Sunday, 6 January 2008


A real castle - and a very cold day, about minus 2.

Some snacks for the walk would have been great, but the village store was the social hub and no one was in any hurry to shop. Too much to talk about, including these two strangers looking for Kerekes. The daylight hours were too short to waste so we went on our way.

The uphill climb was broken with spells of jumping on the frozen puddles to break the ice, and skating on those that would not yield.

We climbed the mountain from a small village, through oak forest and after exploring the castle went down the other side to Regec. Both of these two villages are more prosperous and cater for tourists.

The castle is slowly being restored, faithfully, to original plans of 1293. The view is amazing. Original settlers in Hungary lived in towns, but one of the kings realised how vulnerable they were and in the 13th century embarked on a scheme to settle outlying areas and building castles as lookouts, so that prospective invaders could be detected. All the castles were built on rocky outcrops, and it must have been a mission getting all that rock up there.

I'll settle for some central heating. It was cold!

Fony - the village

Fony is a little village at the foot of a mountain. The populationof 1200 in 1800's reduced to 800 after the war, but only about 400 people live there now.

A house built in 1836 could have been the type of house my grandfather grew up in. Typical of the period it is built of stone, then plastered. It has no windoes or doors on the north side and the long side faces due south to capture maximum sun. The family lived at one end and the animals were housed in the other, being taken out daily to graze.

The village has three churches - Roman Catholic, Reform - grand old buildings, and a newish evangelical one.

There are many unemplyed people here, and quite a few gypsies. There is a hot meals available at low cost every day.

We had asked for evening meals to be provided. Made a mistake actually, as it was a different guest house that offered that option. But undaunted, our host arranges for a village girl to come in and cook traditional food. It was good too.

Fony - and family

Delia noticed it first - on the bus from Miskolc to Novijdrany many of our fellow travellers had noses shaped the same as mine. This confirmed we were in home territory - but more excitement to come.

Our host, Csaba, had done some research and had the address of someone who wanted to meet us. She had been a Kerekes and her parents graves we amongst the ones we saw in the cemetry earlier in the day.

There is no doubt that Istvan, Anna and Maria (twins) are distant cousins. Anna's wedding photo showed a young lady so like me at the same age, it was unbelievable.

Csaba acted as interpreter, and I was able to explain how I had come to think Fony was where the family emigrated to USA from around 1900.

Two days later we discovered my grandfather's birth entry in the church records. The records showed a family of four children, one of whom, Josef, would be the Uncle Joe my father mentioned.We recorded entries back four generations, but did not have time to investigate all entries and establish the link to the cousins. However we have some papers and an address in USA to follow up.

Baradla Cave, Aggtelek

Photo later

Ever since I read about the labyrinth of caves on the Hungarian/Slovakia border, I wanted to visit. The caves run for 22km on both sides of the border. They were used during the war, and during that time many new passages were discovered. Iron bars blocked the pathways for many years, but they were cut through after the changes in government in 1989/1990.

Of the many options we chose the hour walk, which was just right since our guide spoke no English. The glowworm grotto of our Waitomo Caves is still the prettiest, but these formations take the prize for size and grandeur. There is even seating in the concert chamber. We heard recorded music but how amazing it must be to be there for a live performance.

After lunch in the sun we took the track to the top of the limestone face and photographed the contryside. No visit is complete without a walk to Slovakia (half a km). This is an historic photo as after the end of 2007 there is free travel between Hungary and Slovakia.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Heroes Square

Heroes Square was built to celebrate 1000 years of Hungarian nation. It has statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that joined together and statues of kings. We were already familiar with the stories of some of the kings, thanks to our host who pointed to them on the forint notes and told their stories the night before.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


After a short tour on the Pest side with Amy and Paul who flew in on Friday night, we headed for Buda to visit St Matthais Church.

With each bend in the path up to the castle, en route to the curch, the views of Pest became more amazing. From the castle grounds we stepped into the past of cobbled streets and old buildings. The markets and shops sold a wide range of handcrafts. I enjoyed the embroidery in traditional patterns.

When Gyorgyi and Bence met us we all explored the church and surrounding area.

Then it was down to Moscow Square for a hot meal, through an area that has been rebuilt since the seige during WWII. My delicious Guylas Soup was served in a kettle. Believe me, it held a lot.

Now it was dark we walked up Gellert Hill, pausing to see the statue of St Gellert, and capturing photos of the Danube by night, with the castle on the Buda side and St Istvan's Basilica in Pest.

The Freedom Statue at the top of Gellert Hill was originally a Russian monument. Now the plaque has been changed to honour all those who fought for the freedom of Hungary. How unusual, but how sensible.

Statue Park

Unlike other countries that came out from Russian domination around 1989, the Hungarians have not erased all signs of Russian presence. Statues have been gathered and an open air monument to that period in history has been established a few miles from Budapest.

Whereas other statues I have seen record events or great men (sorry ladies) of history, the features on many of these statues were of young people and clearly were used to foster hope and expectancy in the young of the nation under the new regime.

Indoors was extensive coverage of 1956 revolution and a film show.

Now this was no ordinary film show - it was a genuine training film of the secret police. How to break into and examine a house leaving no trace, including a detailed sequence on how to get copies of the keys; how to conduct a search when accompanied by suspects or witnesses, and how to recruit a new member to secret police using blackmail.

It was like a 60's TV programme because it was filmed in that period - perhaps a bit like Maxwell Smart and 99 - but it was real. Unbelievable and scary!!!

Oh, and something really important. It snowed!