I am, surprise, no longer in Romania, or Hungary. In fact, I made it home in the middle of December, and then spent a couple of weeks lying on the couch with a really bad cold. Between the cold, Christmas and the weather I got out of the habit of blogging. And then I started planning my next trip. I’m still planning (Europe again), but I am going to try to finish up the last trip before leaving! (Besides, today the alternative is doing my taxes.)
October 16-19, 2014: Szeged, in Hungary, is just across the border from Timisoara in Romania, but that doesn’t mean they are connected by a railway line. To get from one to the other I had to travel north back to Arad, cross the border, and then north again to finally switch to a southbound train in Bekescsaba. I would also need to get up early to make a 7:30 train – my reluctance to do so no doubt accounted for the fact that I set my alarm for 6:45 instead of 5:45. Luckily I woke up at 6:30 and was able to shower, dress, finish packing, cram some food into my mouth and still make my 7:05 taxi. Not a good omen, but things were going according to plan until we crossed the border, and the Hungarian ticket collector explained to me that the tracks were out south of Bekescsaba and I would have to switch to a bus for a few miles.
Well, OK, annoying but presumably manageable. Except that when I got off the train in Bekescsaba there were no signs pointing the way to the bus, no-one else seemed to be looking for it, and no-one I asked had any idea what I was talking about. When I finally tracked down the correct bus stop on the outer perimeter of the bus station the connecting bus had, of course, departed and I had to wait for the next one. Since I was still limping, crisscrossing the bus station in search of the elusive stop was particularly aggravating.
Arriving in Szeged to find a comfortable modern tram waiting to take me into town, and that the hotel I had stayed at back in 2011 had not only given me the same room, but had opened a well-reviewed restaurant, did improve my outlook. I had loved Szeged on my first visit, and it boasts one of my favorite buildings anywhere, but I might not have returned if I had been able to visit the New Synagogue on that trip. Then it had been very firmly closed – looking abandoned, in fact – but friends had visited in the spring and been able to gain entry, and their photos were enticing.
So, Friday morning I limped across town to the synagogue, knowing it would be closed for the Sabbath the next day. Only to find that it was closed anyway for a Jewish holiday… I was beginning to feel that I was just not supposed to see inside this building.
Fortunately, I was staying in Szeged long enough to try for a third time, and I was finally able to enter the morning of the day I left. And even though the sanctuary was being transformed for an upcoming concert, it was well worth the effort. Besides admiring the beautiful sanctuary, I spent some time in the foyer with an exhibition on the Jewish presence in Shanghai during WWII. I had not known that a number of Jews had sought sanctuary there, and been kindly received by the Chinese. Although the Japanese occupiers had been less well-disposed, herding the Jews into a ghetto, at least they hadn’t tried to exterminate them.