Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn Day Trip

Heather: Tuesday was a very pleasant day so we decided to take a short day trip to Órfű and Abaliget 2 small resort towns about 25 km from here. Órfű has three small lakes in a very picturesque valley. As we drove through the town we could see why it is a popular place in the summer -- it even has a water slide! Our next stop was Abaliget where there is a very nice cave that has a small river running through it. We have been in many caves in North America but not one with a river running through so this was a unique experience.

The fall color was just at it's peak and I had to take pictures of every new scene. This is the little lake that the river from the cave runs into. It was a perfectly calm morning and that made fro great reflection pictures. I wish Charlie was with us with his good eye and really good camera! The forest was lovely on both sides of the road. It is too bad that we can only get 4 pictures at a time on our blog!

I had such a good time making Norm stop for every spot of color or interesting views of green fields with islands of waving grass and weeping willows. I love the beautiful country side near the Mecsek mountains. We had a great day together.
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Party Week

Heather: Our week started with a celebration of Norm's 70th birthday. Since it was a mile stone event, I decided to have a fun party. All our FHE group was very excited about the idea and Gabi sent invitations out via Facebook in magyarul so Norm did not have a clue. Sunday Maja and Gabi told me to expect about 30 people. Well, that was beyond my expectations and the capacity of our little lakas! But we got busy and prepared for the fun. The buzzer for the down stairs door started to sound at 5:45 and didn't stop until 6:30. Norm could not figure out where everyone was coming from! Gizella brought bubbles and streamers, the Elders brought the birthday crown and root beer. We had a riotous evening! More than half our guests were non members which really pleased us both! We were really overwhelmed by the support and love we felt from our Friends here in Pécs! How blessed we are to be here!
Norm: One of the game highlights at the Kaposvar Branch Halloween party was the mummy wrap. We made sure the Elders were always the victims. Elder Swieger was not entirely comfortable with the idea. Some 25 people attended.
Judging the completed pieces of art. In case you don't recognize any one, they are Elders Johnson, Tracy, Crandall and Mullen.
The winning team. This was a YSA event in Pecs, with about 25 kids having a blast. We also did a balloon relay, cup cake decorating, pumpkin carving with all the pizza you could eat. Fun was had by all.
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Monday, October 25, 2010


No I don't drive one....I've never driven one....nor have I ever tried to fit in one, but since my arrival in Hungary, I have been intrigued by this little car.

TRABANT "The Commie Car"...... available in coupe, sedan or station wagon was produced in Communist East Germany starting in the 1950's

Engine: 2 stroke / 2 cylinder
H.P.: early models - 18 hp
Top speed: didn't exist
0-60: hasn't happened yet.
-4 persons and a very small dog
-or 1 large dog and 3 persons
-or 2 persons if the dog is driving
Later models used the Wankle rotary engine.
Bodies were wood framed with a plastic/cardboard-like composite skin. You won't find a rusted Trabant, but rumor has it that pigs acquired a taste for the material and some of the cars met their demise in this manner. "Honey...the pigs just ate the car".
Customers waited on lists up to a year long to buy one and about 3 million were produced. A surprising number of Trabants are still used as chief transportation by many Hungarians today. Trabants have definately become a symbol of Hungary's by-gone era.
With the fall of the wall, demand for the government monopoly produced car evaporated. The company failed along with the political regime. The people now had a choice and that choice was not for a Trabant. Many Trabants were abandon by fleeing emigrants and could be had for free to those who remained.
Although still cheap today, they are acquiring their own collector status.
They are smokey.... they are stinky.... they are slow, but should you pass one on the highway, smile....snikker if you must....but give a little salute; I think the little car deserves it.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution

Norm: Today was a holiday and celebration day for Hungary. A day to remember the initial wedge that was driven into the Soviet captivity and occupation of Hungary referred by the Soviets as "The great example" farms, nationalization, rearmament and forced industrialization that depressed the country to poverty levels of the war years.
Reenactments such as this were replayed today throughout the country. The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was led by Imre Nagy. Outcome was particularly brutal and many where gunned down in the main square in front of the Budapest Parliament building. The revolution then spread throughout the country. Note the hole in the flag with the Hammer and Cycle symbolically removed.
Nagy was executed in 1958 and became the revolutions principle martyr. Some said the revolution was a failure and the Hungarian people were once again the losers. Maybe so, but it did inflict a serious blow to the prestige of the Soviet Union and it is the opinion of many that some harsh regime policies against the people were eventually relaxed.
The presentation by this local dance group was excellent. It was dramatic and particularly moving, bringing Heather and I both to tears.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Castle Crawling "SIKLÓS"

Norm: The Castle at Siklós is just 20 km south of Pécs where we serve. Hills are favorite locations for castles, for defence rather than view. This one is surrounded by a park like pastoral setting. Unfortunately it is under extensive restoration and after two visits we were unable to get beyond the castle wall. More of that wonderful Norwegian grant money at work.
Its construction dates back to the 13th century. It was occupied by the Turks in 1543. They fortified and used it as a significant base for 150 years. After Turkish rule it became the possession of the counts Battyány. The family continued to build it up into a heavily fortified castle.
Within the walls of the fortification is a huge multi storied, four sided structure with open courtyard. Three minarets tower above the houses of the outer wall. The inner castle is surrounded by a high external wall and a maze of moats.

The castle bears the characteristics of almost every period of Hungarian architecture. I love the mix of quarry stone with the natural stone along with the clinker brick.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Castle Crawling "SÜMEG"

Norm, Oct 18, 2010: On reading our posts you may get the impression that we are on a vacation rather than a mission. Please don't judge us too quickly as being mission slackers. When sight seeing we are camera equipped which make for good blog visuals. The Lord's work is spiritual and personal and seldom merits Internet display, but consists of little daily miracles that are more felt than seen. Our next series of posts will bring you up to date on our Castle Crawling adventures.
Heather: Sümeg is an ancient town a few kilometers north of Tapolca in the Balaton area. The castle is situated on an imposing rocky hill, which has a commanding view of the surrounding plains. The watch tower was built in the thirteenth century and has been restored recently. You can see why this castle was never taken by the Turks in the 16Th century. But as with other Hungarian strongholds, it was blown up in 1713 by the Imperial Hapsburg troops.
When we saw these twin heavy beams protruding from the castle wall right above the main entrance, we decided that they were probably used for hanging criminals as a warning to all who entered the castle gate -- a grisly medieval crime deterrent.
The old roofs are home to a rich texture of various types of likens , mosses, and even hardy flowers. Some of them are on the verge of collapse and are being replaced by bright new tiles. That makes them safer but destroys their ancient look.
During the summer Sümeg has jousting tourneys and other medieval entertainment for the tourists in this ring below the castle. In town there is also an Franciscan Church built in the 1750's ,which contains frescoes by the famous Austrian artist, Anton Maulbertsch. Hungary is soaked with history and wonderful places to see. We hope to visit many of these beautiful sites in our comings and goings while we are here.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hungarian Wedding "A Whole New World"

Norm, Oct 16, 2011: Kővágó Miklós was the First Councillor in the Pécs Branch Presidency. We hated to loose him, especially because I was assigned to take his place, but we are always happy to see the members move on and progress. Blessings started going for him when he recieved a transfer in his job along with a promotion to Budapest. This allowed him to be close to his girl friend Bruck Andrea who lived in Budapest.
Well he popped the question and where married last weekend. In Hungary, church or temple weddings are not recognized by the government. You must first be married at the local Hivatal by an assigned Justice. Church or Temple ceremonies can then follow.
This is the Hivatal which dates back to 1856. It is basically the City Hall or Court House and is very ornate as are most Budapest buildings
Ceremony was much more impressive than we had expected and was not much different than a regular church wedding back in America. Some 100 plus guests and family attended. I believe they are exchanging rings in this photo. Reception followed at the Budapest Stake Center with all the usual trimmings including the growing up slide show. The only thing lacking was the green jello.
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Hanging on & Letting go

October 16, 2010; Heather: Our mission here in Hungary is providing us with a wide range of experiences. One of the unexpected opportunities is that of using our old nursery calling skills to entertain the children of our single mothers who wish to attend Institute. here I am playing alagút and híd with Domi, Kira, and Hunor. An alagút is a tunnel and a híd is a bridge. I still have carpet burns on my elbows from squeezing through the tunnel. The kids had fun crawling through the chairs then over them. We also have our TV from the apt to show DVD's on. Domi is 3 very active with a short attention span -- we are challenged to find ways to keep him entertained for 90 minuets! Food works well! We are happy to help the mothers learn more of the Gospel in Institute.

Here we are saying good by to Bettina Fekete just before she leaves on her mission to England. Betti was one of the young single adults that helped to make our YSA programs successful. She also taught Institute in Kaposvár, her dad is the Branch President for that small
Branch even though they live here in Pécs. This family make many sacrifices to help the Church grow here in Hungary. We miss her happy smile and willing help.

The Church gave me some music teaching courses before we left and I have found a very willing and talented student in Veronika. She loves to practice and has learned 3 hymns in about a month. I am hoping that she will be able to play in Church before we leave. Here I am just carried away by her playing!
Gabi is another of our stalwart YSA members. She is a very hard worker and willing helper. She has just moved to England to work there. We were so sorry to have to let go of her! The young people here have a difficult time finding work and they often leave for England or Germany to find jobs. Gabi has a brother that lives in England and she will live with him and his family. Our YSA program struggles as we lose our young people either to Budapest where they go to school or to other countries for work.
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mission Impossible???

If you choose to accept this assignment, the entire population of Hungary will deny having ever known you.
Time 1:30 am. Place Pécs Senior Headquarters. Premises invaded by two individuals who's identity we will disavow. "Its too hot.... The street light is too bright... and we can't sleep in the White Knight.....Can we come in....Please"
My new disguise. No one back in Spanish Fork will ever recognize me behind this Hungarian Fajita.
There is absolutely no TRACE as to who this might be And we are not about to give any hints. Fearless District Leader? "NEM TUDOM"
" How many B of M do you think we can pass out with this routine." "I don't know but all your Forints just fell out of your pants"
THIS POST WILL SELF DESTRUCT as soon as the Mission President sees it.
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The Caves of Tapolca

Norm: I don't think there is a public cave in North America that we haven't explored. In every case the entrances to those caves are out somewhere in the boonies accessed by some remote road. Not so for our first case of European cave crawling. We set the coordinates for the Caves of Tapolca into our GPS which took us right into the middle of downtown and then said "arriving at destination..on right" Sure enough, we had arrived. There was the cave entrance, smack dab in the middle of downtown shopping.
We paid our money and descended a long set of stairs into the caves beneath the city. We could see places where the ceiling had been broken through and repaired, probably from a construction excavation. This cave is a wet cave but lacks the mineral content needed for the formation of stalagmites and stalactites. Thus it is a durable cave. No need for tour guides and barriers. So you are free to explore everywhere and at your own pace.
But here is the cool part. With the aquifer, it is an underground lake. We came to the shore of the lake where you could borrow a little tin boat big enough for two people and a paddle. The passages were too narrow to use two paddles and some places one paddle was one too many, and yes the ceilings became very low. A hard hat would have been very useful. The sounds of these little tin boats bouncing off the side walls was about all you could hear. All in all it was great fun.

It was quite unbelievable how clear the water was and it is apparently quite therapeutic. The local hospital has access to the lake in their basement and patients can bathe at their leisure.
You have likely read about Hungary's Toxic Red Sludge disaster. That took place just 20km north of this spot. Fortunately Tapolca is at a slightly higher elevation and will likely be spared any of that devastating contamination.

Heather: The whole country of Hungary has been blessed with hot water springs that have health benefits for various neurological and muscular problems. Many of them were found in the early part of the 20th century while drilling for oil. Very few explorations found oil but brought thermal water gushing to the surface. Ever resourceful, the Hungarians turned from oil production to building spas for bathing in the health restoring waters. Although many spas are not that old some of the baths date back to the 1500's. The Imperial Baths in Budapest were established by the Turks between 1566 and 1570 and the have been used ever since. The hot water for these baths is piped from springs near by. Here in Pécs we walk by the remains of the 16th century Turkish baths every day. We have yet to try any of the world famous baths -- but on days when my muscles hurt I am sorely tempted!

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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Ponds of Tapolca

The town of Tapolca, in west Hungary, a short drive north of the Balaton, has one of the most unique and charming townscapes in Transdanubia. It is situated on the northern edge of the Bakony mountains. Beneath the town there is an unusual aquifer.
Clear , clear water seeps or gushes from under the building foundations to form these beautiful water lily covered ponds.
Thousands of fish grace the ponds. Some of these koi are a good 2 1/2 feet long.

This is the site of an old mill with spillway, no longer in use, but a great pastoral setting for a photo shoot. In our next blog we enter the aquifer under the city and explore by boat, the "Caves of Tapolca".
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