a peculiar and barely related dream…

Last night I had a strange version of my reoccuring bridge dream perhaps worth mentioning maybe for a laugh. For some reason, there were metal bicycle bridges across an unknown body of water. I had this feeling that there was one I shouldn’t use, but I couldn’t pinpoint which one. I started across only to realise that the one I chose was in disrepair, causing me to fall a very short distance into water. Coming close behind me was none other than Count Alois Lexa von Ährenthal, ditching his usual regalia-adorned uniform for a modern looking sweater and riding a blue vintage Schwinn cruiser bicycle. We had to together find a way to get back to land, hopefully before anyone saw our mistake.

Then, task uncompleted, I woke up.

Could this be the result of studying too much World War One history? Am I more worried than I thought about next summer’s three-river, white-water rafting tour in Bosnia? (I can’t swim. I am learning this summer.) Maybe I am just working too much and sleeping too little.

Have you ever had strange dreams about an historical personage or event?


a few piano sonatas and some apple strudels later we might make up, but right now…

15 március a Magyar Nemzeti Üdülési! Az 1848 as forradalom kezdete, tüntetések Pesten.

15 March is a Hungarian National Holiday. In 1848, demonstrations in Pest marked the beginning of revolution. 1848 was not the first struggle for independence since the liberation from the Turks in 1687 and the subsequent establishment of Hungary as an Austrian province. Previously, Rákóczi* (whose name adorns many streets, brands, and schools) led a resistance in the early 1700s which was crushed by Austria. Yet 1848-49 remains in the common opinion of Hungarians as a time in history they are most proud, a revolution begun by poets, writers, and the courageous common people.

Before Wilson’s 14 Points, there were Petőfi’s 12 Points.

Sándor Petőfi was a writer and poet who was a leading figure in the revolution. He roused crowds with his nemzeti dal (national song) and his 12 points, which were demands to be met for the Hungarian people (we must memorize these in school!)

(As a side note, it is funny to notice that just this year there have been huge issues with freedom of press, a “responsible” government is questionable, nearly all the banks and insurance companies are Austrian, and Transylvania belongs officially to Romania…) <– all of these are issues within the 12 points

A very important theme in Hungarian history and mindset is that of being alone and abandoned. Surrounded by Slavs, Turks, and Germans, the Magyars are alone, culturally and linguistically. (This particular understanding has also been abused and exaggerated at times or given an “ethnic” or “racial” importance. One should note that realistically speaking, Magyars are some combination of Slav, Turk, and German mixed with the earlier nomadic tribes.) The saying “trust no one” comes to mind and not without some reason. Croatians, Romanians, and Serbs allied with Austria in helping to suppress the 1848 revolution, despite having more in common with the Hungarians. In the end, the revolution was crushed when the Austrians seeked assistance from the Russian Empire. Not wanting to even “speak” to Austria, Hungary surrendered to the Russian Tsar (ha!ha! take that!) When talking of national character, I might mention vindictiveness….

Following this unsuccessful revolution, the first Hungarian prime minister, Lajos Batthyány amoung others was shot. Others were killed or imprisoned and Austrians remained at Gellért hegy (hill) fortress armed in case of any other signs of resistance.

(This is also a little ironic. Today at the foot of Gellért Hill stands a beautiful hotel and baths, occupied every summer by nearly all Austrians. 😉

view from Gellért hegy 15 March 2011

*Not to be confused with the Soviet era’s “Let’s wheel out Rákóczi!” (Like most Eastern Bloc politicians, Rákóczi was old and nothing short of incapable. This is a kind of national inside joke.) The name is from a noble family. There are many Rákóczi’s!

Talpra magyar, hí a haza, itt az idő, most vagy soha!

(photos taken by me, except Petőfi szobor)


I want to express a kind of apology and explanation for a delay in my first review. I’m revisiting Sándor Márai A zendülők (The Rebels) because it’s very difficult to read and not because it’s an English translation.

For me, it’s a very good and bad time to read this novel. It is difficult for me to leave out my personal feelings and experience right now even though one shouldn’t make such comparisons. It’s good to relate to a book, even if you are relating to a much milder degree.

To begin, I last read this book in my old apartment on Villányi út (Móricz Zsigmond Körtér tram stop…. Buda side 😉 on the fourth floor. The building was completed in 1910. My room was renovated sometime in the 1950s (I had a Soviet stove and refridgerator.) The sun streamed in through one large three-part window and the lace curtains blew in the wind of that unusually cool summer as I read lying on my old bed.

I guess all the folk stories didn’t convince me that having a lot of opportunities might not make you as happy as you imagined and that making the best out of situations can be better sometimes than a great situation.

This week, in an unfamiliar city, knowing no one, I started reading this same novel. My best friends are in various parts of the world. The time we spent together feels like a dream, the kind of dream that nevers happens again, no matter how much you hope it will. I miss them all dearly. I am incredibly homesick, yet I feel like I cannot ever go back to the same home I knew. Let’s just say, these are also very important themes in the novels. Although I’ve never experienced the anxiety of knowing you would be leaving for a seemingly unending bloody war, in my own small way I’m deeply effected by this book, even more so now.

a snowy sunday evening

It isn’t even Christmas, but here I am in my new apartment watching The Sissi Collection. It takes place many years before the outbreak of the Great War, but I’m mentioning this because it is a historical costume drama (the term, historical, is being used very loosely here.) No matter established an historian you may be, regardless of how “Prussian” you are about your duty of historical accuracy, if you ever spent even a year in Central Europe, you can’t quite find the courage to insult this film (or, miniseries really.) It’s aired every year around Christmas in Austria, Hungary, and Germany (I still need to find some Czech friends to see if they too watch it.) It’s one of those programmes that you play in the background while spending time with family… the kind of thing that brings you back to childhood when you were laying on the carpet playing with some toys or just your own imagination and the smell of hot walnut beigli and coffee filled the warm room. The point is, it’s something you watch when you need comfort and I decided since it was available in the library here and I’m just getting used to my new place, I would actually watch it. Here is a trailer, which, I can only very very poorly translate for you as it is in German. You can find the film in English, German, and Hungarian.

An update on my first book for the War Through the Generation challenge… I am (re)reading Sándor Márai’s, The Rebels. In my next post, you will encounter the young men called Abel, Béla, Ernö, and Tibor and see as their world slowly disintegrates as they reluctantly leave their childhood. It is a unconventionally disturbing novel devoid of any “action at front” as it all takes place in a remote and fictional Hungarian village. However, the war permeates through everyone’s lives as you will see with its effect on the boys even despite their interesting attempt at avoidance. I will very soon venture to the library and get the English copy of The Rebels for my very first review!

I will also be looking for Peter Englund’s The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War. It has been suggested to me from two different sources, and from the description seems to be the perfect book for me to read!

As I love films, I’ll also be looking for films to watch and review. And just for fun, I’ll include some music from the time period as well (as soon as I find out how to include it in my post.)

Hello, Bonjour, Zdravo, Szervusztok to fellow enthusiasts and anyone reading! Thanks!

jó reggelt kívánok!

There’s no way that you (my honorable internet reader) could know, but before I took on the dreadful task of typing this, I wrote it by hand in my journal. Partially because I was not near a computer and had some time and partially because my insistance on the outdated and impractical is a prevalent part of my personality. Much like, you might understand, the earlier era of my beloved (and dearly missed) homeland. Yes, before we were spending Balaton summers dancing and toasting Franco-ised Pálinka (sweet fruit pálinka with perrier) we were cursing and refusing to clink glasses (er..plastic cups) because that’s what the Austrian oppressors did! Uh huh… outdated and impractical (include here: Magyar stubborness) not a history of the First World War would be complete without such a description of Austria-Hungary.

On some level, I will be participating in the “War Through the Generations” reading challenge and that is what this blog is about. This is my journal of reviews and comments on the theme of the First World War. I’ve never done anything like this but I will begin with an introduction and explanation.

My name is Andrea. I am 24 years old and I have a degree in history. I moved to Chicago approximately three weeks ago from Budapest, Hungary. I am Hungarian-American and quite like both nations. I’ve traveled to Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, and Georgia. My hobbies include running, hiking, mountain-climbing, gymnastics, all forms of art and crafts, dance and of course, reading, history, and films. My focus in history at university was World War I. My great-grandmother Henrietta, was a child of the First World War. Her father perished on the Balkan Front in 1915 and although she had never met him, she spoke highly of this man who would remain forever young. I was always fascinated with the story and spent much time imagining about life at that time.

My purpose of this blog is not only to participate in the reading challenge, but also to communicate with others of similar interests.