National Geographic : 1938 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE "YOU MISSED, SIR! YOU'LL GET NO EASTER EGG!" It's an age-old Hungarian rite, to douse a girl at Easter time, and win a reward of hard-boiled eggs she has painted (Plate XVI). Here the bucket was drawn, by turning a worn wagon wheel, from a well in the yard of a thatched cottage. "Shorty the Sheriff," they say, introduced Mezokovesd derbies, worn by lads of that village. To make himself appear taller, long ago an undersized official adopted high heels and small-diameter hats. children even went to school and the women, with few customers for soothsay ing, were spinning and knitting. Time was when gypsies could be bought, sold, or inherited like slaves. Their life among the Magyars was long unhappy, though Liszt-mistakenly, some critics be lieve-credits to them the origin of Hun garian music. When, in 1782, supposed murder vic tims could not be found, 45 Hungarian gypsies were tortured until, stretched in anguish on the rack, they moaned: "We ate them." After a monstrous execution, it developed that there had been no murder. That year Hungary freed the gypsies. Today this ancient race, despite an aver sion to work and a tendency to thievery, lives untroubled in Hungary. Cafe musi cians are its aristocracy. Commoners, poor and often barefoot, live all winter in shanties or rag tents, eating anything they can get-sometimes even boiled crow. Abandoned clay or gravel pits are favored townsites. In summer they follow a vagrant trade as coppersmiths, tinkers, or even horse traders. A "VILLAGE" OF 20,000 PEOPLE From Eger we went to MezokSvesd,* a "village" preserving that simple govern ment despite a population of 20,000. We slept in one of its hotels, and drove by day to Tard, a little village in the hollow of the hills, constructed ingeniously and long ago of Nature's simplest building materials mud, straw, and brush. Lajos, a plainly dressed lad of 20, was always eager to help us and to carry our heavy equipment. Seeing the poor little house he lived in, Rudy tried to pay him. Lajos refused money, asking instead for a ride in Topolino. My passenger's first request was that I halt "right before the front window" of the village store. He went in, and emerged with a black cigar that smouldered as aro matically as a fine Havana burning on an * See "A Sunday in Mezokovesd," by Margery Rae, in THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for April 1935.