Hanging Out in Rockford: Two Sándors—part one

I receive an e-mail from my son:


First, we went to Taszár and met the mayor Sándor Pataki. After lunch, he took us to Kaposvár, from where we took the bus to Pécs. The name of the wine village was Villány, where we stopped at the Polgár Wine Cellar: http://www.polgarpince.hu/.

The guy who showed us around was also named Sándor. He took us to the Róth Cellar, where we had lunch—that was where they had constructed a new cellar out of the old bricks.

Zour Son

The “Zour” is a play on the fact that “y” and “z” are reversed on the Hungarian keyboard. I did it first by accident, and it has now become a joke between us.

A big part of why I want to go to Hungary at this particular time has to do with my service on the Sister City Commission. The mayor, knowing that I have a son in Budapest who speaks fluent Magyar (Hungarian), has asked me to be the chairman of the Hungarian Sister City Committee. This I have endeavored to do with the help of my friend Kerry Knodle of Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc./YouthBuild. We have been attending the Sister City meetings for several months now.

Don Manzullo, our congressman, had his people call the mayor’s office and request that two Hungarian cities be requested to be Sister Cities by the City of Rockford. Don has long been a big supporter of Rockford Airport, and this is not the first time Hungary has come into the picture. Don’s wife is Hungarian, and in Washington he has become good friends with the Hungarian ambassador to the United States, Andras Simonyi. It was through this association that the non-stop flights from Rockford Airport to Budapest were originally proposed. Katy Larson and I had lunch with Airport Director Bob O’Brien one day, and he told us this was what enabled the airport to get its international designation.

Recently, Don brought the Korean ambassador for much the same kind of thing. They are proposing that there be direct flights from Seoul, South Korea, to the Rockford Airport while O’Hare is being upgraded. Naturally, what they are hoping is that the Korean airlines will like Rockford with its lack of delays and that the arrangement will stick after O’Hare gets finished with its remodel.

The two cities the congressman asked us to sister with are Taszár and Kaposvár—sort of the Loves Park and Rockford of Hungary, if Hungary were to be compared to the state of Illinois. Kaposvár is a city of about 75,000 or 80,000 people. Taszár is a village of several thousand about 5 miles away from the larger city. What these two cities have in common with Rockford is that they have a state-of-the-art airport. The airport was originally a Russian airbase. The United States upgraded it during the conflict in the Balkans. Now, it is sitting there underutilized. Sound familiar? At this time, the mayor of Taszár has signed the Sister City agreement with Rockford; the mayor of Kaposvár has not.

So, I ask my son, who, as I said, speaks the language fluently, so fluently that Hungarians mistake him for native, to try to set up a meeting for us with the mayor of Taszár. He calls and gets through to the mayor. We make plans to travel there, and the mayor says he will pick us up at the train station. We are going to combine our trip to Taszár with a side excursion to Pécs, a wonderful university and vacation town not far from there. We are going to enhance the trip with a visit to Villány, where the bulk of Hungarian wine is made. This has the dual purpose of combining a good time with the planning necessary for a visit by a Rockford delegation.

More next week.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

from the June 27-July 5, 2007, issue

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