Hungary

The entrance to life and a door to death


I had never heard of Sopron until I came to Hungary. It’s an interesting town with a history dating back to pre-Roman times when it was known as Scarbantia. But I am not writing this post about the city as you can read up on it here, I am more interested in something else…

Magnificent...

Magnificent…

What hit me, when I visited Sopron for their magical Christmas fair last month, were the doorways. From the simple yet macabre doorway of death (the doorway to the Ghetto where all Jews were rounded up before being shipped off to camps), to the ornate Fire Tower doors, churches, doorways revealing courtyards and all the goings on behind them.

Door to death... the doorway to the ghetto

Door to death… the doorway to the ghetto

 

They just caught my eye and here are a few for you to see – all of which have a story, all of which have weathered time, marauders, death, fear, hope, love and happiness.

A vestry door...

A vestry door…

Doorways are mankind’s physical entrances to the world within. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did while walking around this fascinating and beautiful city. A city full of time, where every street and door tells a story all its own…

Welcoming...

Welcoming…

Thank God for small shops...

Thank God for small shops…

 

Leading to the Roman ruins...

Leading to the Roman ruins…

The Advent Museum...

The Advent Museum…

The Synagogue next to the ghetto... a prayer before dying

The Synagogue next to the ghetto… a prayer before dying

Doorway 1Door 18

Door 29Door 23

Door 19

 

Door 5

 

 

Door 25

 

Ok... it's a window, I know, but isn't it just gorgeous?

Ok… it’s a window, I know, but isn’t it just gorgeous?

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Remembering a meadow


Following on from my last post about my holiday in the Balaton region, I can’t resist writing and posting  a few more pictures of the place for you to see (and for me to be proud of). Now a quick disclaimer, I am not a professional photographer – though I wish I was – nor even a mildly talented one. In fact, I prefer to take photos of things with my mind and remember them in my own colours, however, having recently joined the connected world and acquired a smartphone, I thought I would snap away like a happy camper!

 

cellar door

The entrance to the red wine cellar…

 

Hence, if you find any of these photographs good, then it is down to the sheer beauty of the place and nothing to do with my artistic abilities (or distinct lack thereof), and if you find them completely pants then it is all down to my useless eye for a good photo op and not the place or vista’s fault.

 

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A restaurant with a view

 

On that note, there was such a depth of vistas and small sights in the region that for a foreigner I was constantly gazing around in awe, mouth hanging down attracting flies – a bit like those old cartoons. In fact, there was one meadow that I saw while driving around that I regret not having taking a photograph of. It was covered in rich purple heather, and reminded me of the rolling hills of Scotland combined with the warmth and colours of Southern Europe. A huge meadow, about a mile long and half a mile wide, overlooking the lake and with a rich juxtaposition of natural hues of purple, lilac and green. Nature had carpeted that piece of land in the most vivid colours and we drove by it a few times and every single time, I wanted to get out of the car and just lie down in the middle of it and look at the clear sky and feel the colour around me, suffusing my being and warming my blood.That is my single biggest regret of that holiday.

 

An old grape press

 

So enjoy and feel free to let me know your favourites!

 

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Lights out

 

Refreshed and ready


I have been quiet for a while, I know, so please forgive the blank space and posts gathering dust. The reason for my silence is quite simple: summer holidays.

I have had two weeks of fun and frolics with the family by the largest lake in Central Europe, Balaton. Where? I hear some of you ask (all Hungarians excepted as it is a pilgrimage most of them make at least once a year). Balaton is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Central Europe as far as I am concerned and here’s why.

The majestic church in Tihany above Balaton

The majestic church in Tihany above Balaton

Balaton is large body of fresh water, bounded by vine covered hills to the north and fertile plains to the south. No jet skis, no crass, polluting speedboats, lots of sails, sun and grassy lake shore. Picturesque towns and villages like the one in the picture above, Tihany, with its majestic church on the clifftop surveying the water. Lots of cycling tracks and activities for all the family to enjoy. Nature trails, caves in the hillsides, woods, camping, water parks, and generally an outdoorsy holiday destination.

What does it say?

What does it say to you?

It was a refreshing break from the monotony of Budapest and teaching – an understatement if ever there was one. I sat and looked at the sky a lot and even saw some writing in the clouds (I would love to hear what you think it says); thought about my book, which I wrote 300 pages of and then scrapped it and restarted from scratch (more on that in later posts); I thought about life and what happiness means, about books that I have read this year and those that are left to consume, about work and my students and how I can be a better teacher; about the smile on my son’s face when he went down a water slide and about the small things in life that make us content.

Csarda (traditional Hungarian restaurant) in Tihany

Csarda (traditional Hungarian restaurant) in Tihany

I love the pace of life there, almost Mediterranean, climate definitely Mediterranean as all the grape connoisseurs will confirm,  and water cleaner than the Mediterranean (for all non-Europeans reading this, we tend to judge seas by the Med probably because it reminds us of childhood holidays). The balmy evenings were spent enjoying a drink and a meal sitting out in the open air, walks on the lakeshore with swans gracefully begging for bread (they make it look almost regal), cygnets now bigger and stronger and losing their grey earnestly following suit and learning how to please the eye while taking something from you (think Royal families Europe-wide).

The sound of cicadas in the evening and operatic birdsong in the morning. Orchards laden with plums and peaches, vines getting heavy with the grape to be harvested from the end of July right up to the late September and October harvests. Apples, so many that even pavements were littered with them. Cool shade under towering pines, their scent offering wafts of refreshment in the heat of the day. The smell of freshly mown grass from the neighbour’s lawn. Little marinas with small sail boats, their masts gently swaying in the breeze. I tried to find fault in many things but couldn’t and arrived home content… A word that describes a state of being that we often ignore in our misguided yearning for his elder brother, happ(y)iness.

The heavenly grape, Figula Winery

The heavenly grape, Figula Winery

As I said, a perfect holiday destination with an unexpected result: actually returning home feeling the weight of the world not lifted, but almost a pleasure to bear. I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am!