Trains, buses, and cars keep on arriving. The Starpoint camp is under construction. We can hear several Hungarian and English dialects, and unmistakable German and French words in the air too. As the days pass, sooner or later we engage in conversation with nearly every person that comes our way, it doesn’t matter which corner of the world we come from. We are a community. On Friday afternoon we set off for a sightseeing tour of Debrecen with the team of international visitors.
“Where are you from?” – I keep asking those standing at the gate around me. It’s impossible to tell where people have come from by looks alone. “I came from Canada, but my family lived in Tolna County, Hungary for fourteen years,” says a boy of around twenty in Hungarian. In the group we find people from America, Taiwan, and Lithuania, too.
It is time to start: a colourful group walking in the street. Some keep lagging behind, taking pictures, sending digital messages home. Our tram slides silently, the next stop is Calvin Square, and we hear a warning in English: the next stop is ours.
In the majestic gate of the Reformed College, Gusztáv Bölcskei, the Rector, welcomes the team and invites us to the Ceremonial Hall. Many stop halfway up the stairs for an instant to shoot a selfie with the giant statue of Sándor Petőfi, the famous romantic poet. When we reach the Hall, sounds of amazement are heard as people see the large and beautiful room. Rector Bölcskei introduces us to the celebrities portrayed in the gallery: Prince Bocskai, leader of an uprising, István Havana, the Hungarian Faust, and more. Our group learns that students can be educated in the institution all the way from kindergarten to university. We wander around the vast building, seeing the Oratory and the Library next. Further photos are made of the team members together and of the building. All of us would like to take something home, at least virtually.
Following the College visit we walk across the square to the Great Church. “This is amazing,” we hear from several people. István Oláh, pastor of the church, keeps the guided tour short, listing historic facts, details, and interesting stories from the construction of the church to the more than four thousand pipes of the giant organ. The foreign guests are asked to write a short message on a small piece of paper to send back home: they write about their feelings, their experiences, and the Starpoint Festival. Delicate messages in English, German, and Lithuanian are written, with others composed in the Chinese and Arabic alphabet. “They told me I can send this as a postcard.” “I loved building friendships that crossed political, language, and cultural borders.” “Tired but happy.” Silent smiles abound.
Stairs lead the group up six floors to the top of the church where the group can see a magnificent panorama of the city of Debrecen. The international delegates take more photos of the city and of each other – visual memories of new friendships.
Returning to the entrance, individual portraits are made with each one of us holding the short message we wrote before and then we take an obligatory group portrait. Ice cream tasting, souvenir shopping, looking around, sitting in the letters of the huge DEBRECEN sign – these activities follow. “The Lord my God has chosen me as his favourite one!” – is written on one message. Looking at the team we cannot disagree. “Reformation isn’t over… we are just getting started.”
Text: Lili Anna Bodnár
Translation and photo: Zoltán Körösvölgyi
Edited by Kearstin Bailey