Padlocks of Lovers and Gypsy Dancing
Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
24Trip End Jul 09, 2008
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My first impressions of the city were that it was quite compact and small, but charming at the same time. Probably the most outstanding feature of this center of Pecs is the Mosque Church, a religious building that has a very interesting history. When the Ottoman Empire moved into this area of Hungary they built the Pasha Gazi Kassim Mosque in the center of Pecs. However, once the Hungarians forced the Ottomans out they decided to convert the mosque into a Catholic church; they did this by throwing a statue of crucified Jesus the mihrab and throwing a cross on top of the star and crescent on the dome. An empire that was thought to be all powerful has been relegated to history and the only remnant of its presence is a stone building that now houses an entirely different religion. Staring at the building I began to notice just how ever changing our world is, and how things that seem permanent one moment may be gone the very next second. I found it odd that an inanimate object such as this building made me think of the very fragile nature of life, but I left the Mosque Church with a greater appreciation and respect for history.
We stumbled upon the Cathedral of Pecs (Szekesegyhaz), which is absolutely enormous in size compared to the small population of Pecs. The catacombs of the Cathedral were beautiful with paintings and sculptures made in a style that resembled art from the Caucasus or Middle East more so than Central Europe. I came to the conclusion that this is probably another legacy of being held under the rule of the Ottomans for so long; but I also wondered if it was due to the Hungarian origins in the Volga region of Russia. The Cathedral property contains a traditional Hungarian wine cellar where we sampled several local wines; I'm not a big wine person but I found that the wine had a taste that was decidedly different from the French or Californian wines I have had before. There was a unique taste in the Hungarian wine that I was not able to pinpoint, which the wine cellar owner stated was due to the traditional ways Hungarian wine is still made.
While walking back to the central square from the Cathedral we stumbled upon a little gate that was covered with padlocks, in fact there were so many padlocks that I could barely make out the iron bars of the fence behind the bulging mass of metal locks. I vaguely remembered reading about the padlocks of lovers found across Pecs, but I wasn't sure exactly what the background story was. A passing older women saw Johnny and I staring at this fence, and she explained to us in broken English the legend behind the padlock fence...
According to local legend, young lovers were walking by when they proclaimed their love for each other. They then locked a padlock onto that fence in order to symbolize their love and how they are "locked" to each other. Since then hundreds upon hundreds of lovers have carried out the same act on the same fence. However, the older woman did not believe the legend and offered up her own story about the padlock fence. According to her a local student was heading home from Pecs University for the summer and instead of having to lug the lock back home with him he just strapped it onto that fence. Then she laughed and mumbled something in Hungarian and walked away from us, leaving us to decide which story was in fact true...
Upon arriving at Kiraly Utca where our hostel was located I began to hear the distinct sound of accordion music floating towards me down the boulevard. Upon reaching the Hungarian National Theatre we stumbled upon a large crowd of Hungarians dancing in a giant circle with a gypsy band playing on the steps of the theatre. Then a gypsy man got into the center of the circle and showed off a dance move, which the crowd of people would then mimic. Every passing person would jump into the circle of linked hands and join the spontaneous dancing, which seemed to never end. Johnny and I decided that we wanted in on the fun and jumped into the circle of people and gypsy danced the night away. Though we were obviously tourists the locals were open to our inclusion of the circle and at the same time seemed enthused that two young tourists would want to join them.
The Roma (gypsy) people migrated to Europe from India long ago, and since then have been the victim of discrimination (some of which seems to be deserved). Though the Roma population of Hungary is deeply stigmatized, it seemed that the Roma of Pecs were deeply respected due to their musical prowess. It was nice to see that in at least one city of Europe the Roma population and local ethnic group have found a way to peacefully coexist and even interact in a friendly way. It was refreshing to say the least.