Saturday – today was considered a ‘fun’ day with no official duties. We started early in the morning and traveled to Opusztaszer which is the home of the National Memorial Park – an expansive facility dedicated to the history and culture of Hungary. Both historical data and folklore indicate that this was the location where Chief Arpad brought the seven Hungarian tribes/clans together and decided to establish the country of Hungary.
The memorial park has a monument which was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000 year anniversary of the decision.
This monument has a statute of Arpad on top and is surrounded by 20 busts of various kings and leaders of the Hungarian people.
To the side are the ruins of an ancient monastery. There is an area with traditional yurtas recently built to house museum information. There is also an historical village (very similar to our Sauder Village) and each house was donated by a city or village within Csongrad County. They also host a horse show where actors, wearing historical costumes demonstrate shooting arrows from horseback, lance throwing and games designed to improve horsemanship.
Inside the rotunda building is a cyclorama – a circular painting depicting Chief Arpad’s victory over the local people and the conquering of the land which became Hungary. This was extremely unique (one of only about 20 such paintings in the world) but no pictures were allowed. Also inside the rotunda are two street recreations from about 100 years ago – one a small village street (also known as a peasant village) and one a larger city. The costumes are amazing – with the peasant village having more of the traditional costumes we’re used to seeing at the Birmingham festival and the city street having costumes more like what you’d see in any large English city.
We were especially honored to have Mr. Jozsef Ott, vice president of the Csongrad General Assembly, join us for our tour. Mr. Ott was part of the delegation to Lucas County in May and is a board member at the Memorial Park. There is even a tree planted in his honor at the park in recognition of his many years of public service to the park and in elective office.
Mr. Ott treated us to lunch at a restaurant near the park. Our lunch was a pork rib soup with small pasta-like noodles and carrots and then the main dish of a ham cooked inside bread served with sauerkraut and vinegared potatoes. There was a also a dessert – similar to a cheesecake, but with the consistency of ricotta cheese and a slight hint of lemon. Very good, but the helpings are so generous as to be enough for two. This meal was served family style and the presentation was impressive.
Following lunch and a short stop at the hotel for more batteries and memory cards for our cameras, we proceeded to the village of Deszk for their annual village festival. The highlight of their event is a cooking contest between the mayors of various villages and cities, including their international sister cities. (Photo is Dr. Jozsef, Vice Mayor of the City of Szeged.) Festival goers are provided bowls and forks and can sample the various entries. Several civic groups also compete and this year’s winner was the local Serbian club. The village of Deszk has a large population of Serbs who originally came looking for work, but stayed. Their children’s dance group, which recently won an award for folk preservation also performed with many other traditional and modern dancers and singers as part of the cultural program. Fireworks finish off the evening but our delegation was tired and left before the fireworks began.
Tomorrow is sightseeing in the City of Szeged with the cultural program and formal presentation of gifts and recognition of our sponsors and facilitators.