As promised, I have my first post from Hungary. My flights - across to Amsterdam and then to Budapest - were very smooth and uneventful. We were actually early to arrive in Amsterdam, but late to arrive in Budapest....and no problems with the luggage (as long as you don't mind paying $25 for any bag over 50 pounds).
My flight left in the evening and arrived around 11 a.m. Amsterdam time. They say that flying East at night is the best thing, but I didn't get any sleep during either flight and was very tired with a headache upon arrival. Arpad Varga, who'd just spent two weeks in Toledo, met me at the airport for the 2 hour drive to Szeged.
Driving in Hungary is much different than in the States. Their speed limits are right around 100 mph, which seems a bit reckless to someone used to going around 65 mph on the highways...But the Csongrad General Assembly has three drivers on staff who do nothing but drive for members and guests of the Assembly, so I was in very good hands.
Our hotel is small, from US standards, but very nice. All our rooms are on the 8th floor (which is the top floor) and they face the Tisza river and the rising sun. The rooms are spacious and bright. Our dinner the first night was at a local restaurant which specializes in wild game. I had leg of wild boar with mushrooms, livers, onions and something else that was sweet in a sauce. It was served with a type of potato like a round, flattened tater-tot. It was delicious! This photo is of Mr. Jozsef Ott, the vice president of the Csongrad General Assembly. His recommendation was the crepe-like dessert with chestnut filling and chocolate sauce set aflame. Not sure if you'll be able to see the flames in the photo - but it was as impressive as it was good.
Thursday morning, we visited the town of Szentes (pronounced "sin-tesh") and met with the Mayor, Imre Szirbik. Mayor Szirbik is also a member of the Csongrad General Assembly and a member of the Hungarian Parliament. They have no rules or laws about people holding multiple elected offices - and to do so is quite common. We had a very interesting discussion about their geothermal heating in over 4,000 homes/apartments. Szentes is known for its hot springs and theraputic spas. Part of our tour of the city included their park with pools, water slides, competition pools (for water polo and swimming) and their spa (very warm water that is cooled for soaking). Several people were in the spa, including two who were playing chess on a floating table.
This photo is our group with the Mayor and members of the Szentes city council. We are standing in front of the refurbished building which used to house the Csongrad county assembly before the county seat was moved to Szeged.
Our last event was a panel discussion held in the meeting room of the Csongrad General Assembly. It was called the "Cafe of Public Matters," and included representatives of the Csongrad General Assembly, the Szeged City Council and members of the Szeged/Toledo and Lucas County Friends Club. Many of the individuals who've visited Toledo and our area (including students and performers) were in attendance to talk about their time and their appreciation of the relationships with us. While Csongrad has many sister counties, they are especially proud of their agreement with Lucas and with the enthusiasm and support our citizens show for them and the exchanges and programs. Students from Szeged can even attend the University of Toledo without paying international fees - they are treated as if they are residents of Toledo. Csongrad officials often say that they're not supposed to have favorites when it comes to their sister counties, but they do - and it's Lucas!
Arpad Varga was the moderator for this event which included Mr. Jozsef Ott and Mr. Karoly Toth, a member of the Szeged City Council. Ms. Edina Szollosy, an assistant professor in the English Studies Department of the University of Szeged, was our interpreter. Her daughter is currently an exchange student in Toledo.
The panel discussion was followed by a pot-luck reception with wonderful food...terrific breads and biscuits, sweets and a unique pasta and pickle salad. (Two items I would never think to put together but which tasted so wonderful that I'm getting the recipe!)
Tomorrow is the Mako Onion Festival where we'll be participating in the opening ceremonies and manning a Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio booth. Hungary is 6 hours ahead of Toledo, so I'll bid you all good night!