This title is very dear to me, I know many people can say that they have been to America as a Hungarian. And here, presumably, it is read by people who are Hungarians living in America. Now I would like to tell you, dear reader, about an experience that was a defining one for me! Welcome to you, my fellow countryman!
It was barely a month ago that I was able to spend a whole week out of the country, accepting an extremely kind and irresistible invitation. From the day I had my plane ticket, my childish self took over completely and almost as it used to be in the Hungarian military: I was cutting the centimetres daily, the countdown began. Until then, every day was filled with excitement and anticipation. I admit that in the last days I could not sleep until the day of the journey finally came. “Úristeeeen!” – I thought to myself – “14 hours and I’ll be in America!”
I was born in the last century and I remember from my childhood that we identified with freedom and the realization of dreams in this vast country so far away from Hungary, the United States. Hungarian songs were born (Zsuzsa Koncz: The Carpathian Daughter) and films (Something about America)….. “from the promised land” and even sitting on the plane I couldn’t believe that in a few hours I would step on this land.
My dear American invitee (who will know who he is if you read my later writings) has prepared a carefully laid out itinerary to show me as much of UTAH’s National Parks as he can during these few days, starting from Salt Lake City. Of course, we could have spent the entire time touring a single national park, but we were now dedicating a day to each park. So, like a compressed file, I was given so many impulses and experiences that I am still recharged by them.
So I came from tiny Hungary, which is comparable in terms of area to Indiana, which is thirty-eighth out of fifty states – so it’s pretty small. That’s how I felt: small. I blinked like a pig in flour. I was impressed by the wide – much more than we are used to – two-lane, endless roads and highways. What struck me was the barbecue grills and American flags on most of the houses and balconies. Of course, Americans are famous for their steak, barbecue and patriotism – or so I heard.
I looked at the many colorful license plates to see which state the travelers were from. It occurred to me that Hungary’s easternmost and westernmost settlements (namely Garabolc and Felsőszölnök) are 525 kilometres (326 miles) apart as the crow flies, a distance that can be covered in 6.5 hours by car. “This is nothing!” – an American would say. And we Hungarians used to say that Americans fly around America the way we use the intercity bus service. It’s understandable, of course, but it’s one thing to hear and another to see and experience the distances.
What I’m about to write may sound funny, but it’s not: the defining impression is that you can use the toilet anywhere for free! In Europe, and especially in Hungary, unfortunately, they are starting to ask for a hundred coins at petrol stations. True, they will charge you if you buy something afterwards – for example, a coffee. So, no roadside bush scenes when nature calls.
Believe it or not, dear reader, it’s a positive experience for me. As is the fact that wherever we went, we were always greeted with a smile. And then there is the famous American coffee! At the breakfast places, we were given coffee immediately and even allowed to take it with us on the trip.
There are countless articles, photos and videos about the national parks on the internet, but here I’ll share some of my own photos. It’s completely different to see a picture of any place knowing that I’ve been there and seen some of the natural beauty for myself. I have tasted, smelled America. My shoes have sunk in the red desert sand, my face has been blown by the American breeze at sunrise and I have been dehydrated by hikes in the heat… Thank you, my Dear Inviter, for this unforgettable experience! I am grateful for every moment! Thank you America for having me as your guest!
The author of the article is Judit Szőllősi.
Photos: Franklin Ames