Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Slovakia and Serbia for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Lauren Sandground (’10)
I hate familiar dreams- I want new oceans,
new secrets, new afflictions, new emotions.
Fly on, my ship,
I hate familar dreams- I want new oceans.
– Anton N. Nyerges
After a grueling action- and lecture-packed week in Eastern Europe, I was anticipating the calming feeling of warm thermal water under my aching toes that have traversed the lands of two nations (note to self: next time, bring better shoes!). “Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath” I cheerily sang the lilting and quite appropriate tune for today’s excursion to the Széchenyi Baths.
I joined my Flinn chums through 150 degree Fahrenheit saunas, small warm pools of thermal water, and even a large whirlpool that we all packed into. Looking around, the clientele of the baths were mostly the elderly and families on vacation, who sought the healing waters and massages. The sun was bright, the surprising yellow of the walls exuded an upbeat air, and easy smiles were abound. Today was a great day for the baths, for discovery, for enjoying the company of fellow Flinns. My ship was to fly over new oceans.
Prior to getting our feet wet, we were drilled by lecturer Dr. Ádam Ruszinko, a doctor who specializes in consulting spas around Hungary. I found his discussion of resort and spa tourism rather interesting because my father works in the hospitality/restaurant/hotel industry back in Arizona. Also, spa tourism remains an integral part to the economy and tourist sector in Hungary, managing to avoid economic troubles that other sectors have experienced in recent years with its split clientele among domestic and foreign massage-seekers.
Dr. Ruszinko described the importance of wellness to Hungarians in particular. Doctors give perscriptions to patients to go to a certain bath of a certain degree for a certain amount of time as therapy for joints, stress, you name it. Spa treatments are even covered by the health care system, which I would imagine would be outright rejected in the U.S. considering our current health care climate. However, a popular weekend siesta for Hungarian families would be to veg out in a local spa resort and be evaluated by a doctor that creates a specific exercise, nutrition, and spa plan. Because Hungary houses over 1300 hot springs, cave springs, and the largest medicinal pool in Europe, Héviz, Hungary is the hot spot for spa tourism. You won’t have to ask me twice to return.
Following the lecture and baths, Julie, Laura, and I decided to reward ourselves with clean clothes and navigated our way to a laundromat. The elderly woman owner at the laundromat hovered over us in a mother-hen-type way, scolding us in Hungarian and helping us figure out the machines. We all shared a laugh after I accidentally paid for the wrong dryer and my profuse exclamations of sorry, Bochanat!
Despite our initial confusion, an hour later our backpacks were stuffed with clean clothes, and we were proud of our use of conversational Hungarian (Tanulok Madgyarul- I am learning Hungarian. Then, we headed out to another lecture feeling street saavy in Budapest.
The second half of the day featured Hungarian literature with professor Géza Kállay examining one Hungarian poet Endre Ady and Hungarian style of writing. Meeting at Ady’s house, which has been restored as a museum, we read through a variety of poems: about a lone horseman, a brothel, and love. An eclectic collection of poems from one eclectic poet.
After the lecture we shuffled over to the Central Coffee House, desperately needing a midday dose of caffenine. While forking down traditional Hungarian cake and a bitter cup of cappuchino, Dr. NAME assigned us a series of rhyming words to create a poem. Of course, the group I belonged to described our trip to the laundromat, jokingly mocking some of the Flinns who had tried their luck at hand washing,
“No sopping mess, no clothesline,
Are your clothes as fine?
Definitely not like mine!”
I enjoyed listening to the other’s poems, which ranged in topic from a heroic Kevin, to a “bro code,” and to wistful thoughts on the trip so far. I am thankful that we were able to sit down like the Hungarian poets of all in a classic Kávehás, channeling Ady the Muse.
At the end of day, as I reflected in the Radio Inn with a full stomach of duck leg and apple chutney, I discovered a Hungarian poem written by a contemporary of Ady, Anton N. Nyerges, in which I have listed one stanza above. I found this particularly inspiring and capturing of my projected aspirations of this trip. And in just one day, my ship has sailed far. I have used a laundromat, discussed Hungarian literature, and taken a public Bath in thermal water for the first time in my life. My aspirations are coming to fruition, and I eagerly wait for the coming days. Fly on, Flinn ship.