“The Paprika Project” is American Colm FitzGeralds’ blog about his experiences as an expat living in Hungary. We had the pleasure of meeting him recently and think you will enjoy his unique perspectives on Hungarian culture, including wine of course! The blog is also very helpful if you are planning to travel throughout Hungary. Allow Colm to introduce himself and learn more about “The Paprika Project”:
I vividly remember my first trip to Hungary. It was 2005; I was living in Ireland at the time and my Hungarian girlfriend had invited me to meet her family. Knowing next to nothing about this central European country, I was instantly captivated. Culturally, linguistically and historically—everything was waiting to be discovered.
I remember lying in her parents’ garden— cool grass beneath me, warm sun on my face and chest. After 6 months in Ireland, sunny weather was a blessing in itself. It was springtime and flowers of every color adorned the green, hilly landscape. During those ten days in Hungary I discovered a whole new world: the unique Magyar people and language; a tumultuous history of invasions, occupations and uprisings; a food culture bordering on obsession; and an intimacy with the land and all it provides—including a passionate 2,000 year-old love affair with wine.
Ten years later and a dozen trips in between, I now live in Hungary. That Hungarian girl I followed home? She’s now my wife. Last January we moved from Ventura, California to Miskolc, Hungary. For many, it seemed illogical, as most migrate in the opposite direction. But here we are, between the Eger and Tokaj wine regions, and we couldn’t be happier.
Travel has always been a common passion between us. A little over a year ago I began combining my love of writing and photography with our frequent travels. I had found a vehicle for expressing myself as an individual through the filter of foreign experiences. And when the idea of moving to Hungary came up, I knew it was my opportunity to finally uncover the mysteries of this place. Due to the lack of information about Hungary (outside of Budapest) in English, I also knew it would be of value to others. The Paprika Project was born from this idea.
For years I’ve known the significant role wine plays in Hungarian culture, but it’s only since moving here that I’ve realized just how large that role is. You can’t go far in this country without seeing a sweeping vineyard, or a wine cellar carved into a hillside. Naturally, as I travel around Hungary, I have begun writing about Hungarian wine. I’m no expert on the subject, mind you, but in many ways it allows me to explore places like Mád and Badacsony with a fresh perspective; with fresh taste buds, if you will. Whether sampling my wife’s cousin’s wine in his tiny cellar, touring wineries in Tokaj, or being invited to a grape harvest at Lake Balaton, wine is becoming a major part of my life. In many ways it has grown into the perfect focal point for unraveling local history and culture.
Every week I learn something new about Hungarian wine and the people whose passion goes into each bottle. The more I explore, the more I’m convinced that Hungarian wine is worth celebrating on the global stage, if it isn’t already. I truly hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery, perhaps be inspired to experience this fascinating country for yourself—even if only through the lens of your wine glass.
In essence, the Paprika Project is about exploring and sharing Hungary with the world. It’s about finding this country’s oft-overlooked treasures–including its storybook villages, natural wonders and magical wines.
All photos courtesy of Colm FitzGerald