National Geographic : 1932 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE market place, but when all is said and done Debreczen is just a vast Hungarian village, a multiplication of endless village main streets, until you come to the handsome new university buildings in the Nagyerd6, the city's forest park. With the memories of the wedding feast still vividly present, we spent little time over lunch and made an early start for Hortobagy in a hired carriage and pair. Hortobagy is really what Debreczen stands for and lives on-a vast puszta that belongs to the city, an unbroken area of pasture land, where the city's famous cattle and horses are bred. It was what tempted the nomadic Asian race of Mag yars to stay in the fertile valleys of the Duna (Danube) and Tisza rivers when they came across the Carpathians in search of fresh pastures a thousand years ago. HERDSMEN OF HUNGARY LIVE IN HUTS OF CLAY AND REED We spent the night at an old inn, the only stone building, far and wide, on Horto bfgy. Cattle ranchers and horseherds live in reed and clay huts, alone with the sun, the stars, with infinity and their animals.* When I came out in the morning, Istvain was trying to make friends with an old cowherd who was having a little morning drink by himself in front of the inn. "Aren't you warm in that sheepskin cloak, uncle ?" The Hortobagy herdsman is very taci turn by nature, but then Istvan is irresist ible. "It keeps me cool, son; keeps the sun off." "Then what do you wear in winter ?" "This same cloak. Keeps the cold off." "Have you ever been to Budapest, uncle ?" "I have, in 1896, when they had that ex hibition on." "Not since? I wasn't born then. But of course you go into Debreczen often?" "What should I go into Debreczen for, son ?" "Oh, just to see the town and the people and buy things in the shops-go to the movies.. . * See "Hungary, a Land of Shepherd Kings," by C. Townley-Fullam, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1914. All the contempt of the puszta dweller for the scurrying busybodies in the city lurked in the old man's smile as he sat there, unchanging, unmoved as Hortobagy itself. "I haven't been in Debreczen these ten years; the women go in and get what we need." What he needs is bacon, paprika, and tobacco-and a pair of boots every ten years or so. The sheepskin cloak lasts a lifetime. HORTOBAGY CATTLE ARE BRED IN THE OPEN It took some time, but Istvan got him round his little finger at last. He did it by singing the praises of the cows in Dombori. Our Hortobagy cowherd wouldn't stand for that. He has a pride of his own. He wanted to show us that Transdanubian cattle were just miserable cats as compared to those on Hortobagy. And he began to show off. He just stood by and watched us-a man who is sure of himself. The cattle didn't belong to him, but he belonged to them-more than to the world of human beings in the city. Some of the best cattle in Europe graze on the Hortobagy plain, hardy from being bred in the open air summer and winter, and some of the finest horses in the world can be found in the city of Debreczen's famous stud. Of course Janos wanted to ride bare back. In consequence I hurried over the preparations for departure. "But we have really seen nothing of Hungary," my sons complained. "The cities - Pecs, Kecskemet, Szeged - the Tisza River, grape-picking at Tokaj there's so much more to be seen." I mentioned school, about to begin. Janos retorted with something about the advantages of learning history and geog raphy in the practical way. Finally a telegram from home set an end to the discussion. It ran: "Carpenters departed; fall cleaning com pleted; cook returned; paprika preserves in full swing. Longing for my family." There was no resisting such a summons. The next day saw us on our way home, to tell about our experiences and to discuss what would be the best thing to do next summer.