I am one of those people who has never, ever needed to question where my family is from. If anyone asks on both sides of my family the roots are from a tiny Hungarian village called Tarcal, in the Tokaji wine region. Here for more generations than we can easily keep track of Csendeses earned PhDs at a time when most people in Europe were peasant farmers, discussing things like law and science over good wine.
And then World War II came and pretty much everyone fled, and what the Russians didn’t steal was slowly acquired by the subsequent communist government. But a small piece of land survived the turmoil, where my uncle still grows grapes every year. Thus it was only natural for me to head out to Tarcal one afternoon with him, which is an hour’s drive from Miskolc.
A ubiquitous stork nest spotted on the drive to Tarcal. Back in the day having a stork build a nest on your chimney was considered good luck, even though I imagine it sucked to not be able to light your fire anymore. So you still spot them everywhere, particularly in small villages, though they have now moved from chimneys to the tops of telephone poles.
This house looks just like any other in Tarcal but is nonetheless important, as my maternal grandmother used to live here. (She dismissed my picture-taking on the grounds that the house doesn’t look like it did, not surprising considering we’re talking over 50 years ago.) Not photographed but to the left of this house is where my paternal grandmother used to live, meaning my grandmothers used to chat over the fence between them. My paternal grandmother ended up marrying into my other grandmother’s extended family, actually, meaning my parents are very distant relatives.
It should also be noted that since everybody in my family history is connected to Tarcal it means both sides have some good gossip on the other and lots of drama. For example, in my family technically all the girls are Catholic and all the boys are Protestant, because there have been several occurrences of a Catholic girl wanting to marry a Protestant boy, the families getting into a huge row about it, and finally working out this compromise. I’m sure the wine didn’t hurt.
And here, ladies and gents, is the family vineyard! Not much, but a decent year is basically enough to ensure my family doesn’t need to buy wine and maybe sell some grapes to a bigger establishment (or at least I’m pretty sure how it works). Unfortunately last year the grapes were hit by disease, meaning no harvest, but hopefully this year will be better.
The beautiful view from the vineyard… towards the next vineyard… and then the vineyard after that… Trust me, the Tokaji region is a nice place to be and I’m not just saying that because I’m predispositioned to (it’s actually a World Heritage Site).
And because it is a bit obligatory, me sipping some of the family wine at the vineyard. (I’m holding a blooming lilac branch in my other hand here, noteworthy because it’s several weeks early.) It’s an entertaining process to get a glass actually- one needs to go down to the cellar with a candle and extract it directly from the barrel, meaning it’s exactly cellar temperature when you sample it. Oh, and there’s this thick dark green mold down there that my uncle was all too happy to break off and show to me because it is only found in this region of the world, striking because I can’t think of a prior circumstance where I was told to admire a variety of mold before. But these are the reasons we go abroad, right? Family roots, good wine, and mold.