I took a bus from Subotica directly to Szeged, and was extremely grateful I wasn’t going in the opposite direction. The line of cars on the Hungary side going into Serbia looked to be 3 hours long.
Without any more trouble than having to wake up at 5AM for my bus, I was soon in Szeged to reunite with my family.
I hope you like the look of this water tower, because it was right next to our Air BnB and I have many pictures of it. If these two pictures aren’t enough and you’re thinking “OK that’s nice, but I want to know what the water tower looks like in other kinds of light,” then never you fear because I’ve got you covered!
Upon reuniting with my family, we all went out to explore the city and find some food. We first went to the Szeged Synagogue, which happened to be closed that day. Just seeing the outside was a good enough start for us, though we did resolve to return and see what was inside.
The city itself was nice and pedestrian friendly, with much of the centre being closed to traffic. We took our time strolling along looking at the buildings and puzzling over the proper Hungarian pronunciation of things.
Madeleine didn’t even wait one day before she started being a bad influence with desserts. I said no to the first one, but these next few blogs will track my slow descent as she gradually chipped away at my willpower.
As we continued through town we soon came upon the most striking of Szeged’s buildings: The Votive Church. It is impressive both inside and out, and we were quite happy to spend time appreciating the interior for a while as an escape from the oppressive heat outside.
I loved it in here. It was like walking through an enormous art piece.
I was quite surprised to see what looked to be an Armenian khachkar outside of the church. In 2004, an Azerbaijani soldier axed an Armenian officer named Gurgen Margaryan to death at a NATO conference held in Budapest simply because Gurgen was Armenian. Hungary convicted him of murder and jailed him for 8 years until allowing him to be extradited to Azerbaijan. When he arrived, Azerbaijan celebrated him as a hero. In response, Armenia severed ties with Hungary.
The monument here is a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire. It seems that Hungary is making an effort to restore relations with Armenia.
The rest of our first day was simply spent wandering around, then trying catfish soup at one of the local restaurants. It ended, of course, at the water tower.
We were all in Szeged because my dad and his girlfriend Cathy are world-class dragonboaters, and the World Championships were being held here. On the Monday the competition got started, and while they were at the races Madeleine and I became more acquainted with the town, starting our days at Cafe Frei. This meant that we tried as many different types of coffee as we could and played cards.
In the evening, Cathy was kind enough to treat us all to a showing of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was quite the experience seeing this musical in an open air theatre in front of the Votive Church, in Hungarian.
The next day we went to see some of the races, and got some chicken-like rice dish from a food stand that we suspect might have killed us if we had finished it.
The most puzzling thing about the Air BnB we were staying at was the glass cover that the gas stove had. It was just a single piece of glass on hinges that you put up when you wanted to use the range, and put back down afterwards for some unknown reason. Anyways, one morning I’m putting stuff away in the bedroom and I hear an explosion in the kitchen. Now, I don’t know about you, but explosion sounds are not something I’m accustomed to in my house, so I ran towards the kitchen and halted abruptly when Madeleine yelled “STOP!” I was greeted by this sight.
Not knowing what this strange Hungarian contraption was, Madeleine had cooked breakfast through the glass, and only afterwards when she was safely at the kitchen table did the cover decide to turn into shrapnel. We all just felt grateful that Madeleine wasn’t at the stove when it happened. My advice for anyone considering putting glass on your stove: don’t.
Whether we were feeling in need of solemn reflection or it was just a coincidence, Madeleine and I then went to the synagogue to finally see the interior. It was incredibly beautiful, and I got some more practice keeping a kippah on my head.
We then returned to the main part of town so I could get coffee and Madeleine could get dessert. To be fair, while I definitely had more dessert with her than I usually do, I think I similarly influenced her coffee intake. We’re both quite proud of ourselves for our accomplishments.
We were now nearing the end of the week, and thus the final dragonboat races. As expected, both my dad’s and Cathy’s teams were contenders for medals in multiple events.
They ended up doing incredibly well! Cathy brought home a bronze medal, and my dad brought home a bronze, silver, and a gold!
Meanwhile, before these final events, I had to go on a mission. I had signed a contract to teach English in Korea come September, and wouldn’t be in Canada long enough to get my work visa, so I took the train from Szeged to Budapest and went to the Korean embassy. I submitted all of the paperwork and handed over my passport, then took the train back to Szeged the same day just hoping that the visa would be ready by the time we went to Budapest the next week.
With the medals won and the competition over, the competitors were ready to take a break and do some exploring, and Madeleine and I were ready to take on a bigger city. Madeleine and I ate dinner together while the teams were celebrating together, and something about the mustard in Madeleine’s macaroni and cheese and the literal corn flakes used to bread the chicken I ordered put us off. We were ready to move on.
But not before saying goodbye to the water tower.