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36 Skylark Avenue

a rare vagrant

Category

Cluj-Napoca

Kolozsvár

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

 

 

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Exit

It was a desperately long train journey. A mother was sitting opposite me, caressing her little baby who was crying for hours and hours. It totally exhausted me. Just like her brother, occupied with his toy computer, incessantly whining and shrieking meanwhile. I needed a break, so I went to the dining car. A young couple was all over each other there, and it just ruined my appetite. I went back, the mother had already left, and I was almost starting to feel relieved. Enter a policeman in blue uniform and an elegant manager. They were arguing in a loud, violent manner, like buffoons on an empty stage. I was happy to finally arrive at the station. I entered the customs office. A shabby old man was sitting there with spectacles on his nose. He carefully read through all the pages of my passport, and then on the very last page, he stamped the word ‘Oblivion’.

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