Monday, August 30, 2010

Vasfüggöny--Iron Curtain

In the mornings we take walks to explore the countryside. About 3 miles from our house is the village of Harka. We can see it on our walks in the hills and planned to walk over. Today it was rainy so we decided to drive over. We drove through the village, took a newly paved one lane road looking for a place to turn around, and suddenly we were in Austria at this guard station.

At first we thought it was one of the old guard stations where the communist soldiers would wait to shoot anyone trying to cross. Click on the picture of this small billboard that we saw next to the guard house and you can see how the iron curtain went through the countryside here. Notice the farmers working on the Austrian side right up to the fenceline and on the Hungarian side the soldiers on horseback ready to shoot escaping Hungarians.You can even see a berm in the background to make the escape more difficult by making it easier to shoot people trying to cross the border.

We decided that as we were looking at the picture, we were standing in and looking into Austria. We were probably at an Austrian border station built to protect Austrians and welcome escaping Hungarians. So we turned around and could see where this carefully tended vineyard goes right up to where the iron curtain used to be. If you click on the picture and look closely, you can see the fence posts marking the former iron curtain, the uncultivated "no man's land" from the picture and the berm in the background.

We walked up to the old fence line and looked back towards Harka, Sopron, and our house. You can see the remains of the iron curtain in the picture and if you click for a closeup, you can see the radio tower on the right in the distance not far from our house.

We drove to the other side of the hill on the Austrian side where we could see a Hungarian guard tower overlooking the carefully cultivated fields in Austria.

This is the Hungarian side of the same hill, still uncultivated from when it was a no-man's land twenty years ago. You can't see the tower from this side. It is hidden in the trees to surprise anyone trying to escape. Other than the contrast of cultivated and uncultivated fields, there is no sign of the border today. In fact, we were surprised that we were suddenly in Austria while trying to find a place to turn the car around. There was simply a change in the pavement and a fencepost with the colors of the Hungarian flag painted on it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Race to the top

When you return from a teaching appointment with 4 missionaries and an 88 year old ward missionary and her dog who lives on the 7th floor of this apartment building and the elevator only squeezes in 4 (if you hold your breath), what do you do?

Of course a gentleman doesn't send the 88 year old and her dog up the stairs.

However, it turns out that 7 floors is really 9 since we started on -1 and the ground floor is 0.

Can you tell who took the elevator? I almost beat them to the top.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Esös nap--rainy day

It's pouring rain this morning. Who are the neighbors looking at outside by his car?

It's Thompson Elder taking advantage of a free car wash. "A penny saved is a penny earned," they always say.

Thompson Növer even ventured out for a second to get this close up. I knew there was a reason I brought my bathing suit. The rain wasn't quite as warm as a Florida hurricane rain, but you take what you get. You can take the Thompson out of Florida but you can't take Florida out of the Thompson. Be sure to click on this one so you can see the rain pouring down.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Szombathely--Young Adult Fun

Saturday we took some Young Single Adults to a district YSA activity at the Sombathely District chapel. This was the first chapel build in Hungary and Bonnie served here on her mission. I wanted to see the chapel since one of my goals is to get our attendance up so we'll be eligible for a chapel too. (80 is the goal. We had 34 today but 48 two weeks ago).

They had a water balloon extravaganza. Which side looks like it is winning?

Of course here is my favorite missionary.

Here are the worker bees putting out the refreshments--palacsintas (the Hungarian version of crepes). That's Elder Haslem. We replaced him and his wife in Sopron. Their task is now to establish a district Young Adult Center in Szombathely. Everyone loves them here in Sopron so I'm sure they'll be a great success in Szombathely.

I decided to look around the chapel to see what we could have in Sopron if we work together. This is the entrance hall.

Doesn't the chapel look nice? I love their ceiling. It's multipurpose so they can hold dances and other activities here.

The Relief Society room includes the kitchen on one side.

The primary room is a bit small.

The baptismal fount is behind these glass doors in an alcove in the hallway. It's better than the sauna we have to use.

This is where they are trying to set up a Young Adult Center. It includes ping pong tables and a classroom.

I thought you'd like to see that since this is the district center, it has satellite for church broadcasts at General Conference time. Since Sopron is an hour away, we'll see it on tape the next week. This serves as an outdoor cultural hall. Can you see the green picnic tables behind the storage shed? You can also see the post on the left that holds the basketball standard. The standard is on the ground next to it waiting to be reattached.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sétálás--walking around

We like to walk around and look at things. We see lots of flowers in window boxes.

Just down the street are the train tracks. Sopron is 35 miles from Vienna, Austria so Austrian commuter trains circling Vienna pass through Sopron every three to five minutes, blocking the traffic on our road, so it always takes longer than we expect to drive the mile or two to church. Sopron sticks into Austria like a turtle head sticking out of the Hungarian shell. Much of Sopron is only a couple of miles from the border on any side.

There are more cars now but the apartment houses don't have garages. So they've build rows of them near the railroad tracks that people can rent out. They use them just like our garages--with as much junk in them as cars.

There are now more bikes and bike routes. These people are riding the paved path that circles Lake Hetfö on the edge of Sopron (Neusiedler See in German), which lies mostly in Austria.

Here is a view from a window that shows how close Austria is. You have to click on the picture but you can see across the field another village that is in Austria. The border with machine guns and rifles separated the two with armed boats patrolling the south end of the lake ready to kill any swimmer, boater, or biker on the Hungarian side. Now you can bike, hike, fish, and swim freely. You can't even see where the border is--the signs just change language.

Keresztelö--Baptismal service

Saturday night we had a baptism. Sorry this picture is a bit blurred--I must have moved the camera in my nervousness of conducting in Hungarian. Here are Balog Eva and Dénes (sounds like "Danish") at the hotel sauna near the branch chapel. The water in the dipping pool had a bit of a nip but it looked like a baptismal font at the temple--so all was steamy with a refreshing spiritual dip.

Here are many of the branch attending the service. We held it at 9 at night after the sauna was closed.

Étel--eating time

Don't think you'll go hungry in Hungary. Elder Bohner and Elder Baumgartl (Bohner Elder and Baumgartl Elder in Hungarian) our two elders from Germany are taking us around to meet the members. Of course it is an eating tour. We started out by feeding Bohner Elder some Filipino pancit and egg drop soup for his birthday to start the food tour.

Barka Sandor (remember, Hungarians put their family name first) treated us with a nice helping of palacsintas. Those are large rolled up crepes filled with apple pie filling, berry jam, or cottage cheese and raisins.

Sandor lives deep in the forest as a caretaker of a former border guard camp. We drove through Austria to get there as the Austrian side had paved roads and beautiful neatly tended fields but the Hungarian side had dirt roads more like trails and thick forest for miles so the communists could keep people away from the border. One member who used to be a border guard during his required time as a soldier says they would get a bonus if they shot and killed someone trying to escape. Now you just drive through, though some of the guard houses are still there and you can imagine you are in a spy thriller making an escape.

Of course you start the meal with soup. the Edes family has some picky eaters so they do a "make your own" soup. Elder Bohner is showing mom how to put it all together, topped off with a nice spoon of hot Hungarian paprika sauce.

Here's Mom trying it out. First the noodles, then the broth. Last the veggies and meat topped off with the paprika.

The Joo family stuffed us with goulash soup, stuffed cabbage and pörkölt (what we call goulash). Hungarians like to balance the sour and the sweet. Pörkölt is a sweet food, so you have to eat it with Hungarian sour pickles on the side so the sour balances the sweet. The sauerkraut with the stuffed cabbage serves the same purpose so you don't need pickles.

Doesn't the stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut look great? It is stuffed with onions, ground meat, and rice.

How about this dish of small thin steaks topped with onions, peppers, and tomatoes? The Edes family served these. This was a sweet food that needed pickles on the side.

Does it look like I am enjoying the pórkölt? Sorry that I ate my pickles already so you can't see them. Many make their own in small vats on their window ledge so they'll be fresh for dinner.

Of course you have to have dessert. Joo Julia (9) is showing off her favorite dessert.

Kron Gizi (88) is insisting that we eat every bit of süti ("shootie" or dessert)

Bohner Elder is an obedient elder.

Kiss Maria (80) is serving her best. Of course anything you don't eat they send home in little packages. So we had stuffed cabbage for breakfast and for dinner pörkölt with süti and ice cream for dessert. (For a change of pace we had Turkish fast food for lunch.) Hungry in Hungary? No way!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Szentendre--tourist town

On Monday we had our first zone conference in Budapest with three zones. Half the mission was there. The morning we spent in training. The afternoon we had a cultural excursion to sites north of town on the Duna (Danube). Here Mom is showing off the town square of Szentendre (St. Andrew), a tourist town that we didn't get to when we lived in Hungary 20 years ago. It's a famous artist colony with lots of art galleries and museums. It hasn't changed much in 200 years or so.

Here mom and Sister Baughman (pronounced "Boffman"), the mission president's wife, are checking out the famous Hungarian peppers. Do you think they can find just the right one? Doesn't the mission president's wife look like Aunt Gwen's Krissy? She's just as nice too.

Here are a couple of the creative signs advertising businesses.

Can you guess who they think has the money to spend?

Of course with all that walking around, Dad needs a nice Hungarian ice cream cone. If it chills him off too much, he can buy one of these fur hats.

Mom, of course, just needs to find a Hungarian cowboy and a horse to pep her up.

Relaxing on the banks of the Duna is a great way to end the day. Lots of people come up from Budapest on tour boats as a day trip.