Easter in Hungary

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its date is different every year because its the first Sunday that follows the vernal equinox and the full moon that comes after that. The first national holiday is Good Friday, than Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and it ends with Easter Monday.
The main tokens of the Easter holiday are eggs, bunnies and lambs. Eggs symbolise fertility, the bunnies’ inception is currently unknown and lambs mean sacrifice.
The preparation for this holiday starts a week before already. People decorate their homes with catkin branches and hang eggs on them or they make ‘bunny nests’ with grass with eggs, but bunny or chicken statues are very popular too.
On Easter Monday boys and men visit their female relatives, friends or neighbours to sprinkle water (or perfume these days as well) on them, because women are like beautiful flowers and they don’t want them to be withered. This tradition starts with the men reciting a poem and asking at the end if they can sprinkle the water. After that in return of the ‘sprinkling’ they get painted eggs, chocolate or money.
Egg painting has a very serious tradition in Hungary. In the old days people used natural colouring such as the fluid of onion and red cabbage. Nowadays people use artifical dye or stickers, but the stores are full of eggs and rabbit statues that are made of chocolate. Hungarian folk artists decorate eggs with the famous Kalocsa pattern and use duck or goose eggs because they are bigger than the regular chicken ones.
Children always get presents from their parents and relatives. They are often challenged with an egg hunt in the house or in the garden.
A typical Hungarian Easter breakfast contains boiled ham and eggs (boiled or stuffed) with fresh bread, horse radish and seasonal vegetables such as regular radish. Another dish is a milk-loaf that is made in a braided pattern.

I wish you all a happy Easter! ūüôā

Budapest sights III.

I’ve been to Budapest again… 3 times in 3 months is more than I visit this city in a year!
This time I visited the Buda Castle region. It is located on Castle Hill and served as the residence of Hungarian kings from the 13th century. It is part of World Heritage Site.
In Castle District you can also find Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion, they are next to each other.

Matthias Church
2. Szenth√°roms√°g Square
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9:00-17:00, Saturday 9:00-12:00, Sunday 13:00-17:00
Tickets: 1000-1500 HUF
Click here for more information!
Matthias Church (also called as Church of Our Lady of Buda) was built in the 11th century. It had to survive a lot off attacks (for example the Mongols destroyed it completely) and it had to be rebuilt many times until it became its final, Gothic styled form. It was named after King Matthias, the Just.

Fisherman’s Bastion
Szenth√°roms√°g Square
Opening hours: Open every day! Monday-Sunday 9:00-23:00
Tickets: 500-1000 HUF
Click here for more information!
In front of Matthias Church, you can find Fisherman’s Bastion, which is basically a terrace that was built in neo-Gothic style in the 19th century. It gives a wonderful view to River Danube and the Hungarian Parliament. It atracts tourists even in the coldest weather. There is also the statue of St. Stephen, the first Hungarian king and you can take pictures with a falcon if you are brave enough.

Buda Castle
2. Szent György Square
Opening hours: Closed on Mondays! From the beginning of November to the end of February Tuesday-Friday  10:00-16:00, Saturday-Sunday 10:00-18:00, From the beginning of March to the end of October Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00
Tickets: 1000-2000 HUF
Click here for more information!
The construction of the Castle started already in the 13rd century. The building itself has gone through a lot, the attack of Turks and Tatars, World Was II, its final reconstruction started in 1946. The Castle’s current exhibitions include history of the Castle, ancient cultures and gothic statues.

 

Hungarian Oscar movies

The last three years has been very exciting for the Hungarian film industry. Two wins in a row: Son of Saul won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Foreign Language Film, then in 2017 Sing became the Best live action short film. This year we have been supporting On Body and Soul. 

Wins: 
Mephisto /1981/
Based on Klaus Mann’s Mephisto novel, Istv√°n Szab√≥ directed the movie in 1980. It was shot in Hungary, Berlin, Hamburg and Paris. The main of the very ambitious actor, Hendrik H√∂fgen is played by Klaus Maria Brandauer. Iconic Hungarian actors like Gy√∂rgy Cserhalmi, Judit Hern√°di and Ildik√≥ B√°ns√°gi play the supporting roles.
Fun fact: István Szabó directed three more movies that were nominated for an Academy Award.

Son of Saul /2015/
The story sets place in 1944 in Auschwitz where we follow the days of the Hungarian Jew, Saul who is a member of the Sonderkommando. The movie was directed by L√°szl√≥ Nemes. He said in his accepting speech that ‘even in the darkest hours of mankind, there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human’.
Fun fact: Although Géza Röhrig, who plays the main role in this movie has a degree in directing (he was a student of István Szabó), works as a corpse-washer in New York.

Sing /2016/
Set in 1991 Budapest, the story starts with a little girl who attends a new school and wants to become a member of the choir. The director, Krist√≥f De√°k dedicated the award ‘to the only people who can make the world a better place for us, kids’.
Fun fact: the movie was shot in 6 days, but than it took a year to edit it.

Nominations:
On Body and Soul /2017/
Two people, who both work in a slaughterhouse start dreaming the same every single night. The movie was directed and written by Ildik√≥ Enyedi and it’s triumph started with winning the Golden Bear in Berlin.
Fun fact: Its director hasn’t made a movie in the last 18 years.

Other nominations are:
The Boys of Paul Street /1968/
Cats’ Play /1974/
Hungarians /1978/
Confidence /1980/
Job’s Revolt /1983/
Colonel Redl /1985/
Hanussen /1988/

Photography exhibitions in Budapest

Attila Hupj√°n: World shift
12.02.2018-04.03.2018. 10-18 h
K11 – Kir√°ly utca 11., Budapest 1075

Looking at the world through a pinhole while it’s moving… This is how the artist got the amazing results of his photographs. By looking closer, you may recognise some of Budapest’s popular sights like Nyugati Railway station.
A room full of artistic wonder… – I thought when I visited the exhibition last Friday.

Sandro Miller: Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to photographic masters
28.02.2018-20.04.2018. 10-18 h
MŇĪcsarnok – D√≥zsa Gy√∂rgy √ļt 37., Budapest 1146

The main event of Budapest Photo Festival will be the American artist’s that commemorate famous paintings and photographs, only with a small twist, that is John Malkovich playing all the characters. Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol, Andr√© Kert√©sz and Irving Penn are just few of the original people this exhibition pays a tribute to.
Can’t wait to see it in April!

Budapest sights II.

Last weekend I went to Budapest to visit a friend and I didn’t want to miss the chance of taking new pictures of the capital, so I went to River Danube between Margaret Bridge and Chain Bridge to photograph the Parliament with the statues around it.

Hungarian Parliament Building
1-3. Kossuth Lajos Square
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8:00-18:00, Saturday-Sunday 8:00-18:00
Tickets: 1300-6000 HUF
Click here for more information!

Located on Kossuth Square the Parliament Building was built in neogothic style in 1904 by Imre Steindl. It is 268 meters long and 123 meters tall and was built only from Hungarian building material. Inside visitors can see the Holy Crown surrounded by the coronation jewelry, Settlement of the Magyars painted by Mihály Munkácsy and the changing of the guards. Fun fact is that Freddy Mercury liked the Parliament so much, he wanted to buy the building in 1986 when he came to Budapest for a concert with Queen. He was performing in front of 75 thousand people and he was so kind that he learned a Hungarian folk song, Tavaszi szél (=spring wind).
The statues I took photos of around the building are of the Count Istv√°n Tisza Monument, Attila J√≥zsef’s statue, Lajos Kossuth’s statue and the Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.

Shoes on the Danube Bank
Id. Antall József Wharf

‘To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45’-says a memorial tablet next to the bronze statues. The horrible story behind it is that the victims had to stand alongside the river before being shot, but they had to take their shoes off, because those were of great value at that time. The statues were created by Gyula Pauer in 2005 and they attract a lot of people. There are always candles and flowers next to this heartbreaking memorial.

 

Amazing people X.: Fanni Benyovszki

‚ÄúAnd then the world stops‚Ķ‚ÄĚ- this is how Fanni Benyovszki, the founder of Saut√© Ballet School in Kecskem√©t talks about dancing. She teaches ballet to little ones as well as to adults. Now she is done with The Nutcracker that took place in December and this year she is planning to direct Swan Lake. Fanni kindly let me accompany her to Friday’s ballet classes and I could take pictures as well that had been a wonderful experience I’m so grateful for. I’m also very thankful for letting me have great memories of ballet when I myself was a student of her.

 

Lady Fraise (LF): When did you start taking an interest in ballet?
Fanni Benyovszki (FB): I was in kindergarten when my grandmother told me that the sister of my father used to do ballet. That was the moment I started to wish I could do it myself too. In that time there was no chance to do it in the countryside and my mother was not supporting the idea either, so I only got to do it later, when I became 16 years old.

LF: For how long have you been taking ballet classes and how did you become a teacher yourself?
FB: As a matter of fact I’ve been learning how to dance for 17 years. I started with majorette that has been a huge part of my life for 8 years, then side by side I started doing ballroom dancing. And now, after a 7-year pause I will compete as a ballroom dancer again in March. I’m very very looking forward to that! Besides ballroom dancing it was obligatory to go through classical ballet training. Back than I hated is, because it was painful, and for a Latin dancer it was completely unenjoyable, and notably it was something obligatory. In my opinion, a dancer is training him- or herself all through his of her life. I’m attending the voluntary classes of the Hungarian Dance Academy, every week I’m taking private lessons and group lessons of various studios, so basically attend everything I have time for. In the summer I’m taking at least 6 weeks of intense curses abroad and in Hungary too. Wherever I travel with my family, I visit classes and we go to theatres to watch ballet with them. How did I become a ballet teacher? Well, I’ve been always teaching from the moment one of my classmates asked me to help her train after she saw my results at competitions. I was attending the Technological College and learned to become an engineer and persistent with that I acquired a qualification of a dance teacher, but I started working in my other profession, clothes industry in a wedding dress salon. After the birth of my daughter it became impossible to do this physically laden and time consuming job, so the part-time job of teaching dance became my main profession. The idea of a ballet school came to me on an average day at the play ground in the morning. Wherever I’ve been in my life everybody told me I must be a ballerina because of the way I moved, my posture and my figure ‚Äď which I felt like a burden when I was a child. The mother’s of the playground’s kids suggested me to teach their daughters so I had to update my knowledge. I found an excellent ballet governess. She gave me all of her knowledge and she stands beside me today as a best friend and supports me in my every action. I’m very happy, because my school has the support and appreciation of great names and my students pull through at summer curses, performances and competitions as well.

LF: Now let’s talk about your dance school! When did you found it and what kind of groups you teach?
F
B: I founded my dance school in 2013, and at first I was only teaching kindergarten children, then the work I did touched more and more people’s soul. Right now my youngest students is 2 years old. I have a kindergarten group, the greatest emphasis is on nurturing with learning the basics promptly. It may seem like we don’t learn a lot of things but we learn those with perfect exactitude. The next class is called Pre Ballet, they already know the basics from 2 years of training and they are able to perform all of the spar exercises. Besides that we are working on center, but it’s all about the basics here as well. There are separate group for teenagers. It is a bit harder because they missed the early ballet upbringing, so it’s more difficult for them to remember all the combinations of the steps and the moves became accomplished harder. They need a lot of concentration to be successful. For me the thing next to my heart is to spend time with teenagers. We laugh a lot, we have conversations outside ballet classes and I can’t imagine my days without their chatter. They have three levels of training and I try to motivate them as well.¬† Getting to the next level is not attached to obligatory things, but if someone’s hard-working I’m supporting that person and giving her a chance to progress. For example I call guest teachers for her. Only those can get to the next level who truly deserve it and work for it by coming to the training, workshops, private lessons and the camps regularly, so all together want to develop and not just spend some time with a little ballet. I also teach adults, that is a completely different thing. It’s typical for some people to hide behind objections of being overweight or unskillful. They ask about their options than tell me ‘I”ll come back when I lost weight’. But those who actually come love the lessons very much. The mood makes people come in hours earlier to watch other group’s classes and relax with a couple of hot tea and enjoy being away from their everyday problems. The spirit of the room is unbelievable, a small world of wonder where everybody can find peace.

 

LF: How was it to bring The Nutcracker in 2016 and in 2017 to the stage?
FB: The chance came in 2016 for my team to dance a whole ballet. In advance I did 1 year of research and then the team learned the choreography in 6 months. We learned our own variations, not the original version by Marius Petipa, because the dancers are not qualified enough, and there are many young students and I want them to perform more and more on stage. The reviews of the first performance’s direction made me extremely proud. In 2017 53 people appeared on the stage. I was just watching the recording of that these days and it is unbelievable how much progress my students made. Of course in 2017 we learned more complicated variations and put more thought in the story as well compared to 2016 and the costume bay grew to double. On the whole I’m very satisfied because we were dancing before a full house and we were asked to do 2 performances in 2018 because of the huge interest in the tickets. We will fulfill this request, but currently we are preparing for the exam performance of the spring semester, where we will dance parts of Swan Lake. Everyone is very excited about this, they can’t wait for the cast. In advance they can apply for each role and then they participate on a casting, where we learn short parts and those have to be performed later solo to get the part. This system seems too strict for a dance school but I consider determination very important.

LF: What are your plans for the future?
FB: Besides progress of course, I would like to improve my class room. Each time someone comes in, the huge space and the beautiful frame impresses them. What I would like to have the most is the greatest quality of ballet floor. For this more students are needed. Fortunately this goal seems to come closer every year because more and more students are applying, currently I have almost 100 students, but it’s necessary to maintain such a huge room.

LF: What does dancing mean to you?
FB: Dancing always meant freedom and ease for me. You may be in a bad mood or have a headache, or you are agitated and tense, or have financial problems, but in a moment music starts, and then for a couple of seconds the world stops.
I was a very tatty teenager, there were troubles all the time at home, because I often skipped school and I was forbidden to go to dance classes ‘because of the importance of studying’. Then my mother was waiting for me at the door with a big slap and asked me: ‚Äôwas it worth it?‚Äô. Of course it was!
Every time I had troubles in my life dancing helped me get through them. I remember that after my spine surgery I put the photos and medals of last weekend’s competition to give me strength to recover sooner. It also helped me in postpartum depression. I’m very grateful for the father of my daughter and his mother, because they locked me out of the house with my dancing equipment and forbade me to come back till I had a dancing lesson. It’s funny now to think about what the neighbours might have thought.
As a dancer every day is a new challenge. You are not competing with others but yourself. You try to acquire more and more knowledge and try to get to know your body perfectly and the possibilities it holds.

Sauté Ballet School
Fanni’s Instagram

 

My travelling year of 2017

2017 has been amazing! I’ve been to 6 countries (counting my own, Hungary as well). Pictures speak more easily than words, so without further ado, here are my journeis of the last year:

In my town, Szeged, I went to the Lavender Days, the Zoo and the Salvador Dalí exhibition:

I went to see Nandafalva hindu temple in Bal√°stya:

I’ve been to Si√≥fok (Lake Balaton) twice, for a one-day trip and for a long spa weekend. On the way I also saw Simontornya and Ozora Castles.

I went to Balatonf√ľred for a conference and took a boat trip to the other side of Lake Balaton to visit Tihany:

I saw Hungary’s second biggest town, Debrecen for the first time:

I took a one-day trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Can’t wait to go back to the most beautiful natural sight I have ever seen.

6 days is not enough for Slovenia, but it is a great start. Maribor, Ptuj, Postojna, Predjama, Piran and Portoroz, it was nice to see all of you!

I faced my fear and took the very first plane ride of my life to Barcelona and saw my favourite architectural wonder, Gaud√≠’s Sagrada Familia:

And of course no year can pass by without me visiting as many Christmas fairs as I can. Here is Szeged…

… Budapest…

… Kecskem√©t…

… Bratislava…

… and Castle Hof in Austria:

I don’t know what 2018 holds for me, but I’m ready for all the new adventures to come!