Getting to know Sarospatak

Alright, so I promised a few blog posts. I’ve decided to start with Sarospatak proper, to give you a sense of where I’m working:

Sarospatak is a small Hungarian town about 3.5 hours from Budapest. Actually, Sarospatak is much closer to the Slovakian border than Budapest. The city is located in the Tokaj (again, pronounced ‘toll-kai’) Region. Matt described it in two ways that I found very effective. First, as a rural Hungarian town where everything closes at 1pm on Saturday and doesn’t reopen until Monday. Second, as the Hungarian equivalent to Napa Valley when it comes to white wine. The exception here being that Tokaj is not only a region, there’s also a city with that name.

Truthfully, when driving in to Sarospatak, I immediately knew I was going to like this place. The region’s main products and sunflowers and white wine, and the field/mountain landscape is truly arresting when you drive by it. Although I didn’t get any pictures when driving in, the first image I’ve attached is a view from my dorm that gives you a pretty good sense of the geography.

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Despite a slightly late start on Friday when I got in,I had a pretty good chance to get a look at the town. Most of the activity in Sarospatak occurs along Rakoci Ferenc uta, the “main street.” For someone who’s VERY much a night owl, I’m still getting used to this morning-oriented city. The town bell rings repeatedly at 6am just in case I happen to forget. So far, it seems like the most people are out on Saturday morning, with the town’s population eventually disappearing by 5pm. Only a few places are open after 5 (one small grocers and a few restaurants), but according to Matt the night life has drastically improved from two years ago. More on that in my other posts.

I’m staying in Comenius dorm, which is used during the year as housing for students that attend the teacher’s college here (Reformed Collegium). Apparently there is an incredible library in the college that’s haven’t visited yet…but if you know me at all, you know that it’s on the top of my to-do list.

I have had the chance to check out the Parish Church and Rakoczi Castle. The church is a 15th century, gothic-styled building that actually sits on the ruins of an 11th Century church (the latter church may possibly have been where the noblewoman/saint Elizabeth of Hungary was christened).

Inside the church, my favorite thing (next to the spectacular altar, which I’ll add a picture of later), might have been this advertisement. Relics are. A big deal here:

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The Castle itself is…just spectacular. Adjacent to the building is a former monastery-turned-art school. The castle blends 15th century bell tower with 19th century living additions (see my previous blog posts to get a sense of the courtyard, I’ll post pictures of the interior this week). The wall surrounding the castle is pretty much still intact, as well as an outdoor amphitheater that leads to the back of the castle. It faces the Bodrog River, where the town gets it name from (Sarospatak, when translated, means “muddy river”- I actually think the river is quite nice, but you do you Hungary).

Here are a few pictures from the rehearsals during the first day, as well as the castle bell tower/stage that was constructed.

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Oh, also an image of the recent excavation they did to the castle, where they located some additional ruins:

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As a side note: the acoustics in the castle are spectacular. the way that sounds bounces off of the plaster and stone makes it a perfect venue for concerts. The sound is conducive to performances because of the courtyard, actually. With four flat, well-made, solid surfaces all facing each other, I can hear a conversation from the front of the stage that is 40 feet away.

Obviously I’ll post more on Sarospatak, including pictures and videos, after I do some more sightseeing next week. Based on the nature of the town, I’m guessing that 7am walks are going to become a regular thing.

OH one thing more- did you ever wonder where the ‘baby was dropped down the chimney by the stork’ story got started? Well, it started HERE. Yep, this region started that whole story. How do I knows. Because enormous storks live here, that’s why! I saw a huge nest next to the Reformed Church (the other big church in town). A lot of people don’t believe me, so I promise there are pictures going up!