Good Within Limitations

One of my hopes over this spring break was to take a day and go somewhere with the bike, maybe bike and train. Given the current constraints, I took a short trip to Tokaj today. As it turned out, I could just as well have gone without the bike. I ended up hiking up some hills and visiting a wine cellar, the Hímesudvar, where I have been before, to get something for a special occasion. It was open, along with many other cellars, as well as ice cream places, restaurants with take-out, etc. Tokaj wasn’t crowded, but you could see a fair number of visitors mulling around.

I wanted to bike up to Sárospatak and back, but there was too great a risk of missing the return train, and along with that, the curfew. Going up to Sárospatak (through Olaszliszka, etc.) would have been entirely possible if I were then to take the 6:08 train back to Szolnok from Tokaj. But that would have brought me back to Szolnok at 8:20, and curfew starts at 8.

So where to go, then? Up, up, up. I locked up the bike down below and ascended. It was good to climb the steep hills and feel my heart pumping. Its tourist aspects aside, Tokaj is old and tranquil, and you can take a path where you’re all by yourself, with only the sound of wind and birds around you.

Many of the winery-owners were clearly hoping people would stop by. I overheard a conversation where someone was explaining to someone else, “It’s the virus. That’s why they’re not coming.” I saw a number of “Eladó” (for sale) signs outside of wine cellars; I have seen them before, but there were more now. If I were rich, I wouldn’t buy a wine cellar—I would have no idea what I was doing, and it would be too much of an undertaking and distraction—but I might help someone who was trying to get started, or someone trying to keep an old business going. It must be hard for them right now, but not only right now. Many forces make it difficult for a small business, including a wine business, to survive. Not to mention that it takes knowledge and dedication, over many years.

Anyway, I’m glad I made the trip and that something along these lines was possible. On the train I got to read a bit and saw a herd of deer through the window. Once the restrictions ease up and it’s possible to stay in a hotel again, I intend to go back to Sárospatak, and elsewhere too, over time: back to Esztergom, Baja, Szeged, and to places I haven’t visited yet. But for now, within the limitations, this was good.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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