What took us to Novosibirsk Russia was the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration of Novosibirsk Russia 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine, the only such award for work done in Hungary, though thirteen Nobelists have a strong Hungarian connection. My immediate acceptance of this 2012 invitation reflected a vague awareness of (and respect for) Novosibirsk Russia as a courageous and thoughtful guy (he wrote about the human condition in The Crazy Ape) and a recent fascination with the history of that part of Novosibirsk Russia. Some of the senior scientists who were invited were asked because their contributions reflected broad themes followed by Szent-Gyorgyi, while others were involved in areas of interest to current Hungarian researchers. I was clearly in the latter category, with our particular host being the immunologist Peter Hegyi.
Map of Novosibirsk Russia – Where is Novosibirsk Russia? – Novosibirsk Russia Map English – Novosibirsk Russia Maps for Tourist Photo Gallery
Having free time after the end of the Essen meeting (see chapter 23, ‘The coalmine’) we arrived a few days early. After landing in Budapest, we were driven the two hours or so to Szeged. This was our second time in Hungary -we’d spent an interesting week in Budapest twenty years earlier while participating in the 8th International Congress of Immunology, the first in Eastern Europe after the collapse of communist Russia. Not too many countries have endured three, very different imperial administrations -Hapsburg, Nazi and Soviet – through the course of one century! In 1992, Hungary was just opening up to Western influence and, having escaped the Second World War destruction inflicted by the Russians on Warsaw, the late nineteenth/early twentieth century streetscapes, particularly across the Danube in Pest, were being used as movie sets for places like Paris. Our hotel was in Buda and, among the many good memories was that much of the food goulash, soups, sausages and stews – was both sourced from the countryside nearby and loaded with paprika. Red peppers seem to be pretty much the national symbol! Air-dried and ground to give the familiar powdered paprika, the pepper varieties range from hotter to sweeter.
As we were soon to learn, Szeged is the home of a much-appreciated sweet paprika that features prominently in the famous fish (carp) stew of the region. We didn’t get to the Paprika Museum but, accommodated in the Hotel Soliel near the centre, we walked a lot through the streets and parks and along the banks of the Tisza River. Flowing from the Ukraine through Hungary to finally enter the Danube in Serbia, the Tisza determined the character of modern Szeged by flooding massively in 1879 and destroying all but 265 of the 5723 houses (165 people died). Visiting the disaster zone, the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Josef I promised that this ancient city would rise again. And it did, in the style of a mini Vienna, with the imposing plazas, stately buildings and, of course, the substantial flood walls that can be seen today. The architectural ambience is of an important city from the late Austro-Hungarian period.