Parable of Traveling

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Now normally I would skip over the traveling-to-destination part of the trip.  I know you, Internet.  I know you could never bare standing in lines at the grocery store or for dinner, that half of your taste buds are missing because you just can’t wait for your coffee or soup to cool, that you’ve always been the type that only eats the part of the donut with the jelly and you leave the end for your dog or the never finicky neighborhood birds.  You are a just-get-to-the-point kind of animal, and I adore you for it, which is why I almost always just get to the point when writing about travel destinations.  Usually I just start wherever I visited, foregoing the traveling-to details.

But I realized this weekend, during our leisurely drive from Budapest to Pécs, that the small villages that we passed through represent so much of what makes up Hungary, and that I would be doing a service to you if I didn’t write little bit about it.

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We started out early—before 7am, because on Zsolt’s suggestion, we wanted to take the long way to Pécs that would skip the highway and shoot us down to Balaton and then south toward Pécs.  It was an additional 30-45 minutes to the trip, but well worth it.  Here is a simple geographical description of the drive:  farm, village, farm, village, farm, village, farm, city, Croatia.

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The towns are simple towns.  Charming in a way that it’s almost hard to believe exists in today’s loud, busy landscape.  As we drove, Györgyi instructed me on how to pronounce some of the names of the places that were unfamiliar to even her, a model Hungarian: Ságvár, Som, Iregszemcse, Sásd, Magyarhertelend, Meződ (your field) and my favorite: Oroszló – Russian horse.

The truth is that I shouldn’t use the word “simple” because it denotes a kind of innocence or naivety.  It’s very easy for westerners to come through these places with an arc of superiority, an “oh how cute” gaze, leaving with an impression that the people of these places are disposed to idleness, ignorance, even artlessness.

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But I think that these places represent a kind of attitude of the people bent on living their best life.  So it’s easy to see the men chatting over fences, women watering their small gardens, on bikes, selling flowers, etc., and mistake it for a simple, idyllic quality, when really it’s peaceful because it’s a way of living that came from centuries of struggle.  And probably, it takes that many years to learn what is really important.  The truth is that as far as most of us are concerned, it’s still a hard, hard life, and these morning scenes are its few pleasures.

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As always when traveling through Hungary, I was utterly amazed by how beautiful the country is.  Maybe it’s all the sunshine, or the old-fashioned-ness of the countryside.  And I’m sure there’s some lesson about that single tree on top of the hill.  But really it was one of the nicest drives that I’ve taken since being here.

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By 10am we pulled into Pécs, which was by contrast, a big, buzzing city.  I have a lot of pictures and stories from Pécs, which I will write about later.  Today was just a little praisesong for traveling.

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