Interview with Zoltán Bodrogi: climber, father and all around Hungarian bad-ass

Interview with Zoltán Bodrogi: climber, father and all around Hungarian bad-ass

The first time I met Zoltán (Zoli for short) was in 2007. Anita and I were visiting her family in Miskolc, Hungary and we heard about a new climbing gym that had opened in town. I had been climbing for a few years at that point and so was eager to check it out. It was called the Factory; I soon found out why. After showing the guard my ID, I passed through a metal gateway and into an industrial scene straight out of a movie. Rows of long red brick factories with iron framed windows stretched into the distance. Pipelines zigzagged overhead, and various piles of rubble and junk lay strewn about a central clearance. Smokestacks jabbed into the wintry grey sky. Aside from some modern cars, everything was decades old and in a state of disrepair. I pushed open a green iron door and stepped inside. Walking into a cavernous room, I was instantly greeted by a man with a loose ponytail and intense blue-green eyes . . . Zoli.  He spoke very good English and I soon learned that he had climbed extensively in the U.S.  We chatted for a good while and his friendliness warmed our stark industrial surroundings. I’ve spent many hours at the Factory since that day, and Zoli and I have climbed together a few times at the local cliffs. His climbing style is precise and powerful—no wasted movement, no hesitation. His mental focus seems otherworldly. Since moving to Hungary in January I’ve been attending Zoli’s climbing training course at the Factory twice a week.  For about 2 ½ hours, a group of us train...
March 15th and Hungarian Identity: thoughts from an outsider

March 15th and Hungarian Identity: thoughts from an outsider

“West County DUBLIN in 0ctober 1956 would seem an unlikely hotbed of indignation at the Russian response to the Hungarian uprising of that same year. I can still feel the rage at what I saw on our Sunday newspaper that morning. Unfortunate Budapest civilians lay scattered inside and outside trolley cars.   For this 6 year-old, black and white photography deepened the horror of pooling blood and scattered body parts. I imagined each one falling under invading hails of arrogant hostility. One man in particular was spread eagled on a trolley stairway. Someone’s father, brother, husband, who had dodged World War2 a few years earlier, pulled me in to a deep, deep indignation. He has me still witnessing today to the world’s ongoing cries for justice around countless such scenes.  My revulsion as I knelt on a kitchen chair over those images recurs again and again. With each newscast, in the many images that pepper countless war zones in our media today, I recall once more my own loss of innocence in October ’56.” —Gerald FitzGerald The above quote is excerpted from a piece written by my father. I remember him recounting this story to me after my first trip to Hungary. It’s stayed fresh in my mind since. Over the years I’ve struggled to comprehend the Hungarian psyche. The more I research Hungarian history, language and politics, the more I find myself lost in a whirlpool of complex realities. It’s likely I’ll never peel back the onion-like layers of Magyar identity. And I accept that. Every nation has a complicated and tumultuous past and being a crossroads between east and west, Hungary has...
In Wine There Is Truth

In Wine There Is Truth

Since we met ten years ago,  Anita and I have often discussed owning a little plot of land; a place we could escape to and live disconnected from the all pervasive “Evening News” bullshit.  Living in Southern California we realized that without an obscene amount of money we wouldn’t  be able to afford much, except maybe a patch of sand in the barren Mojave Desert. We talked about land in other less expensive states too, but decided we would then be close to neither of our families. After being fortunate enough to sell our business last September, we came to the conclusion that Hungary was our best bet. Anita’s family and friends are here, land is extremely affordable compared to California, and most importantly we were past due for a new life-altering adventure. Hungary has truly grown on me since my first visit ten years ago. I love the effortless connection to the land people have here. I love that people grow their own food and forage for mushrooms in the forest. That a patch of yard isn’t only used for the perfect lawn, but for growing vegetables and fruit trees. I love the ingenuity and creativity people possess for re-purposing things, fixing broken items and building their own furniture. I’ve also met so many generous and genuine people here that I feel I can be myself and be accepted, despite obvious cultural differences. Hungary definitely has its drawbacks of course, and I’m not promoting it to be some kind of Utopian escape full of smiling people and bountiful opportunities. That it is surely not. Nevertheless, I feel Anita...
8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Hungary

8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Hungary

Maybe you know these things and maybe you don’t. Before I visited Hungary in 2005 I knew none of them.  If you’re Hungarian you probably know all of them.  Either way, here are a few interesting facts about this fascinating country and its people. Last Names Come First In Hungary, when people write their names or introduce themselves, their last name comes first.  They say “Nagy Gábor vagyok” or “I’m Nagy Gábor”. This doesn’t mean people call each other by their last name; it’s simply the formal way of introducing yourself or presenting a name publicly. If I were Gábor’s friend I would just call him Gábor. It’s worth mentioning that other than Hungarians mainly only Asian peoples present their names in this fashion. Take My Name, All Of It. Sticking with the topic of names, when a Hungarian woman gets married her entire name changes. So if Eva marries Nagy Gábor , she publicly becomes Nagy Gáborné or “Mrs.Nagy Gabor/ wife of Nagy Gábor ”. Again, her friends and family will still call her Eva, but if she was interviewed on TV her name would appear as Nagy Gaborné. It’s important to note that this tradition isn’t as common nowadays, and married women can do as they please name-wise.  So my wife Anita (if she chooses) can now be FitzGerald Colmné! Hungarians Are Not Slavic Aside from Austria and Romania, Hungary is surrounded by Slavic nations. So it comes as a surprise to many that Hungarians aren’t Slavic as well. The origins of Hungarians or Magyars as they call themselves, is a topic of heated debate and fantastical...