THE PLACE, WHERE I FEEL HOME: CSEPEL ISLAND, HUNGARY
Csepel Island is the biggest one on river Danube in Hungary. It is 48 km long and you can find places where only deer, pheasants, hares and eagles stare back at you. I often visit my parents in Szigetszentmárton and I always take time to wander around without a specific aim, trying to discover hidden places and talk to shepherds or other loners, like me. While I travel a lot, this is the only place I truly feel at home. It fills me up with energy and makes me feel content. The island is rich in history, it was the first centre of conquering Hungarians, being the lodgement of Árpád’s tribe. They say, the island got its name after Árpád’s horse groom, Csepel. We do not have to go that far back in time for history, though, as one of the most famous Hungarian photographer, André Kertész lived in Szigetbecse (sziget means island in Hungarian), too.
It is close to Budapest, so the northern part of the island is more dense, almost half of the 165 000 people who live on the island are located in North. I usually avoid those places and go to the very South, where you can see how the huge river, Danube is divided. It is a spectacular feeling to stand, as I call it “the end of the world”.
Makád is definitely one of those forgotten places, where you can meet people out of this world. We stopped for a coffee in a bar that had given up resisting decoy long ago, where a local guy tried to sell us a few hundred right hand gloves (not pairs), that he found in the woods. He even demonstrated how you can wear them on both hands – I wish I took a picture of that, as it was rather impressive. While my Father and I sincerely appreciated the offer, we had to refuse it.
The next stop from Makád is a tiny village called Lórév. It is a unique place in Hungary, as it is the only settlement in the country with an ethnic Serb majority. Despite of the size of this village, it is rather important place, as this is where you can cross the Danube with a small ferryboat (if you dare).
Another important and rather historical chapel can be found just a few meters from the ferry, also located in the flood basin. The romantic, gothic Zichy Chapel is a true gem of the island. It was built in the memory of Count Ödön Zichy, who was hung here for treason during the freedom fight in 1848. He was sentenced to immediate death, after he was accused of not letting the Hungarian army know about the approach of Croatian troops. I tried to visit the chapel during one of the highest floods of history, back in 2013, but the entire area was under water. Interestingly, the chapel is built on a small, artificial hill, so it was the only building standing on the top of the flood. It is facing West, so when the sun goes down, the last sun rays light up the cross on the top. It is a truly remarkable place to visit.
While architecture and history plays role on the island, there are many inhabited areas where you can enjoy nature and tranquility.
Leaving Makád and Lórév, we get to a tiny village, Szigetbecse which used to be home of the famous Hungarian photographer, André Kertész. The memorial museum is worth visiting as well, there are loads of photos taken by the artist and you can have an interesting conversation with locals about his life.
Just around the corner of my parents’ house in Szigetszentmárton, about 100 metres from us is the “small” Danube, as locals call it. That’s the part of the river that’s fully controlled with dams, so it’s safe to swim or enjoy its beach. Behind our house there is a huge wineyard, facing West, so it’s a perfect spot to enjoy your “fröccs” during sunset. Fröccs is a typical Hungarian way of cooling for hot summer days – you just add ice cold sparkling water to your wine in a ratio you prefer.
...and this is the spot where I usually can sit around for hours, listening to music...
There are plenty of places left to show, including the biggest city of the Southern part, Ráckeve, but that will be subject of a new post!