where my grandparents, uncles and aunties now rest in peace.


We saw the farm area where my mum and her siblings grew up, wandering along the creek where Mum and her sisters would play, including a game, throwing a shoe in at the top of the creek and chasing it down hill to the bridge.


Jen did a fantastic job of conversing with my relatives - acquiring a few Hungarian words during our stay - mostly beverages and Yes and No. Jen was also able to extract a very comprehensive family tree covering about five generations. I cannot thank Jen enough for developing this and for how she so easily settled in, quickly becoming comfortable with my relatives. Also special thanks to my relatives for treating her so warmly and making her feel very much part of the family.

I spent some special time with Aunty Esti who still has a spring in her step, looks after a beautiful garden and has a great zest for keeping busy.
Her darling dog is a great companion.
She also runs around at 100 m/ hr just like my Mum. It was great to spend time with Láci, Éva, Váli, Váli, Tamás, Boti and Laura.
Even BB-8 dropped by.
We chatted, joked, reminisced, shared photos, drank Parlinka, ate delicious food until our tummies almost exploded and enjoyed each others company.

A grand family dinner was arranged on the Saturday night bringing the whole family together, watching Hungary play Iceland, football in the back yard.
Everyone, including Moxie, had a great time!

It has been 30 years since I was here and I promise it won't be 30 years the next time I am back. Jen loved the way we were so warmly welcomed into their homes and for going out of their way, taking time out of busy lives for the 6 days.

Sadly we said our goodbyes, took some photos with family identical to where I stood 46 and 30 years ago.
1972 and Now
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1972, 1985 and now
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I hope they come out to Australia one day so Jen and I can return their generosity and hospitality.

Our train got delayed for 20 minutes so we had some final time together, delaying our final goodbyes, at the train station. During the delay, Váli, Váli and Laura struck upon the idea to accompany us on the train to Szekesfaharvar, and have a day trip, so we extended the goodbyes for another hour, very sweet.

We then made our way back to Budapest and caught an afternoon train to Zagreb to start our driving holiday in Croatia and Bosnia.

Köszönöm mindenkinek a mi idő Veszpremen.

Posted by tszeitli 23:27 Archived in Hungary Tagged food history family special legacy generations Comments (4)

Creating New Memories in the Footsteps of the Past

Day 28, 29, 30, 31 Budapest

sunny 20 °C

Budapest is a chance to catch up with my cousin Marta, on my Dad's side. I also wanted to understand more about the Revolution in October 1956, and the events leading up to it which caused my Mum and Dad to leave Hungary in January 1957.
Jen visited Budapest 5 years ago and I was here 30 years ago. Jen had a miserable time on her one-day visit to Budapest so I was determined to endear Hungary to her this time.
Marta did a marvellous job of arranging an apartment for us about 1 kilometre from the River, close to the Metro and historical sites. We adore the apartment, 200 years old and beautiful.
The first day was totally non-tourist, having coffee, going to the shops, lunch. It was lovely spending time with Marta catching up on the past 5 years from when I last saw her in Brisbane.
The next day was the HopOnHopOff Bus. We did the loop, stopping at Gellért Hill with its famous Liberty Citadel at the top. It's a great outlook as you can see down both sides of the Danube River and over the Buda side.
On the way up is a monument to Saint Gerard, a bishop, brought in by St Stephen in the first century to bring Christianity to the pagans. He didn't do very well and met an unfortunate end in 1046, after being bundled into a barrel by his "congregation" and rolled down Buda Hill into the Danube, never to be seen again.
There is a monument to Erzsebét, namesake of the bridge, and Queen of Hungary.
We made our way back via the Metro to Marta's apartment which is near the Ferenc Puskás Stadium. Named after the great Hungarian football striker from the 50's, my Father’s idol, is currently being rebuilt.
We were treated to a home cooked dinner with Marta's mother. A perfectly cooked traditional meal: húsleves (meat soup), crumbed pork, krumpli (potatos), uborkasaláta (cucumber salad) and finished with a dessert called diós pita (walnut pastry cake). We had a lovely time chatting and enjoying the hospitality.
Marta then drove us to Margrit Sziget (Margaret Island) for a sophisticated jazz concert by Stacey Kent at the Szabateri Szinpad – we felt very elite.
The whole night was a great experience, walking around the parks on the Island and up the Tower on a beautiful evening. Marta was a magnificent host and we are most thankful for her looking after us.

The next morning we went to Hõsök tere (Heroes Square).
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There we stopped at the local market selling Alma Retes (Apple Strudel) which tasted great (almost as good as Mum makes) with fresh pressed coffee.
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The food stalls also had whole pork on the spit, homemade salamis and freshly baked bread the size of a Fiat and displays of bottles of pickled vegetables. As well as stalls filled with the most amazing traditional sweet treats - I am in heaven. The smells were amazing.
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I was able to stop into a sports shop to buy a Hungarian national soccer shirt and a vintage Ferenc Puskás jersey circa 1953. Dad used to tell me grand stories about the superb Hungarian team of the 50's especially Puskás. He is an absolute legend amongst the soccer world and at the age of 4, I could name every player in the 1954 World Cup team.
We next did a “Communism” walking tour. The city is adorned with posters commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Revolution. It is poignant that I am here in Budapest at this milestone.
The walk was sobering and poignant, as the guide explained what it was like living in Hungary from the 1945 to 1991 under the Soviet regime – she has a pragmatic view of the past, growing up in Budapest during 1970s. I was able to understand the world in which my parents lived until they left in January 1957.
The tour gave Jen and I a real insight into what Hungarian people had to endure. With the passage of time, our tour leader, who had a dry sense of humour, could tell her stories with light-heartedness and humour, but there are many painful and challenging reminders as we wandered around the city. She explained different areas of Communism, picking out key buildings and monuments of significance: the Socialist Realist architecture apartments, the Basilica and how religion was starved and stigmatised by the Soviets to lead people away from worship, the controversial German Occupation Memorial, erected in 2014 under cover of darkness on a Sunday morning with an inscription “Memorial to the victims of the German invasion”.
Even before appreciating the public protest items posted in front of it, the monument immediately struck us as strange. Amid calls for it to be taken down, Prime Minister Orbán defends it as a monument to the victims of the Nazis, brushing off the criticism, saying it is “not a Holocaust memorial but a tribute to all the victims”.
The controversial monument has divided Hungarians and angered Jewish people. Critics of the monument – which depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle – say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation – not pointing fingers at the Germans, but rather at its own citizens for the pain and horrors inflicted on fellow human beings.
Prime Minister Orbán is also facing criticism for closing a large portion of the historical vista on Buda Hill to construct a “Government House”, which is essentially a private residence. It would seem that new democracies are challenging.
We also visited one of the few surviving Soviet monuments, as most of them were removed after the dissolution of the USSR. This one marks the buried remains of Soviet Patriots who died defending the Union, and during the Soviet times would have been a constant reminder to the citizens of Hungary. What is tremendously interesting about this monument is that the site adjoins the Embassy of the United States. And on the other side, is a proud statue of Ronald Reagan. It is really quite comical how Ronald is looking towards the US Embassy with the Soviet monument in his line of sight.
We took in Parliament House on the landside, having seen it glittering at night.
The Square at the landside entrance of Parliament House is also significant as it was the location of protests in October 1956 where guns were fired, setting off a butterfly effect, causing lives to be lost, and citizens to attempt a revolution, which was ultimately, and heartbreakingly, unsuccessful as Soviet tanks moved in and overpowered the uprising, ensuring many more decades of Soviet control.

Marta also spoilt us with dinner Jamie Oliver Budapest on top of Gellert Hill on the Buda side at Mathias Templom (Matthew’s Temple).
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After walking back down and along the Lancid Hid (Chain Bridge) we took a late night boat cruise. It was a beautiful night and the vista along the river with Parliament House, the bridges and all the lights on the castle, it is one of the best city views I have seen in my travels. Jen took some great photos.
The last day was a walk along the Erzsebét Bridge and back up to the Palace revisiting my footsteps from days gone by. Jen and I hunted for a while and eventually found the exact spot, although the trees are larger now and obscured the view.
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We walked back over the Lancid Hid and across to Parliament House via a lunch break of Paprika Palacsinta (Hungarian Crepes).
We had a final “farewell until next time” Unicom with Marta, thanking her for everything she had done for us, going out of her way to make our four days so special. She was a fantastic host and I hope she comes back to Australia again so I can repay her very kind and warm hospitality.
We then caught the train to Veszprém.
As we trundled into the station in the late afternoon, my heart beamed as we were met by my cousins, Láci & Váli, in matching blue t-shirts, bouncing onto the platform with wide smiles, warmly greeting us and hustling our bags to the waiting car. I visited my Veszprém relatives in 1972 and 1985, so coming back was long overdue.
In a whirlwind of excited grins and rapid Hungarian, we were whisked home and plied with Parlinka, just in time for Hungary’s first game of the European Cup (after a 44-year absence) against Austria. FO4A8851.jpg
There are new relatives to meet. Váli’s daughter, Váli (who was a happy young girl when I last visited) is married to Tamás, who is kind and ensures we have plenty of fröccs (wine with soda water) and Parlinka or Unicum, and their wonderful kids, Boti and Laura. Váli cooked up a storm in the kitchen, sending in dish after dish of tasty treats. My senses are overloaded with wonderful memories of being a kid and my Mum’s cooking – I am overwhelmed. Hungary won as well 2-0! Jen sat there in amazement at the warmth and hospitality of my family, who I had not seen in 30 years and that she had only just met.
Our stay in Veszprém has started off on a huge high, it feels like yesterday that I last saw them. It was a night of stories and catching up for the past 30 years.
Also my Hungarian has passed with flying colours. Basically able to converse, understand what is being said, order food, catch the Metro and buy tickets. I know the next six days with family will be something I will cherish.

Posted by tszeitli 11:20 Archived in Hungary Tagged food budapest family hungary special communism memories childhood Comments (3)

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