The City of Érd, Part I
After Vienna and Sopron, I had one final destination before our trip to Hungary came to an end—the city of Érd, a word derived from “forest,” where cavemen once lived.
By mid-morning, my husband and I had boarded a fast, modern train from Budapest’s Déli South station. It smelled clean and new, and glided with a quiet hum along its steel tracks. We smiled politely at the expressionless passengers seated facing us or walking about waiting to disembark at the few stops along this express route. I guessed that most were headed to work or school, perhaps some for shopping. I didn’t ask, as no one seemed to be interested in small talk.
The train flashed by the less populated towns and villages, the snow-covered fields, the old-world villages nestled between farms, the backsides of commercial buildings in the cities. My spirits bubbled. I was headed into vague territory, my paternal grandparents’ city, my father’s birthplace, where I dimly remembered childhood incidents.
After thirty minutes, the train arrived in Érd. Passengers hurried about in dark winter coats, pulling their hats and gloves tight, snatching their bags and dragging collapsible shopping carts brimming with food. They scattered through narrow tunnels like army ants. We didn’t know our way, so we picked one of the underpasses at random, like tossing a coin, hoping it was the correct exit. It pointed to Érd and seemed the most logical one.
I was delirious with curiosity. I had no realistic expectations, yet my questions were limitless. Most of all, I wanted to reconnect with a cousin I hadn’t seen since he was a teething infant. I had no information, no address, no reference, no photograph to guide me, only the intuition of my gut. My distant relatives were unknown to me, or had long since died. It was now close to lunch time and we had to catch the train back to Budapest at four o’clock that afternoon. My cousin’s first name was János, a common name, but his last name was uncommon. That should make it easy, right? How do I find the great great nephew of a composer named Dvořák? Time was running out. How and where to begin?