International Ballad Conference 2014

The Department of English Literatures and Cultures of the Institute of English, University of Pécs, in cooperation with the Society for the Popularisation of English Culture and of Hungarian Culture in the English Language Medium (SPECHEL), is hosting the interdisciplinary 44th International Ballad Conference of the Kommission für Volksdichtung.


This year papers will focus upon ballads and songs relating to environments inhabited by different ethnic groups, either in their narratives, their settings, tunes, or in other ways, as well as papers on ballad and song more generally.

The university city of Pécs (in 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe) is also the county seat of Baranya, perhaps Hungary’s most ethnically varied county. The nearby Roman Catholic pilgrimage church at Máriagyűd, which in the past has served as Turkish Mosque, and Greek Orthodox church, and Calvinist church, and which was built by King Géza II in thanks for being spared the onslaught of the Byzantines in the twelfth century, has the Lord’s Prayer painted on its inside walls in Hungarian, Croatian and German, and its annual festivals include a Gypsy pilgrimage.

The University of Pécs has departments for all the three minority languages, and the city also has kindergartens and schools for its minority populations; many of the county’s villages still have populations for whom Hungarian is not the first language. The county shares its name with the neighbouring Croatian county (Baranja) and from August 14–20, 1921, there existed a short-lived Serb-Hungarian Baranya-Baja Republic.

Pécs, a World Heritage Site, is full of the remains and reminders of other visiting cultures, too, among them the Romans and Ottoman Turks, both of whom stayed for long periods of time – Pécs has Hungary’s only intact mosque and minaret, as well as ruins of Turkish baths. On the hillside stands a memorial to those of Napoleon’s army who fell nearby. In such an environment it is easy to organise an “international” folk festival without stepping outside the county limits!

What to pack

June is a month with surprises. The temperature wanders from just below 20°C to up in the mid- to high 20s, with a recorded top temperature (don’t know when!) of 32°C. That’s in the shade, of course.

Expect around 16 hours of daylight, the possibility of rain, and pleasant evenings…. which we always have at the Ballad Conferences.

So bring your Bermuda shorts, sunglasses, suntan lotion, pullover, raincoat and umbrella.

By late June you can find apricots, early apples and pears, raspberries, sour cherries, extremely overpriced melons and plums in the market. Pécs market is an easy 10-minute walk down from the main square (750 metres).

If you’d like to know more about the weather you might like to check Weatherbase at:

Walking around Pécs

Much of the inner city is now pedestrianized – for instance, practically all the way from Hotel Palatinus and the main conference venue, the Civil Közösségek háza at Szent. István Square 17. But move uphill and you will find that the streets get more higgledy-piggledy and narrower. According to Hungarian urban legend that they are so narrow that if a pedestrian walking off the pavement in the street in any other part of the country, people say, “Ah, he comes from Pécs.”

But don’t try it unless you are DEFINITELY in a pedestrian part of the city. Drivers SOMETIMES stop at zebra crossings, but there is no guarantee!

Kommission für Volksdichtung:
University of Pécs:


Restaurants in the city centre

The Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday conference venue, the Civilközösségek háza (), is right in the middle of the city, below the cathedral and close by several restaurants and pubs.

Most convenient is the Pezsgőház on the opposite side of the square, past the fountains. You can also walk down from the conference venue to Ferencesek St., where you will find little bakeries and restaurants in both directions. Several of them have a “menu” (Hungarian name for “meal of the day”) which ranges from HUF 800 to HUF 1200. The Mátyás Restaurant has a good name and runs three set meals. The Kafka Restaurant can be found at the foot of the city wall, just past Korház Square, where there is a self-service cafeteria with a variety of cheap food, including vegetarian. If you fancy a quick Chinese, then you should have just enough time to walk up Ferencesek St. as far as Jókai Square to the Lili Chinese buffet.

If you prefer a glass of local draught wine and a slice of bread and dripping with raw onions, the “Papucs” wine cellar is just past the cathedral (you will have passed it on your way from the hotel, in the morning). A bit antisocial, of course, if very tasty!

Some survival “food Hungarian”. This is by no means exhaustive, and has no grammar 🙂 but it might help a little!

hús = meat
marha = beef
sertés = pork
csirke = chicken
borjú = beef
pörkölt = goulash stew
gulyás = goulash soup
leves = soup
tejfől = sour cream
gomba = mushroom
rántott… = meat or vegetable fried in breadcrumbs
rántott gombafej = mushroom (heads) in breadcrumbs
gombóc = ball
galuska/nokedli = gnocchi (approx.)
rizs = rice
burgonya = potato
sült burgonya/krumpli = chips
zöldség = vegetable (literally, greens)
karfiol = cauliflower
savanyúság = pickles
kenyér = bread
édesség = sweet
palacsinta = pancake
saláta – a tricky one. It could be salad vegetable, pickles, or fresh veg. in pickles, or in mayonnaise…. but most likely a side salad, not a main course.
Jó étvágyat! – Guten appetit!


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