Markóc, a tiny village in Southern Hungary, was our home base this past week. Erdős János, one of the directors of Ars Longa, owns a house there for exactly this sort of purpose. The house itself is about 115 years old – the ceramic tile in the girls’ bedroom said 1895 – but the village has been around much longer. The area is called the Ormánysag, and hundreds of years ago, most of it was under water – an extension of the river Dráva. The only habitable places were tiny hills (more like small patches of higher ground than hills), and only a few families could sustain themselves on this land. Thus, in the Ormánysag, the villages are numerous but lighty populated. Markóc probably has about 30 to 40 houses in it, and they all line one side of the street – the other side is quite marshy.
Croatia is close enough to hit with a stone (we biked to the border once), so the Ormánysag is an out of the way place populated by famers and other rural people who follow some traditions more closely than cities like Budapest. Clothing and music and cars are all modernized, but food, construction methods, and everyday objects like dish towels or rugs are often more traditional.
Because this area is so remote, many of the roads and houses are in various states of disrepair. The nearest hospital is far away; larger vilages have clinics and pharamcies (we had to visit one for a foot injury; next post). Trucks drive around the villages to sell various products, not unlike the Swann company in the US, and each kind of truck – food, or otherwise – has a distinctive ice-cream-truck-style song. Even the mail man comes around in a van to sell stamps and pick up packages. (Kathleen, I sent you a letter this way.)
The people in this area, or in Markóc, at least, reminded me of the people in Appalchia. They possess a rich history and feel a strong connection to their hometowns, but they have very little left to be proud of. Work is scarce, and this year has been even more difficult for farmers because of extensive floods and unrelenting rain. (Difficult for famers but easy for mosquitoes, I might add.) In Péterfalva Ukraine, which is just as rural as Markóc, they at least retain the pride of an ethnic minority; they have something to preserve.
János is scheming up ways to use the house in Markóc as a place to revitalize the community and build relationships. He has planted a garden and owns some sheep there which a few of the villagers help take care of, but I don’t think they feel any ownership of these projects. To deal with these and other issues, János is hoping to start an internship or community house program sometime in the near future. Just what that will look like has yet to be planned, but in the next post I will give you a taste of what one week there could look like.
It’s a week I can mark down in the Annals of the Life of Cassidhe as a contestant for Most Unique Week To Date.