Updated: Jun 19
Hungarians can be described in many ways: loud conversation starters, even louder conflict resolvers, imaginary martyrs, Monday morning pálinka drinkers. But their best trait is stronger than anything else: they are resourceful. Not that it should come as such a shock. Being Eastern European basically means always having your grandma's voice echoing in your head, telling you not to throw anything out. And Hungarians mastered the artistry of stockpiling their goods. Of course, this often
ends up in notorious hoarding, but hey, it is not the trash they are trying to preserve.
Next time you are in Budapest, just take a little detour to the countryside. Take the train from Nyugati Pályaudvar to Szeged, and get off at Kecskemét, it's only an hour away. Here, old things are valued. That is why you can take a peek in the town center and find a bunch of rocks lying around as a reminder of peace between three conflicting religions. They are the ruins of a church, now used by the local youngsters to drink their coke splashed with red wine, newlyweds to do their photo shoots, and elderly couples to reminisce about the times when they were those kids. Here, you can go to a fancy pig feast to have a different dish from all parts of the animal, head to toe. Disznótor is taking the effort to use everything nature has gifted you with. Here you can try dish #7935, supposed to be called Hungarian stew of trotters, but only because it is less traumatizing than saying it is a pig hoof stew. In the countryside, people keep their nostalgia packed in cardboard boxes in the garage, because they know they will need them one day.
Kecskemét has that rural atmosphere with the rich history that you can soak up just by looking around. The architecture plays a big part in that. The old synagogue whispers a different story every time you walk by. Being from the period when the town was still considered a “desert metropolis”, the building has witnessed Kecskemét change and grow, while still managing to stay true to its unique, elegant character. It even survived an earthquake in 1911. And when the walls cracked and the dome was destroyed, Hungarian craftiness made sure it was not abandoned, it was fixed.
Since the building is not serving its original purpose anymore, the opportunity to explore arose. So you got a beautiful building in historical surroundings and you have an obsessive need to reuse what you already have (wrecking balls are a no-no), what do you do? Use it as a cafe? A museum? A conference hall? A meeting room? A pub? A concert place? A stall for your horses? Okay, that one was unfortunate. But when you have a genetically determined condition called Hungarian hoarding, you do all of those and many more. And most importantly, you tune out people's shouts to “demolish it and build something useful instead”.
After the renovations, the synagogue was named “House of Science and Technology”. Today it is dedicated to entertainment and development. Downstairs, the cafe gives home to concerts of the most popular Hungarian bands, while upstairs scientific lectures are given and a Michelangelo exhibition takes place.
Granted, keeping all your trash and waiting for the right moment to recycle them is not too practical of a way to live. Still, the awesome Eastern European tradition of hoarding not only kept a majestic building from being destroyed, but it also turned it into a place to enrich the future. Because having the ability to preserve the beautiful things you come across is a treasure not all of us possess. And when you learn how to distinguish the disposable from the hereditary, you will see the magic unveil.