In Budapest they all love and respect each other

The day before yesterday was in Budapest the best Russian photo blogger, Ilya Varlamov, whose pictures have been quoted several times in Poemas del Río Wang. Before his arrival, as usual, he asked his readers about what is worth seeing in the city. A hundred and fifty answers came in comments, which illustrate at once how popular Varlamov, how communicative the Russian readers, and how knowledgeable the Russian tourists are about Budapest. Before seeing what Varlamov saw in Budapest, let us see what was recommended to him by his readers.

The prize, of course, was won by the spas, especially the Széchenyi and Gellért, some even quarreled on which is the better. Many have suggested the Szimpla kert, even correctly describing the name of the street, which is no small thing: Kazinczy utca. Others liked the cable-car to Buda, the Castle and the Labyrinth under it, the view from the Citadel. Many have mentioned the subway and that it has cars like the Moscow metro. Some thought that this was an intentional retro design, but someone corrected it: “they are really old, just like ours in Moscow, although now there are two metro lines, one with our cars and another with different ones.” In relation to the metro someone warned that when changing from line 2 to 3, a new ticket must be punched, but someone else immediately fixed that this is not so any more. Although there was someone who told that “basically one is supposed to visit Budapest with public transport. The buses and trolleybuses are mostly the old and decrepit Icarus brand, but they often and quickly go. When I was there, at first we went by subway, but then it turned out that the above-ground traffic is just as well for going around, and you can even see weel the city.” They also liked “the Museum of Terror” and the Memento Park with the communist statues, the City Park, the Fatál restaurant in Váci Street and “Restoran Paprika na Dzosa Gyorgy it 72” with its excellent Hungarian kitchen, the Gundel, “the most beautiful restaurant, but if you desire something really Hungarian, then go to the Krapai Csárda in Diósd, not far from the Memento Park: very Hungarian and very tasty.” They recommended to visit the Parliament, “the most beautiful building of the world”. The Philosophers’ Park in Gellért Hill, Europe’s first metro (someone immediately corrects it: “не метро, а именно подземка, földallati, that is, underground tram”, the Market Hall, the Pioneers’ Railway, the Elizabeth Lookout, Óbuda with the ancient Roman ruins, Europe’s largest synagogue. “It is worth to walk out to the Millenáris Park, usually there are very interesting exhibitions.” “I heard that in this city, so little in comparison to Moscow, there are unrealistically many museums – more than 200!” “The most delicious poppy seed cakes in Normafa, at the 90 bus terminus!” There are also disagreements: “I only like the circus and the zoo there.” “They burp up the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy everywhere. Old ambitions, zero greatness. An unpleasant city (apart from the baths).” Someone else, however, immediately defends us: “What? that Hungarians strive for greatness? Besides the idiots of the Jobik [sic, the ultra-nationalist party], nobody thinks of such a thing, in my opinion.” And generally everyone spoke with great devotion about Budapest – called by Varlamov himself “the best city in Europe” – and they were eagerly waiting for the photo report for two days.

And the photo report has come, with thirty-five pictures. Let us see what the best Russian photo blogger saw in Budapest. You should click on each picture, because they really live in large size.

The series naturally starts with large panoramas. Varlamov is barely able to speak at the sight of the city contemplated from Gellért Hill. Просто чудо, simply a wonder… Смотрите, как он прекрасен, see how beautiful it is!

He marvels at the monument models provided with Braille captions and the various street surfaces made for the blind. He writes approvingly about the curbs made easily accessible for the cars, the parking system, the parking penalties actually recovered, in contrast to Russia, and he specifically mentions that on the “Santa’s bags”, the red penalty notifications appended on the windscreens of the cars the inscription also figures in Russian.

He writes with particular recognition about two vehicles, considered as characteristic for Budapest: the tram and the bycicle. “In general, the transport is simply amazing in Budapest. I want to write a separate post on the trams. For, as it is well known, this is the best means of transport. In Budapest they like the tram. They even give it the most expensive: the riverside promenade! Such thing is possible only in Budapest.” He mentions that here are the world’s longest trams, the 53.9-meter long Combinos, which follow each other by one minute, carrying 20 thousand people per day. “And see how beautifully they mark the rails off the roadway!” On the bycicle: “They build cycle paths everywhere. The pedestrians share the riverside promenade with the cyclists. In Budapest they all love and respect each other.”

He also publishes some genre pictures on the walls full of graffiti, the gappy subrban streets (apparently around Dob Street), and from the New York, “the world’s finest coffee house” (“but prepare for the rude waiters!”), the street toilets. “But in Budapest the most fantastic things are the thermal baths. I won’t even show you a picture of them, because then all of you will come here tomorrow, and this city is not made of rubber, either!”

This site was identified by Bálint Gilicze: in front of the door of the Castle Bazaar’s pavilon (here)

The Budapest bosom is proudly bulging out at reading this flowing praise, the cynical Budapest heart contritely repents its eternal dissatisfaction, but the Budapest eye misses something after looking at all the series. These pictures are… er… commercial. Average tourist photos. There is nothing in them that a Japanese tourist would have not taken in a morning downtown walk, and I am sure that most readers would have found more exciting topics during a two-hour pilot tour. And not just the themes are cliched: even their composition remains far below Varlamov’s usual standards. As if he were in a hurry, as if he did not leave time for himself to discover the details, to find what can be grasped as a self-standing image from the dense fabric of the city. Let us compare, for example, the following picture with Andrea Zavada’s photo, taken at the same place:

“A happy cyclist passes on the bridge”

Andrea Zavada: Flood

Ilya Varlamov is the kind of photographer who is good at his pictures when he knows enough on the site, and this knowledge makes him attentive to the details. He has several such photo series, from which we have already published and will publish some more in Río Wang. This series, however, is not so. Since I saw this, I have been thinking which path he should have followed in Budapest, to see more real and more exciting faces of the city. Think about it, and write us, what kind of route would have you composed for him – or for any foreign photographer – for one day!

But with any feeling of lack, how could you have a grudge against someone who writes such things in the very first sentence of his photo report:

“I have never been in Hungary. To tell the truth, I never felt any particular interest in the Eastern European countries. Budapest was a pleasant surprise… And not only a surprise, but I fell in love with this city at the first walk… Before that, I only loved Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Porto in Portugal. But Budapest has surpassed them all. Now I already can die only here. This city is straightforwardly beautiful. It is difficult to explain why it is so beautiful, I myself do not understand it… The Hungarians have a funny language and a funny money what they call “forint”. Budapest is like a lovely kitten, it is impossible not to love.”

A video compiled with the support of BMW and the information center of the Moscow government by Ilya Varlamov and Maxim Katz

The Fire-bird

As the brave archer the Fire-bird, so we bring this book about them from a far away land, from Odessa, the large book store in Greek Square. The Fire-bird herself landed somewhere along those shores a thousand years ago, following the paths of Greek sailors and Persian traders, to live on in the Russian folk tales. Her tale has been illustrated by many, from the great painters of the Silver Age Viktor Vasnetsov and Ivan Bilibin to Igor Ershov, also popular in the West. The pictures of this 2008 edition were drawn by the perhaps best contemporary Russian book illustrator, Igor Oleynikov, from whom we already published a book for the Chinese New Year, The Great Circle of Time, on the animals of the Chinese zodiac. These drawings made with rich fantasy and great care really live in a large size: it is worth to zoom on each of them (attention: very big files!)

The text of this edition has abridged much on the “canonical” version of the tale. Thus, for the sake of variety, in the Hungarian post we have translated the complete Russian original, while here, in the English post we include Arthur Ransome’s version from his Old Peter’s Russian Tales of 1916, which faithfully follows the Russian original, but also adds a lot of explanations and decorations to it.

The Fire-bird. Russian folk tale. Illustrated by Igor Oleynikov

Once upon a time a strong and powerful Tzar ruled in a country far away. And among his servants was a young archer, and this archer had a horse – a horse of power – such a horse as belonged to the wonderful men of long ago – a great horse with a broad chest, eyes like fire, and hoofs of iron. There are no such horses nowadays. They sleep with the strong men who rode them, the bogatirs, until the time comes when Russia has need of them. Then the great horses will thunder up from under the ground, and the valiant men leap from the graves in the armour they have worn so long. The strong men will sit those horses of power, and there will be swinging of clubs and thunder of hoofs, and the earth will be swept clean from the enemies of God and the Tzar. So my grandfather used to say, and he was as much older than I as I am older than you, little ones, and so he should know.

Well, one day long ago, in the green time of the year, the young archer rode through the forest on his horse of power. The trees were green; there were little blue flowers on the ground under the trees; the squirrels ran in the branches, and the hares in the undergrowth; but no birds sang. The young archer rode along the forest path and listened for the singing of the birds, but there was no singing. The forest was silent, and the only noises in it were the scratching of four-footed beasts, the dropping of fir cones, and the heavy stamping of the horse of power in the soft path.

“What has come to the birds?” said the young archer.

He had scarcely said this before he saw a big curving feather lying in the path before him. The feather was larger than a swan's, larger than an eagle's. It lay in the path, glittering like a flame; for the sun was on it, and it was a feather of pure gold. Then he knew why there was no singing in the forest. For he knew that the fire-bird had flown that way, and that the feather in the path before him was a feather from its burning breast.

The horse of power spoke and said, –

“Leave the golden feather where it lies. If you take it you will be sorry for it, and know the meaning of fear.”

But the brave young archer sat on the horse of power and looked at the golden feather, and wondered whether to take it or not. He had no wish to learn what it was to be afraid, but he thought, “If I take it and bring it to the Tzar my master, he will be pleased; and he will not send me away with empty hands, for no Tzar in the world has a feather from the burning breast of the fire-bird.” And the more he thought, the more he wanted to carry the feather to the Tzar. And in the end he did not listen to the words of the horse of power.

He leapt from the saddle, picked up the golden feather of the fire-bird, mounted his horse again, and galloped back through the green forest till he came to the palace of the Tzar.

He went into the palace, and bowed before the Tzar and said, –

“O Tzar, I have brought you a feather of the fire-bird.”

The Tzar looked gladly at the feather, and then at the young archer.

“Thank you,” says he; “but if you have brought me a feather of the fire-bird, you will be able to bring me the bird itself. I should like to see it. A feather is not a fit gift to bring to the Tzar. Bring the bird itself, or, I swear by my sword, your head shall no longer sit between your shoulders!”

(It is a beautiful visual play, the shining sword taking the place of the shining feather in the previous picture.)

The young archer bowed his head and went out. Bitterly he wept, for he knew now what it was to be afraid. He went out into the courtyard, where the horse of power was waiting for him, tossing its head and stamping on the ground.

“Master,” says the horse of power, “why do you weep?”

“The Tzar has told me to bring him the fire-bird, and no man on earth can do that,” says the young archer, and he bowed his head on his breast.

“I told you,” says the horse of power, “that if you took the feather you would learn the meaning of fear. Well, do not be frightened yet, and do not weep. The trouble is not now; the trouble lies before you. Go to the Tzar and ask him to have a hundred sacks of maize scattered over the open field, and let this be done at midnight.”

The young archer went back into the palace and begged the Tzar for this, and the Tzar ordered that at midnight a hundred sacks of maize should be scattered in the open field.

Next morning, at the first redness in the sky, the young archer rode out on the horse of power, and came to the open field. The ground was scattered all over with maize. In the middle of the field stood a great oak with spreading boughs. The young archer leapt to the ground, took off the saddle, and let the horse of power loose to wander as he pleased about the field. Then he climbed up into the oak and hid himself among the green boughs.

The sky grew red and gold, and the sun rose. Suddenly there was a noise in the forest round the field. The trees shook and swayed, and almost fell. There was a mighty wind. The sea piled itself into waves with crests of foam, and the fire-bird came flying from the other side of the world. Huge and golden and flaming in the sun, it flew, dropped down with open wings into the field, and began to eat the maize.

The horse of power wandered in the field. This way he went, and that, but always he came a little nearer to the fire-bird. Nearer and nearer came the horse. He came close up to the fire-bird, and then suddenly stepped on one of its spreading fiery wings and pressed it heavily to the ground. The bird struggled, flapping mightily with its fiery wings, but it could not get away. The young archer slipped down from the tree, bound the fire-bird with three strong ropes, swung it on his back, saddled the horse, and rode to the palace of the Tzar.

(The rabbits, just like the supporting characters in the Busy Town series, are in fact the alter egos of the astonished readers.)

The young archer stood before the Tzar, and his back was bent under the great weight of the fire-bird, and the broad wings of the bird hung on either side of him like fiery shields, and there was a trail of golden feathers on the floor. The young archer swung the magic bird to the foot of the throne before the Tzar; and the Tzar was glad, because since the beginning of the world no Tzar had seen the fire-bird flung before him like a wild duck caught in a snare.

The Tzar looked at the fire-bird and laughed with pride. Then he lifted his eyes and looked at the young archer, and says he, –

“As you have known how to take the fire-bird, you will know how to bring me my bride, for whom I have long been waiting. In the land of Never, on the very edge of the world, where the red sun rises in flame from behind the sea, lives the Princess Vasilissa. I will marry none but her. Bring her to me, and I will reward you with silver and gold. But if you do not bring her, then, by my sword, your head will no longer sit between your shoulders!”

The young archer wept bitter tears, and went out into the courtyard, where the horse of power was, stamping the ground with its hoofs of iron and tossing its thick mane.

“Master, why do you weep?” asked the horse of power.

“The Tzar has ordered me to go to the land of Never, and to bring back the Princess Vasilissa.”

“Do not weep – do not grieve. The trouble is not yet; the trouble is to come. Go to the Tzar and ask him for a silver tent with a golden roof, and for all kinds of food and drink to take with us on the journey.”

The young archer went in and asked the Tzar for this, and the Tzar gave him a silver tent with silver hangings and a gold-embroidered roof, and every kind of rich wine and the tastiest of foods.

Then the young archer mounted the horse of power and rode off to the land of Never.

On and on he rode, many days and nights, and came at last to the edge of the world, where the red sun rises in flame from behind the deep blue sea.

On the shore of the sea the young archer reined in the horse of power, and the heavy hoofs of the horse sank in the sand. He shaded his eyes and looked out over the blue water, and there was the Princess Vasilissa in a little silver boat, rowing with golden oars.

The young archer rode back a little way to where the sand ended and the green world began. There he loosed the horse to wander where he pleased, and to feed on the green grass. Then on the edge of the shore, where the green grass ended and grew thin and the sand began, he set up the shining tent, with its silver hangings and its gold embroidered roof. In the tent he set out the tasty dishes and the rich flagons of wine which the Tzar had given him, and he sat himself down in the tent and began to regale himself, while he waited for the Princess Vasilissa.

The Princess Vasilissa dipped her golden oars in the blue water, and the little silver boat moved lightly through the dancing waves. She sat in the little boat and looked over the blue sea to the edge of the world, and there, between the golden sand and the green earth, she saw the tent standing, silver and gold in the sun. She dipped her oars, and came nearer to see it the better. The nearer she came the fairer seemed the tent, and at last she rowed to the shore and grounded her little boat on the golden sand, and stepped out daintily and came up to the tent. She was a little frightened, and now and again she stopped and looked back to where the silver boat lay on the sand with the blue sea beyond it. The young archer said not a word, but went on regaling himself on the pleasant dishes he had set out there in the tent.

At last the Princess Vasilissa came up to the tent and looked in.

The young archer rose and bowed before her. Says he, –

“Good-day to you, Princess! Be so kind as to come in and take bread and salt with me, and taste my foreign wines.”

And the Princess Vasilissa came into the tent and sat down with the young archer, and ate sweetmeats with him, and drank his health in a golden goblet of the wine the Tzar had given him. Now this wine was heavy, and the last drop from the goblet had no sooner trickled down her little slender throat than her eyes closed against her will, once, twice, and again.

“Ah me!” says the Princess, “it is as if the night itself had perched on my eyelids, and yet it is but noon.”

And the golden goblet dropped to the ground from her little fingers, and she leant back on a cushion and fell instantly asleep. If she had been beautiful before, she was lovelier still when she lay in that deep sleep in the shadow of the tent.

Quickly the young archer called to the horse of power. Lightly he lifted the Princess in his strong young arms. Swiftly he leapt with her into the saddle. Like a feather she lay in the hollow of his left arm, and slept while the iron hoofs of the great horse thundered over the ground.

(The half woman and half bird creatures sitting on the carved rocks are the sirins and alkonosts, which came from the Greek and Persian mythology to the Russian folk literature and luboks.)

They came to the Tzar's palace, and the young archer leapt from the horse of power and carried the Princess into the palace. Great was the joy of the Tzar; but it did not last for long.

“Go, sound the trumpets for our wedding,” he said to his servants; “let all the bells be rung.”

The bells rang out and the trumpets sounded, and at the noise of the horns and the ringing of the bells the Princess Vasilissa woke up and looked about her.

“What is this ringing of bells,” says she, “and this noise of trumpets? And where, oh, where is the blue sea, and my little silver boat with its golden oars?” And the Princess put her hand to her eyes.

“The blue sea is far away,” says the Tzar, “and for your little silver boat I give you a golden throne. The trumpets sound for our wedding, and the bells are ringing for our joy.”

But the Princess turned her face away from the Tzar; and there was no wonder in that, for he was old, and his eyes were not kind.

And she looked with love at the young archer; and there was no wonder in that either, for he was a young man fit to ride the horse of power.

The Tzar was angry with the Princess Vasilissa, but his anger was as useless as his joy.

“Why, Princess,” says he, “will you not marry me, and forget your blue sea and your silver boat?”

“In the middle of the deep blue sea lies a great stone,” says the Princess, “and under that stone is hidden my wedding dress. If I cannot wear that dress I will marry nobody at all.”

Instantly the Tzar turned to the young archer, who was waiting before the throne.

“Ride swiftly back,” says he, “to the land of Never, where the red sun rises in flame. There – do you hear what the Princess says? – a great stone lies in the middle of the sea. Under that stone is hidden her wedding dress. Ride swiftly. Bring back that dress, or, by my sword, your head shall no longer sit between your shoulders!”

The young archer wept bitter tears, and went out into the courtyard, where the horse of power was waiting for him, champing its golden bit.

“There is no way of escaping death this time,” he said.

“Master, why do you weep?” asked the horse of power.

“The Tzar has ordered me to ride to the land of Never, to fetch the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa from the bottom of the deep blue sea. Besides, the dress is wanted for the Tzar's wedding, and I love the Princess myself.”

“What did I tell you?” says the horse of power. “I told you that there would be trouble if you picked up the golden feather from the fire-bird's burning breast. Well, do not be afraid. The trouble is not yet; the trouble is to come. Up! into the saddle with you, and away for the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa!”

The young archer leapt into the saddle, and the horse of power, with his thundering hoofs, carried him swiftly through the green forests and over the bare plains, till they came to the edge of the world, to the land of Never, where the red sun rises in flame from behind the deep blue sea. There they rested, at the very edge of the sea.

The young archer looked sadly over the wide waters, but the horse of power tossed its mane and did not look at the sea, but on the shore. This way and that it looked, and saw at last a huge lobster moving slowly, sideways, along the golden sand.

Nearer and nearer came the lobster, and it was a giant among lobsters, the Tzar of all the lobsters; and it moved slowly along the shore, while the horse of power moved carefully and as if by accident, until it stood between the lobster and the sea. Then, when the lobster came close by, the horse of power lifted an iron hoof and set it firmly on the lobster's tail.

“You will be the death of me!” screamed the lobster – as well he might, with the heavy foot of the horse of power pressing his tail into the sand. “Let me live, and I will do whatever you ask of me.”

“Very well,” says the horse of power; “we will let you live,” and he slowly lifted his foot. “But this is what you shall do for us. In the middle of the blue sea lies a great stone, and under that stone is hidden the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa. Bring it here.”

The lobster groaned with the pain in his tail. Then he cried out in a voice that could be heard all over the deep blue sea. And the sea was disturbed, and from all sides lobsters in thousands made their way towards the bank. And the huge lobster that was the oldest of them all and the Tzar of all the lobsters that live between the rising and the setting of the sun, gave them the order and sent them back into the sea. And the young archer sat on the horse of power and waited.

After a little time the sea was disturbed again, and the lobsters in their thousands came to the shore, and with them they brought a golden casket in which was the wedding dress of the Princess Vasilissa. They had taken it from under the great stone that lay in the middle of the sea.

The Tzar of all the lobsters raised himself painfully on his bruised tail and gave the casket into the hands of the young archer, and instantly the horse of power turned himself about and galloped back to the palace of the Tzar, far, far away, at the other side of the green forests and beyond the treeless plains.

The young archer went into the palace and gave the casket into the hands of the Princess, and looked at her with sadness in his eyes, and she looked at him with love. Then she went away into an inner chamber, and came back in her wedding dress, fairer than the spring itself. Great was the joy of the Tzar. The wedding feast was made ready, and the bells rang, and flags waved above the palace.

The Tzar held out his hand to the Princess, and looked at her with his old eyes. But she would not take his hand.

“No,” says she; “I will marry nobody until the man who brought me here has done penance in boiling water.”

Instantly the Tzar turned to his servants and ordered them to make a great fire, and to fill a great cauldron with water and set it on the fire, and, when the water should be at its hottest, to take the young archer and throw him into it, to do penance for having taken the Princess Vasilissa away from the land of Never.

There was no gratitude in the mind of that Tzar.

Swiftly the servants brought wood and made a mighty fire, and on it they laid a huge cauldron of water, and built the fire round the walls of the cauldron. The fire burned hot and the water steamed. The fire burned hotter, and the water bubbled and seethed. They made ready to take the young archer, to throw him into the cauldron.

“Oh, misery!” thought the young archer. “Why did I ever take the golden feather that had fallen from the fire-bird's burning breast? Why did I not listen to the wise words of the horse of power?” And he remembered the horse of power, and he begged the Tzar, –

“O lord Tzar, I do not complain. I shall presently die in the heat of the water on the fire. Suffer me, before I die, once more to see my horse.”

“Let him see his horse,” says the Princess.

“Very well,” says the Tzar. “Say good-bye to your horse, for you will not ride him again. But let your farewells be short, for we are waiting.”

The young archer crossed the courtyard and came to the horse of power, who was scraping the ground with his iron hoofs.

“Farewell, my horse of power,” says the young archer. “I should have listened to your words of wisdom, for now the end is come, and we shall never more see the green trees pass above us and the ground disappear beneath us, as we race the wind between the earth and the sky.”

“Why so?” says the horse of power.

“The Tzar has ordered that I am to be boiled to death – thrown into that cauldron that is seething on the great fire.”

“Fear not,” says the horse of power, “for the Princess Vasilissa has made him do this, and the end of these things is better than I thought. Go back, and when they are ready to throw you in the cauldron, do you run boldly and leap yourself into the boiling water.”

(Oleynikov’s tale here follows a thread of his own:
“Well, this is no half trouble only, this is trouble itself! But I will do whatever I can do with my power, and it is highly possible that Princess Vasilissa will also help us. Don’t fear – hope!

It is a beautiful visual solution as the endless Anglo-Celtic strands, which in the previous images suggested the magic power of the horse, now also radiate with a great force onto the archer entering the cauldron..)

The young archer went back across the courtyard, and the servants made ready to throw him into the cauldron.

“Are you sure that the water is boiling?” says the Princess Vasilissa.

“It bubbles and seethes,” said the servants.

“Let me see for myself,” says the Princess, and she went to the fire and waved her hand above the cauldron. And some say there was something in her hand, and some say there was not.

“It is boiling,” says she, and the servants laid hands on the young archer; but he threw them from him, and ran and leapt boldly before them all into the very middle of the cauldron.

Twice he sank below the surface, borne round with the bubbles and foam of the boiling water. Then he leapt from the cauldron and stood before the Tzar and the Princess. He had become so beautiful a youth that all who saw cried aloud in wonder.

“This is a miracle,” says the Tzar. And the Tzar looked at the beautiful young archer, and thought of himself – of his age, of his bent back, and his gray beard, and his toothless gums. “I too will become beautiful,” thinks he, and he rose from his throne and clambered into the cauldron, and was boiled to death in a moment.

(Oleynikov adds: For neither the horse of power, nor Princes Vasilissa protected him with their love.)

And the end of the story? They buried the Tzar, and made the young archer Tzar in his place. He married the Princess Vasilissa, and lived many years with her in love and good fellowship. And he built a golden stable for the horse of power, and never forgot what he owed to him.

(Oleynikov does not forget about the creature giving title to the tale: “And they lived in such a great happiness that the Fire-bird never wanted to fly away from their garden.”)

Play with us

We have never applied for GoldenBlog, the most prestigious blog contest of Hungary. Yet each year our readers submit Poemas del Río Wang. And once we play, let us play it well. If you really like our blog, please vote for it until 6 September with your Facebook profile on the GoldenBlog ballot page, in the second, “Kult-Szórakozás” – that is, Culture and Entertainment – category, in the sixth row (“A Wang folyó versei” = the Hungarian title of our blog). Just imagine what a shame it would be if the number of the votes lagged far behind that of those liking our blog on Facebook, which is 1245 in this moment. You see? So go and click. Thank you!

The Jewish heritage

We collected for the first time in a list the posts of Río Wang written on the Eastern European – and more distant – Jewish cultural heritage when, encouraged by the participants of the first Galician tour guided by us, we announced further excursions to the other sites of the region well known by us. This topic is so comprehensive and the number of the published and planned posts so large, that they already deserve a separate collective post.

We also plan to start here a list of the most important sites and blogs on the Jewish cultural heritage of the region. Any suggestions are welcome.

The Jewish heritage
at Río Wang:

The joys of Yiddish
The Joys of Yiddish and the three Jewish sisters
Yinglish shop label in New York, 1908
The holy tongue
Covarrubias and the roots of Spanish language (es)
The four letters of God (en)
The Kaufmann collection 1.
The Kaufmann collection 2.
Leviathans and archangels
The birth of Lilith
5772: old postcards for Rosh Hashanah
Who was Essad Bey? (es it az)
Rome, Via dei Falegnami (it)
Wandering melodies
The rooster is crowing, a Hasid song
The rooster is crowing for the second time
The nightingale is singing again (es)
Forgotten Jewish village music
The Rooster Has Crowed: Muzsikás 2012
The rooster is crowing in Georgia
A wandering melody from the Balkans
The Bella Ciao, a Klezmer song?
Sephardic songs
A Yiddish revolutionary poem and the Lenin Song
Holy Land
The ladder of the Holy Sepulchre Church
Snowfall in Jerusalem in reality…
…and on postcard
Our troops standing at Gaza!
Tantours (es)
The Jewish cemetery of Nagykónyi
Assorted wines in Síp street 15
Walks in the Jewish quarter
The medieval synagogues of Buda
Jewish cemetery in Salgótarjáni Street
Yellow-star houses
The yellow-star house of Macell Komor
“Jewish temples”. Relics of a golden age
The Jewish route of the wine of Tokaj
Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia
The synagogue in Banská Štiavnica
Reconstruction of Prague’s Jewish quarter
Jacob Bassevi, the Jew of three emperors
Březnice’s Renaissance Jewish quarter and cemetery
Jews in Nikolsburg
The Jewish cemetery in Třebíč
The synagogue of Hlutschin/Hulčín
Hitler’s grave in the Jewish cemetery of Bucharest (es)
Sighetul Marmației on the day of Elie Wiesel’s death
Russian Jews in Szabadka
A Hebrew sailor in Pula
The David star of the church of Bale
Sarajevo’s synagogues
Tekeháza/Теково, Jewish cemetery
Hasids under the Carpathian mountains
Jewish raftsmen
Kőrösmező, railway station and cemetery (es)
Artúr Blutreich from Kőrösmező
Saul Wahl, king for a night
The Jews of Malecz in WWI (es)
The Jews of Podhajce in WWI
The Jews of Kolomea greeting Emperor Charles I
The Galician Jews praying for the victory of Austria
Photos by Alter Kacyzne from pre-war Poland
Alter Kacyzne and József Rippl-Rónai
Roman Vishniac’s children photos (es)
From Słonim the roads lead everywhere in the world
Photos by Menachem Kipnis from pre-war Poland (es)
The cantors of Menachem Kipnis
The Al Capone of Tarnów
Photos by German soldiers from the ghettos of Warsaw and Lublin (es)
The massacres of Lubny and Baby Yar on German photos
The landscape of Belżec once and now
and now
Together in Galicia
A shtetl tour in Galicia
Traces of the Jews in Galicia (fr)
Four essays on Galicia (fr)
A Jewish heritage tour from Subcarpathia to Odessa
At the cradle of Galician Hasidism
Blessing in the Hassidic synagogue of Łańcut
Lesko, Sephardic synagogue (es)
Lesko, Jewish cemetery (es)
Jewish military cemetery in Zaklyczyn (es)
The memory of the Jews of Lublin
Memorial lamp in Lublin
Landscape of Belżec once and now
Drohobycz and the memory of Bruno Schulz (es)
Bruno Schulz’s frescoes in Drohobycz (it)
Bertold Schenkelbach’s photos from Drohobycz, 1930 (es)
New Year in Uman (es)
Uman in the Biblioteca d’Israele (it)
The Jewish monuments of Lwów
The Jewish suburb in Lwów (es it)
The empty places of mezuzahs (es)
A Yiddish shop label in Lwów
Jewish books in pre-war Lwów (es)
Janowska: the last functioning Nazi labor camp (es it)
The birth of the Tango of Death
Yiddish coffee left to right in Lemberg
Come with us to Lemberg! (es)
Further posts on Lwów
Burech Bendit
Purim in Czernowitz
The cemetery of Czernowitz
Jewish life in Odessa
Jewish literature in Odessa
Karaite synagogue in Simferopol
History of the Jews of Georgia
Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan (es)
Amulett against evil eye
Triangular front letter in the language of the Mountain Jews
Harran, city of Abraham
Urfa, Abraham’s birthplace
A Russian synagogue in an Istanbul han
The tomb of Queen Esther in Persia (es)
Persian Jewish manuscripts
The Jewish cave neighborhood in Tamdaght
Jewish soldiers in WWI. An exhibition in Vienna (es)
Juden raus. A children’s game from 1936
On the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht
Exhibition about the Kristallnacht
The Manili House in the ghetto of Rome (es)
Rome, Via dei Falegnami (it)
The Jewish community of Pitigliano, 16-20th c.
The Jewish quarter of Alghero, Sardinia, 1353-1492 (es)
The three synagogues of the concentration camp
The Jewish cemetery of Nice (fr)
Palma de Mallorca
The ancient Jewish quarter in Palma
The “clock of the Jews” on the facade of the town hall (es)
Ethiopian Jews in Wolleka
Leviathans and archangels
South Africa
Adolf Guttmann nyomában 1. 2. 3.
South America
A photo from Yazd on a Sephardic cover page

Tekeháza, Jewish cemetery

Tekeháza/Теково is a small settlement in the former Ugocsa county of Hungary, now in the Ukrainian Transcarpathia, to the east of Nagyszőlős/Виноградово, on the left bank of the Tisza river. According to Wikipedia, in 1910 it had 1182 inhabitants, of which 107 Jews. Today probably no Jew lives in the village, but their memory is still preserved by the Jewish cemetery.

The majority of the gravestones are of a simple design, their modesty reflects the Orthodox tradition. They almost only have inscriptions, indicating the name of the deceased and the date of his/her death, perhaps one or two words to commemorate his/her merits in this world. If there are any embellishments, they are mostly traditional motifs: candelabra and weeping willows on the female graves, Stars of David on some male ones, the blessing hands of the Kohanites on the priestly tombs, or not even this few. On most gravestones, the only decoration are the solemnly carved letters pe and nun under the upper arch, the acronym of the Hebrew words po nitman, “here is hidden”.

However, it is worth noting a special gravestone motif, which almost has its own school in the cemetery of Tekeháza: the large and diverse number of geometric candelabra. The presence of candelabra – as we have already seen in the cemetery of Lesko – is not unique in itself. We meet with them almost only on women’s graves, praising the Friday night candle-lighting and, beyond that, the light and warmth of the family home as well as the virtuous woman maintaining it. What is interesting in Tekeháza, however, is the large number and many variations of stylized, geometric candelabra:

Once speaking about the candelabra, it’s worth to point out a special local form of this motif. About these gravestone decorations it is difficult to decide whether they are three-branch candelabra or stylized three-leaved plants:

Among the mostly puritan graveposts there are some ornate stones as well, bearing witness to the influence of the profusely decorated Hassidic cemeteries to the east. Their motifs include splendid crowns, birds, houses. They include a particularly beautiful tombstone whose edge is decorated with various floral motifs, which run together in the tulip motif above the house. To the right and left of the house, the bending or broken leaves of the two flowers symbolize the broken life.

Here is hidden the pious and righteous man…

The tomb of Rabbi Hayim Dov, who died young – “at the half of his days”, as the inscription says –, decorated with a laying lion with the head turned backwards, has also a Hassidic-like decoration. The carver choose the animal representing the tribe of Judah as a gravestone decoration, although for the grave of Rabbi “Dov”, that is, “bear”, this latter animal would have been a more apt choice. The biblical quotation in the upper semicircle of the stone was also carefully chosen: “And I have erected this stone in memory…” (Gen 28:22), continued and complemented with a personal inscription: “…to the man who followed the path of the righteous and acted in honesty: our teacher, Rabbi Hayim Dov, son of our teacher, Rabbi Yehuda ha-Levi. Died at the half of his days…”.

Extremely ornate and unique is the following woman’s grave, which also shows a strong Hassidic influence:

Here is hidden the virtuous and praised woman, whose hand was open to the poor [Prov 31:20 in free rendering], Lady Scheindel, daughter of Moshe of the blessed memory. Deceased on Hoshana Rabbah [the last day of Sukkot] in 5605 [1845]. May her soul be bound in the bondage of the living.

On the top, two doves with their heads turned back surround a richly decorated seven-branch candelaber of an intertwined stem. The dove is a symbol of piety, while the candelaber is that of Friday evening and of the family home. At the bottom of the gravestone a snake is waving. The snake is a relatively rare motif on Jewish graves. In the Jewish cemetery of Warsaw we find an example of the snake biting its own tail, a symbol of eternity, while in the likewise Polish Jewish cemetery of Żabno, the snake attacking the lion on one of the stones represents the death. It is likely that the snake in Tekeháza is somehow related to this latter one.

A few words must be said about the inscriptions as well. On Jewish tombstones we often read biblical quotations, which in some way refer to the life and virtues of the deceased. The authors of these inscriptions often borrow from each other, or use again and again some very fitting and widely popular biblical verses. In the cemetery of Tekeháza, such popular verse was Proverbs 31:20, which was adopted on several women’s graves:

She opens her hand to the poor

Two women’s graves, both decorated with three-branch candelabra. – The one at the left side: Here is hidden the virtuous and illustrious woman. “She opens her hand to the poor” [Prov 31:20], Lady Lea, daughter of Moshe of the blessed memory, deceased on 6 Nisan 5674 [1904]. [The third number, 7, is of uncertain legibility]

It is a common practice that the grave inscription of illustrious Torah scholars and their family members include a poem, where the initial letters of each line read together give out the name of the deceased:

Here is hidden Esther, daughter of our teacher of the blessed memory, Rabbi Tsvi. – The inscription of difficult legibility gives account of the merits of the deceased. The initial letters of the lines give out the name “Esther bat Tsvi” – Esther, daughter of Tsvi.

A five-branch candelaber on the top. – Here is hidden the illustrious and precious… Feyge. – Between “here is hidden” and the name, a four-line poem whose initials give out the name “Feyge”. – Her soul flew into heaven on 5 Heshvan 5701 [1941].

A particular poetic feat is that on the tombstone of Rabbi Shmuel Judah Stark, it is not the first letters but the first syllables – Shmu-, El-, Ju-, Dah- – which give out the name of the deceased!

Here is hidden the precious and honored man, our teacher, Rabbi Shmuel Judah Shtark, son of our teacher, Rabbi Yitzhak Dov. – A poem follows on the merits of the deceased, with the first syllables Shmu-, El-, Ju-, Dah-, that is, his name.

Finally, observe the special typography of this tombstone. The name of the deceased and his father – Moshe and Yitzhak, respectively – are inscribed in a beautiful, unique, almost Art Nouveau letter:

…pious and righteous man, Moshe, son of Yitzhak Dov. Deceased on 6 Iyyar 5680 [1920]. May is soul be bound in the bondage of the living.

Woman’s gravestone (the word “Lady…” is just legible). The inscription is worn off in a fantastic way. As if it were a Torah-reading yad lifted, or a pointing finger: “Memento mori!”