The Small Town That's Now So Far Away

by Tim Berenyi (Australia)

Making a local connection Hungary


I step down off the bus onto the empty gravel road, the bus doors clatter shut behind me. I stand still for a moment, my bag at my feet and my mind repeatedly asking why I have done this to myself. Here I am; in Nagyszékely - rural Hungary, about to spend the next 10 days volunteering on a farm for board and food. I heave my bag on my back and begin walking away from the dishevelled bus stop with only the broken English directions provided by the only other passenger on the bus to guide me. Five minutes into my fifteen minute trek I see in the distance a figure appear; ruffled dusty orange hair, worn out black tracksuit pants with a blue tee-shirt riddled with holes. The rider slows to a stop when they reach me and with a tentative voice they say my name - I nod and the rider swings off the bike and extends his hand. 'I am Karl, we must hurry as I have left the children and kittens alone in the garden.' Upon arriving at the house I was given a tour; the house was built in 1909 and bought cheaply due to the deportation of ethnic Germans after WWI, part of the roof was falling in and the shed was in dire need of repairs. My accommodation would be in a tent that was set up under a walnut tree at the back of the garden - just up the path from the composting toilet which felt a lot closer depending on the direction of the wind. Karl fished out a stained mattress which he spent 10 minutes ferociously beating in an effort to remove years of dust. Over the following week and a half I learnt many things about Hungarian culture, politics and about the town community. Karl, an Austrian meteorologist, moved to the neighbouring country to be with his wife Edit. I will forever cherish the nights spent drinking nettle tea and homemade bread talking about climate change and the future of humanity whilst playing African drums. I am still in touch with the family and regularly remind them how hot it is in Australia as they sit inside watching it snow. And although our lives are seemingly worlds apart, we were still able to find commonalities through our experiences and beliefs. I do not know if I will ever return on to that town via a beaten up bus, but regardless, I know I will never forget it.