Imagine this: the sound of the metal train gate slowly creaking into position, followed by the chug of the steam. A Puli barks. Just below the window, you can hear the plastic wheels of the toy motorcycle which the youngest child has put in motion. He is laughing at Lili and Mira who have eaten the heads of the pansies. Hogy vagy, Dávid? How are you? The neighbor girl asks him. She has arrived with a carton of black raspberries and a basket of plums, which she picked at sunrise. Kösz jól, he replies. Thanks, good. He is only two, but has already learned the polite exchange.
A woman is making an announcement on the loudspeaker, which the entire village of Nógrád (population just over 1,500) can hear. The humidity is low today. There will be fireworks for St. Stephen’s Day. The pharmacy will be open on Friday.
You slowly wake and dress, leave the guesthouse for the main house, where the mother, Marcsi, has set out a beautiful breakfast of breads and cheeses. There is goose liver and ham to spread, a variety of juices and teas. You’re not used to drinking 2.8% milk, and enjoy the smooth texture of the hot chocolate.
Everyone has gathered around the table, the extended family, the people who work for the father, Konrad. The eldest child, Korinna, talks about painting camp in Slovakia, and her younger brother, Konika, about driving school. Donát is reciting English numbers as clearly as any four year old American boy. Everyone is smiling, exchanging programs for the day. Tennis, maybe, at Oli’s house, or a walk to the castle.
Outside the house and across the tracks and creek, another train has arrived. A few are waiting in the tiny station on the wooden floorboards and benches. Some will be delivered to Vác. Some will go on to Budapest.
And even though you have been in Hungary for nearly two months now, this scene entirely amazes you. It is breathtaking. It is wholly new and also reminiscent of a different time. And even though you are here to meet the family and the two oldest children with whom you will help study English next week, you are almost completely lost in its quaintness.
There are not enough pinches for it. For an ice cream at the village store that closes every day for two hours at lunchtime. Or how everyone says hellos to everyone as they pass on the narrow streets. Jó napot kívánok. Szia. Csókolom. The two women hanging laundry on a line next to a bucked of freshly harvested red potatoes. The newborn foal in the stables with pale blue eyes. The wild horses on the opposite side of the ranch.
For the way that the family has welcomed you though some can’t even speak your language. How they have welcomed you into their home with every kindness. There are not enough ways to say it—does this place, do these kinds of good people still exist in this hard world? So I won’t. I will speak of it from the distance of the page. And let you imagine it for yourself.