Monday, June 28, 2010

Zakopane Days

Hello from Zakopane. I arrived here without any difficulty and today is our first teaching day. I have great team members and also the students as usual are great. We are doing things differently this year. We will teach with a small group for 2 classes and then join another class for 2 classes. That way all the students can interact with all the volunteers and perhaps also meet students from their own high school that they have never met.

The wireless failed here on Sunday morning, so I'm way behind of doing my blog. Right now I'm writing from the one hotel computer that has a hard line to the Internet. Thus no photos. Check back later this week when things surely will be fixed. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sight-seeing adventures around Budapest

For a very long time the palace in Godollo has been on my list.
On Thursday we three took the Metro over to the Buda side and had palacsintas for breakfast. Then we grabbed the Metro back to its end and took the HEV train to Godollo. I got off on the stop for the palace while Richard and Wendy went on to see the university for where Richard taught in 1992.

I so enjoyed seeing everything. As soon as I saw this beautiful area I understand why Queen Erzebet (Sissi) enjoyed living here, particularly during the hot summer months. It just feels cool looking at it.
Next I saw a small dining room. This photos should give an idea of the beauty of this place. About 90 minutes later Richard and Wendy met me and we walked through the gardens together. It was interesting hearing their stories of what this place looked like in 1992 when they first came to Hungary. It had been ill-used during the Communist era and efforts were just underway to repair the buildings and rebuild the garden.

I really enjoyed this place and was so glad I had come. We walked through the town noting familiar places from their stay in 1992, including the house in which they lived at that time.

Returning to Budapest I got on the end of the M2 line and took it over to Moskova ter. This is from the very eastern side of Pest to the Castle area on the Buda side and this trip took only 20 minutes. Public transportation in Budapest truly is great. I took the 16 bus further into the castle area and then went to small cafe for sandwich and drink.

Then I went down to the Castle area. This building now holds the gallery for the Hungarian artists. I had a wonderful time seeing all the exhibits. I'm rather glad I waited until now to visit this gallery because all the names make greater sense to me now then they might have had I chosen this in March for example.

And coming here now had an extra. One can go up into the dome.
Here is a view of the Danube and the Chain Bridge from the viewing area outside the dome. This was great fun on a summer day, might not have been available or much fun in the winter!

The above view shows the Buda Hills. I was so very glad to have had this chance for a bird's-eye view.

I ended the day visiting my favorite coffee house and then later grabbing a  sandwich.

More at another time about visiting the Pariliament and the Applied Arts Museum.

The next few hours are involved in dinner and then getting re-organized for an early morning flight to Krakow, via Prague.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hello from Budapest

Thankfully yesterday arrived without torrential rain. I walked part of the way to the train station in Pecs, but picked up a taxi from the first taxi stand I could access. Taking teaching materials with me has added weight to my luggage and I have both a bag to check and one carry on. That made it all cumbersome for a long walk. I got to Budapest OK and elected to take a taxi to the hotel rather than having to carry those bags up and down two different sets of stairs. (The Metro has escalators, but getting to the Metro access requires a flight of stairs from the street level.)

After checking into the hotel, I went over to the Fulbright Office to get my June living allowance, and also to say thank you and good-bye for my wonderful experience here. I stopped at a McDonald's to eat -- since it was now nearly 4 PM and I was hungry. Then I grabbed the 4/6 tram and when over to the West End Shopping Center. I had very good luck in finding a handwork store and got exactly the materials I needed for projects I plan to do at home.

I called Richard and Wendy and we met at Moskava Ter. From there we walked just a short block to a wonderful, neighborhood type restaurant. I had tomato soup which was finom (a very proper Hungarian word for excellent food), and dessert that was out of this world. It was cone shaped poppy seed cake. On one side of the serving dish was hot cherry sauce in a little jar. On the other side was a very small dish of whipped cream on the top and underneath, a custard sauce called madertej that was cold. Oh heaven!

We walked back to Moskava Ter and just decided to go tram hopping. We went through a delightful neighborhood of beautiful houses/flats. Then we grabbed teh 4/6 tram back to our hotel. A very good day and evening in Budapest.

Today our plan to go to Godollo. I'm heading for the castle, while they will explore where they lived there in 1992.

Hard to believe this wonderful adventure is coming to its last days.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Changing the World

This tour group in front of the art display intrigued me. The art display behind is called Bonsailand. It is the work of a Hungarian photographer in Japan. Japan sponsors a program for photographers from Capitals of Culture to come to Japan for a photoshoot as a way to show today's Japan and reduce stereotypes about Japan in Europe.

This artist called his collection Bonsailand because just as a person shapes Bonsai, so humans shape the entire the world.

Above is one of the photographs.

So often when we think about humans shaping the world, the idea comes with the connation, that the changes are not for the good, but rather harmful for the environment, the habitat.

So when I saw the tourists in wheelchairs, I thought, "Yes, we sometimes shape the world for the good." I thought about all they could do in Pecs while in a wheelchair. The city has done a great deal to make art, culture and fun accessible. This is an achievement when one considers the amount of very old buildings and the overall lack of elevators.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Night of the Museums

June 19 was the Night of Museums. I was surprised to see a brass band in front of the archelogical museum. I was sorry to say I couldn't find much in this one that interested me. It is just re-opening and there were few exhibits. Apparently, the plan was to show a lot of videos, but in Hungarian. I decided to use my time elsewhere.

I went next to the Magyar Modern Art museum.

The first thing I saw was art made from paper. I am excited to show pictures like this to my grandson who is highly interested in making art. I'm sorry that I don't have the name of this artist.

In each room there was a computer displaying a complex algorithm. Yet one approaches, you see yourself.

Now back to something more interesting. The above looks quite like the paper art, but this one is painted. This artist is Benedek Barna.

Color is brilliant too in this art. The artist here is Fodor Pal.

After enjoying seeing modern art, I went to a special exhibit by Gunter Brus. These were photographs of two performance art events. Children were not permitted in this exhibit so that should give readers a clue of what was shown. I was highly disturbed by what I saw. Brus is Austrian. When I came back home I did a web search to find more about this artist. I found this description about his work: "controversial and out of one's comfort zone." Thus I'm not alone in my reaction to this work. In fact, Austria imprisoned Brus for six months after one of his performance events.

After this I followed people going up steps into an area new to me. Oh! This is the park my acquaintance mentioned taking her children. It is a park area up and behind the Basilica.

The first thing I saw was a monument to Angster. The signs around the bottom have a button that can be pushed. That makes a 2-3 minute music event from one of the churches that holds an Angster organ. (Please see my previous entry about visiting museums if the name Angster doesn't make sense.) I'm delighted to see this monument to the Angster work.

If you are curious, do a web search. You will find both narratives and also images of his work. I would also keep the rule of not doing this around children.

The next museum I visited was like village of sculptures. These sculptures is the work of Erzsbet Schaar. When I saw them I immediately thought, "Yes, they are Hungarians." I don't know exactly what it is that makes someone look Hungarian. I know if I had seen these sculptures in another country I would identify the models as Hungarian.

I spent the rest of evening enjoying another concert for a time. Then I went to Cella Septichora to take pictures for my presentation in Poland. I learned a couple of new tricks with Photoshop to improve this photo. In the middle above the window is a design called a Christogram. On either side is St. Peter and St. Paul pointing to the Christogram. If you missed an entry from sometime in February, this area is 4th Century Roman ruins.

Back now to working on the presentation for the time when I'm in Poland.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Museum Days

Last evening I had a dinner with Thomas and Carol, and if their plans went OK, they are now on their way to Budapest on their way back to Minnesota. I'm rather on my own in Pecs now, with Fulbrighters gone and class activities very much winding down. However, there is plenty to do.

I'm back at a bad task -- organizing all my receipts into categories so I'll be able to do an accounting when I get home about how my Fulbright monetary award was spent -- so I can minimize the tax bite on that money.

However, this title says Museum Days so let's get to that!

One of the things I did for my Hungarian lessons was to find the many historical markers around Pecs and try to translate those. That helped me learn Hungarian, but also helped me learn about Pecs history, too. One of the first ones I did concerned the Angster family. My translation led me to think Angster composed 80 organ concertos or similar works. My teacher helped me figure out that Angster and his sons BUILT organs in the designated building for 80 years -- just a slight difference! During those 80 years, the family built 1300 organs. If you have ever heard an organ in church or major concert hall in Hungary, Slovakia, or the Czech Republic, the chances are very good that the organ was made down the street from my flat here in Pecs. The organ in the Basilica here in Pecs as well as the organ in St. Stephen's in Budapest were made by Angster. I was excited when I saw signs saying there would soon be an opening of the Angster building. Yesterday I finally got there.

Here is a photo of the organ in the Reformed Church in Debrecen. This illustrates too that eastern Hungary tends to have more adherents to the Reformed Church.

 Above is a the newspaper from 1989 that shows the dedication of the historical plaque.

Here was a big surprise. Look at the staircase into the flat the family occupied. I was so glad to deepen my knowledge about Angster and Sons. Their work is an amazing achievement.

Today, when more than tired of organizing receipts, I walked down the street to the Nador Gallery. The present show is at least the third one I've seen in this gallery. This one is called Photography in Motion.

Take a look at this ghost.

I called the above Street in Motion. (I don't remember what the artist called it.). As people walked by the image kept changing.

And the two above are photos of falling water and moving grasses. What struck me about these photos is that they were taken in Cuba. I had to come to Hungary to see images of this country, because we are not really allowed to see these sights with our eyes due to US policy!

Back to receipts, but look back for another entry soon for tonight in the "Night of Museums" in Pecs and I have four visits on my list.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Setater Festival -- Second Participation

Last evening my agenda was to go the concert at 8 PM. I left my flat about 7:30 in order to get a good seat.

While walking over there I heard a familiar noise and this time figured out what it was. It is a very low flying private plane. In the states this would probably be a cause for alarm. Nobody here seemed concerned about it.

It kept going back and forth. It came be seen flying just a tree top height through the gauzy screen that forms the back of the stage on Dom Ter.

The Setater Festival doesn't have an English program so I'm figuring things out the best I can with my very rudimentary Hungarian skills. The announcement said clearly in English, but in the Hungarian brochure if you follow my logic, that the concert was the Police Band. The types of music they would play was also listed. Much to my surprise it really turned out to be the Police Band. They were all in uniform. With this many police around, obviously the plane was not considered to be a problem, because no one in Dom Ter could miss it!

The concert was very nice. Notice above the man in the front row has a jacket. I should have taken one. It is hard to believe that last week it was 40 degrees Celsius and that this week one needs a jacket in the evening. The weather is like Minnesota -- if you don't like it, just wait a minute.

This morning, alas, I went and arranged for my shuttle ride to the Budapest airport in mid-July. I really don't want to leave. Other than not being with family, I would be glad to stay here for several years. Pecs is wonderful place.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Setater Festival

This week we are enjoying the Setater Festival. Setater is the lovely walking area in front of the Cathedral/Basilica. The festival brings amazing and wonderful music groups to Pecs.

The walking area is lined with kiosks selling wine. Last evening I went on a walk through here for a bite to eat and didn't have much luck, but one could surely try at least 100 kinds of wine.

On Monday evening I went to a wonderful concert by Cantores Minores, in English called the Helsinki Cathdral boys and young men choir. This was truly a treat. Their musical skills is extraordinary. Not only did they sing in the usual choir formation shown above, but twice they moved in a semi-circle around the audience. The sound within the Cathedral is magnificent. This was my third concert in this space -- each has been wonderful, and now after three experiences, it obviously is not an accident. The acoustics are superb!

As we left the Cathedral another concert was starting. This Korean drum group looked and sounded interesting. However, it was now 9 PM and I had not any dinner.

Walking back to my flat revealed this lovely sight on Szecheny Ter.

Last evening I went to the Dom Museum located in the Cathedral Square area. What a treat! The Katona Twins play classical guitar. They perform world wide, including Carnegie Hall in New York City. Their concert in some ways transported all of us elsewhere. Classical guitar seems so Spanish, and the venue certainly helped with that feeling. The crowd loved this so much. Perhaps you have heard the rythmic European applause on television. Hearing it and participating it for real has been one of the treats of this experience. Not only are these young men magnificent musicians, they are also very generous. In response to the crowd they played three encores. Certainly worth the $4.00 I paid for this ticket! And I must comment that this is the first time in awhile that I've paid for any musical event.

On a Polish blog one of my ex-pat friends wrote about TV screens appearing everywhere showing the World Cup. Americans surely don't get the World Cup. This is my second time in Europe at World Cup time, but the first time, in the early 1970s, required everyone to go to newspaper walls to read the news about the games!

Here there are also TV screens in restaurants, coffee shops and bars. The picture above comes from Kossuth Ter where a large screen has been installed in the square. One can just sit down and watch.

I've acquired a bit of a new job. Some instructors in the Faculty of Medicine have asked me to proofread their medical terminology text. It has 19 chapters and I've been through only three, so I'd best get back to work!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life Around 40 -- Chapter 2

If you haven't done so already, start with Life Around 40 below. That was getting long and complicated, so I'm writing Chapter 2.

After visiting the museum in Kaposvar, we decided to go see the University of Kaposvar where Richard has been teaching. This university is outside the city, far enough that we needed to take a bus to get there. On our way to the bus stop Richard found some of his students. The young woman in the white tank top is one of the students from Croatia. She is with her parents who were visiting in Kaposvar. Wendy is on the far left and Richard is on the far right.

The University of Kaposvar is quite new and unlike many other universities in Central Europe, it is basically located in one location -- only its Fine Arts Faculty is located elsewhere.

We traveled perhaps eight minutes on the bus out into the country and found this. I said it looked like the American Midwest. The sculpture in the foreground has four piecs, I think to represent animals, plants, birds, and humans.

It is not without an unusual building either. If this isn't an Imre Makovecz building, it must have done by one of his students!

We waited a very long time on a Saturday afternoon for a bus back into the city, mostly just sitting as quietly as we could in the bus stop because it was really, really hot. When we returned we went for lunch in a small cafe in the shopping center area. Fruit soup tasted really good!

Soon I was returning to Pecs, and this time on a quiet, air-conditioned bus. I took a taxi back to my flat for I was carrying about 20 pounds of books from Richard and Wendy to give to the American Corner here. I was glad to find my flat somewhat cool since it had been shut up for two days, and there are somewhat thick walls in this building.

About 9 PM I wandered out for a sandwich and then took a few steps to Szechenyi Ter. Here's special lighting on the Mosque Church.

However, the real reason for going to Szechenyi Ter was the laser show. This began at 10:30 PM when it was dark and somewhat cool. I've never seen anything quite like this before.

One needed to look elsewhere around the Ter, too. Here are lights glancing off the Trinity Column. This was an amazing performance.

I spent Sunday primarily in my flat with my nose in a book. It was so very, very hot outside. In the early evening I took my bottle of Bishop's Wine over to Thomas and Carol's flat, along with their plants that I had been caring for during their trip to Germany. Their flat has big thick walls too and was quite comfortable inside.

As I write the temperature is much nicer -- the heat spell has broken at least for a bit. This was the hottest weather I've been in. Never before have I had sweat dripping down my forehead and then the salt from it stinging my eyes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Life Around 40

Now anyone who knows me, knows that it has been a long time since I saw the age of 40. In fact my daughters will be that age within the coming decade! No, this is about life when the temperature is hovering around 40 degrees Celsius, and I felt even hotter when I did the conversion on my cell phone and found that means about 105 degrees in Farenheit.

On Friday I took the bus to Kaposvar to visit the Fulbright colleagues there. I arrive around 13:15. We wandered about the center of the city seeing the sights. I was for some unknown reason surprised by how beautiful this city is. Kaposvar has some Zsolnay, such as the fountain that appears above.

The  sculpture above is dedicated to one of the founders of Kaposvar, although he really is a recent founder. The history of Kaposvar goes back to the 5the century BCE.
Below I'm touching the jester's ball. The monument is found in a lovely city park. The tradition is that that touching the ball will ensure good luck.

Here is the beautiful Town Hall. Perhaps you can see bells by the flag in the middle of the photo. Sometimes they play on the hour, but unfortunately not at an hour we were near the Town Hall.

Kossuth Ter is also very beautiful. The area of Hungary is often referred to a Mediterrean and I think one reason is that the plantings look Italian. Plants is pots is very Italian -- different for example from the formal gardens one might find in France.
The evening found us at the Gergely Csike theatre to see a performance of A Falu Rossa. It was obviously presented in Hungarian and we missed a lot because often people would really laugh and we had no idea exactly what was funny. However, the play includes a lot of very good music as well as many sight gags, so we had a very good time.

It is a very beautiful theatre. This is a view of foyer are where one can buy drinks -- definitely needed when it is this hot -- and also check coats.
The next day we went to the City Mueseum. The first part of the museum is about the 1956 uprising. If I can understand what I read correctly, we should call this the Paul Revere motorcycle. Someone rode this around Hungary at the time of the 1956 uprising as a way to spread to the news.
This blog is getting long, so look for Life at 40 -- Chapter 2 for more adventures in Kaposvar and Pecs on a hot, hot Saturday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Comes to Pecs

I've really kept myself nailed to the computer much of the afternoon and early evening trying to get a presentation ready about living in Hungary for the language camp in Poland. Early this morning when I was out on errands, there was a lot of equipment for getting to the tops of buildings as well as lot of lights up on the corner by McDonalds. I decided to take a walk just at dusk to see what might have happened today. Can't find any new lights but some of the equipment is still there.

Walking back I noticed  TV monitor right at the sidewalk cafe edge at the Cool E Lite cafe -- where I've been drinking my way through the lemonade menu one at a time. I asked if the monitor was for the World Cup and the answer was "Yahes"

We hardly notice the World Cup in the United States.

Ter and Square

I  have written about Szechenyi Ter, Kossuth Ter, Dom Ter and St. Istvan Ter  in Pecs and also have seen the ryneks in Poland. But I never put it together until going to an exhibit here about European Squares. This exhibit is one of the many activities associated with Pecs being a Capital of Culture. It points out that the square is a unique European feature and that if it seen elsewhere, it is copied from the European model -- only Wales in the UK had squares in the photo exhibit.

The square is a point for celebration, demonstration, sorrow -- all human events -- or even just for sitting around on a summer evening. We saw the Pecs Women's basketball team come home to Szechenyi Ter, I've shown pictures of dancing on the Ter, and many other activities.

Demonstration from Poland around the time of Poland's entry into the EU.

Pictures of two of Poland's squares -- Krakow and Zamosc.

And here is one coming together in Pecs. This is Uranvaros in the southern area of Pecs. The exhibit explains this neighborhood grew rapidly in the late 20th century, but public infrastruture such as this was not completed. The funding associated with the Capital of Culture allowed this development.

And I finally understood that all the construction on Szechenyi Ter this year has the goal of returning it to being an area for people rather than motor vehicles.

When I think about it, we don't have squares in our cities.Yes, sometimes there is a courthouse square, but the building itself fills most of the square and it is not designed for a crowd of people to gather and share in an event.

And a final note -- summer has truly arrived in Pecs. The promised hot weather is here. I'm really glad I did the most strenous sight-seeing trips when the weather was cooler.

I've found a new drink. This is an iced coffee that is phenomenal -- or more simply said in Hungarian -- finom!