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36 Skylark Avenue

a rare vagrant

Takeaway Szeged (2nd prize photo essay , text in Hungarian).
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Synagogue

I was in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca last week, so it was quite unlikely that I would post about the synagogue in Szilágysomlyó/Șimleu Silvaniei in Romania. But that’s what happened.

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This is the Northern Transylvania Holocaust Memorial Museum in the secluded little village in Szilágy/Sălaj county, founded in 2005 (photos taken in 2016).

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The synagogue was built in 1876, and, no longer used by a congregation, serves today as a museum and educational site about the Holocaust.

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Huge numbers of Jews were transported from the local Cehei ghetto to Auschwitz/Birkenau, and the synagogue was left abandoned from the 1960s until its reopening as a museum in 2006. The renovation was organised by two figures from New York: the architect Adam Aaron Wapniak, and Dr. Alex Hecht, a dentist who was the son of Holocaust survivors from the nearby village of Nușfalău. Sounds like a chapter from one of the many fascinating and tragic family sagas in Hungarian literature.

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In the middle of the peaceful region of Sălaj/Szilágy county, the museum not only reminds one of the everlasting struggle between darkness and light, but also testifies to the troubled history of Central-Europe. For in that time, the region attached to Romania with the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 was temporarily re-attached to Hungary with the Second Vienna Award, meaning that the area was under Hungarian supervision during the transports.

Interestingly, if you want to check wikipedia (this post is largely based on that and the museum’s informational material, they being reassuringly consistent), you’ll see that there are altogether three short sentences about the museum on the Hungarian site. The English and Romanian versions are much more extensive.  Also, the museum’s website contains the icons for Hungarian and English versions. But you cannot click on them.

Imitation

It was the first habitat I have seen in a week. In the beginning, I would be excited with each new place, but no hope could grow in the sullen soil of these empty villages. I was exhausted, but believed that somewhere among those empty walls, there is still some remnant of life flickering. Yet, I also felt my hope waning. I looked at the faint circular spot on the grey sky where the Sun was trying and failing to break through the dullness of thick clouds. As if I were the one doing the same on Earth, so with each new morning, I would also rise. For some more time, that is.

 

My kind of places

My favourite places are the ones which tempt you with a story, but don’t give you too many clues.

Couples

Beloved in Budapest, Birmingham, Oxford and Prague.

 

Avenue

An autumn-seeming winter’s day in Soltvadkert, Hungary.

East and West

I grew up in a little village (Maroslele) only a stone’s throw from two international borders in Southern Hungary, one leading to Romania, and the other to Serbia (still Yugoslavia back in the day). Now this village is a “sleepy hollow” indeed, as if time would have come to a complete halt there. Of course you don’t really get to notice this while you are sheltered by this very “bell jar”. Maybe this is why I never got to cross these two borders (or any other borders) until I was 20 years old. Eventually, my belated first longer cross-border trips led not to the two nearby Southern countries but in the opposite direction, to Slovakia, to Austria, to Germany, a 2007 train journey being my most significant travel experience then.

Ten years later I faced an opportunity to travel to Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár in Romania. I decided right away that I’d celebrate the 10th anniversary of that trip to the North/West with a similarly extensive train journey to the East/South. And of course, I wanted to play a bit with the old photos, reproducing variations of some of my older pics. So many things have changed (most importantly, I spent three years working in one of those neighboring countries), and it took a while to realise that one of the most powerful forces shaping my life is this enduring tension between East and West.

Sitting on the train watching a photo taken while I was sitting on a train
My reading (an English book) then…
… and now (a Hungarian book)

And in the rest of the series, YOU decide which is West, which is East

 

 

The Last Tram of Budapest (plus a lovely clip)

The final outbound service from an abandoned metropolis covered in snow and silence.

While working on the post, I came across a charming YouTube clip (serendipity, huh?). Cameras were invented for such clips, “recording the moments in which the mundane becomes the historic”.

What was the attraction of the tram? The smooth, straight rails gave us a sense of security no other road vehicle could provide. A sense of cosiness, too, as the passengers rattled home in a warm atmosphere of steamed up windows, of damp coats and mackintoshes. This feeling of home was heightened by the friendliness of the crew.

Source of the quote:

Weathered

You might have already noticed that I’m a restless man. When I try something for the first time, I’m fascinated by it. For like a short moment. I’m immersed by that moment, but after the brief dissolution in the here-and-now, I have to move on, and find something else, I simply cannot remain stationary. Sometimes I feel that this was predestined by my name, as Csaba means something like ‘rover’ or ‘stray’.

In part, this is a good thing, urging me to expand my interests to vastly different things like, yeah, photography and blogging, but the list is much longer and quite colorful, ranging from cycling to motorsports, hiking, video games, travelling (doing it and reading and writing about it), computer programming and numbers in general, reading, skating, writing, translating, languages, acting & filmmaking (ok, that only happened once, but there it was) etc. etc. Yet it makes my life harder when it comes to more extensive projects which require long-term focus. Like a PhD, which I managed to procrastinate until 33 (some of my fellas completed that by 27, but then again, some of them pushed it until 40). And of course, the next step, which is turning that PhD into a proper, I mean ‘proper’ book. Which I’ve been procrastinating for the last 3 years.

Okay, enough of numbers, although I warned you I like them. The thing is, this year I absolutely have to finish that book. I have already started it, several times, actually, and made a good deal of progress. I’m starting to experience genuine flow, without which I think a book should never be written. But of course, producing a book requires a full person, and I have already cleared away everything I could to devote the next 5-6 months to that project. So this is my excuse for the year, put here in advance: I won’t be here as much as I’d love to. I mean, in terms of longer posts, so the textual part at least. It will be more like photos simply fired away, without my usual jabber.

Looking back, the first year of my blog was a truly unbelievable, reassuring and inspiring experience. I achieved so many things it’s hard to enumerate them. For years and years and years, my photos were resting unpublished on my hard drives, except for the occasional Facebook post and similar stuff. It was not easy, being something of an introvert except when not to put them out there. One year later, my stats tell me that the blog has in fact travelled around the world:

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Location of visitors in 2017 according to WP

I would have never imagined this. I also reached 50 posts on instagram, launched a secondary ig-project, started a rudimentary Facebook page for the blog, and read more books on photography this year than ever before. There are even areas where the impact of my blogging spread to my extra-blog life, too. After long deliberation and hesitation, I finally entered a photography competition with a short photo-essay, and I received a shared 2nd price (the text is in Hungarian, but you can check the shots here, and one day I’m gonna produce an English version of it).  There are several similar projects crisscrossing in my mind, some of them already being worked on.

So I just wanna thank you all for a wonderful 2017, which was lived to the fullest extent, thanks partly to the blog, and partly to the person who made me start it, and who also made me cope with a number of difficult things in my life. This year, I will probably seem a bit weathered. But you know, it’s just that right now I’m sailing my ship through the storm.

In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

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