Before I continue, I just want to write a sentence here for the late Greg King. I was lucky enough to meet Greg and "work" with him in a very limited capacity but he really inspired me and I think his death is a huge loss to many people personally and to the legal community in general - it's really saddened me. I've been thinking a lot about his family.
Since I last updated you, my travels took me to both Poland and Holland for the first time and back, after a six year absence, to my second home, Hungary. It's been a rollercoaster few weeks with a lot of rain and a lot of sunshine.
While in Berlin we looked at the map and realised how close Poland was, so we hopped on a train and found ourselves in the city of Poznan. The whole thing was spontaneous and so our expectations were perhaps not high, but we really loved it. The old-town is just beautiful, full of colourful dollhouse-like buildings and the scent of history lingering in the air. The food was phenomenal and the vodka very dangerous. We encountered many friendly and open people who really made us feel welcome and ensured that Poznan would become rooted in the "favourite places travelled to" category. (On reflection, that category is pretty big actually.) Poznan also found a special place in my heart due to its connection with Hungary via its 1956 uprising - the city revolted against the Russians just a few months before Hungary did. (Contrary to popular belief neither of these were "anti-communist" per se, rather "anti-foreign-oppressors".) It was the Hungarian revolution that brought my maternal grandparents to New Zealand and so it's a big part of my identity too, and the Poznan connection was previously unknown to me. Poznan pays homage to the revolution's sentiments and victims with a great little museum and a massive, very impressive monument in the city centre. Solidarity with the Hungarian cause and "freedom fighters" is expressed in both these memorials, and also popped up in conversation with a few locals.
After a couple of nights back in Berlin we were on the road again, this time heading for Amsterdam. My cousin R's friendly face awaited us in this city of canals and coffeehouses (not to mention an inordinate amount of bicycles whose rate that can be compared to NZ's sheep population), and she took very good care of us. Due to the distances between our homes we have never really spent much time together and yet we share many traits that we can only put down to inherited family genes, so it was quite special to be able to just hang out together. I also loved wandering the city's tiny bridges and sensed an elusive, energetic life-rhythm pulsing in the streets.
A little while later I found myself in Vác, about half an hour from Budapest where some of my Hungarian relatives live and where I spent a lot of time at various phases in my life. Admittedly it was very strange at first - walking these streets and sitting in these lounge rooms remind me very strongly of being nine or 13 or 18 years old depending on how the light falls. I haven't been back since before I started university and it felt remarkable to see the things that had changed and others that remain the same. I wondered how I would fall into the rhythm of things here as an adult but ultimately I found my balance.
So being here, for me, is a peculiar mix of the familiar and the new as I walk a jagged line between local and visitor. There is joy to be found in being somewhere the language flows easily from my lips and where I recognise the pattern of the streets, and a different but equal thrill in (re-)discovering the secrets of these places. I suppose it adds to the experience that I have a pretty hopeless memory, so places present themselves to me with the vague and unplaceable remnants of experiences floating in the air.
|The New York Coffee House|
In other ways, I have fallen back into the life I left behind in 2006. I've returned to singing with the Váci Vox Humana, the choir that my late great-great-uncle conducted for 42 years and is a cornerstone in my relatives' lives here. Members of the choir approach me with affectionate smiles to ask about my parents and my grandmother, who left this town with only a handkerchief in hand over 50 years ago - people who knew her and her family in a way I never did. My grandmother's uncle has been on my mind a bit recently as it's the anniversary of his death now - I didn't know him all that well but he was a special person who left behind a big legacy. He's always left an impression of me and I remember writing a story about him for a high school assignment. A week ago we sang Fauré's Requiem which is one of my all-time favourite pieces of choral music, and, as predicted, I was carried away with the irreplaceable feeling of being one voice of many giving life to a timeless and evocative piece of music. Another familiar and faraway feeling brought to the fore.
Here is where I will finish. There will be many more things to write in the coming weeks and I will try not to wait so long to "put pen to paper" next time (especially because if I do I'll be just about back in NZ). As always sok szeretettel.