originally published August 16, 2012
Over the course of the past 229 days, I have Wiki’ed my way through hundreds of European villages. Once I actually paused to pen a kilograph on one of these villages, but that was back on Day #5 when I actually feared I might run out of subject ideas. Today I’m 224 days wiser, and no longer willing to spill a day’s worth of writing on a mostly uninteresting gaggle of a few hundred people.
Except I totally am. Welcome to the tiny village of Sap, tucked into the southwestern corner – the geographic anus, if you will – of Slovakia. Why bother to write about a village of 535 people? Was it just so I could coin the phrase ‘geographic anus’? Was I hoping I could milk an article’s worth of laughs out of calling the residents of Sap a bunch of saps? No, that’s not even funny once. But this little village’s history intrigued me.
It starts with the village’s original name.
Okay, that’s somewhat less than inspiring. The village shows up first on record back in 1255. A hundred years ago, it was a part of Hungary. This was right before Hungary pulled a crucial Jenga block from the tower of geographic consistency and caused boundaries to be redrawn after WWI. Czech soldiers wandered into the little village, and with a wave of the diplomatic wand, Sap became a part of Czechoslovakia.
The Treaty of Trianon really messed things up for a lot of Hungarians after the war. Some found themselves citizens of Romania, some became Czechs, and others went to the kingdom that would come be known as Yugoslavia. In 1938 the village was given back to Hungary just in time for the next war. The Soviets marched in to plant their flag in 1945, then the Czechs regained control in 1947. When Czechoslovakia broke up over creative differences in 1992, Slovakia grabbed hold of Sap.
If there was passport office in Sap, they would have been kept pretty damn busy over the last one hundred years.
So what do these displaced Hungarians do for fun in Sap? To be honest, I have no idea. A Google Image search turns up bunch of information about Second Audio Programs for television shows and a myriad of trees leaking sticky stuff. I did track down the village’s official website and found a few photos, but they don’t have captions. I’m sure I can figure out what’s going on.
This looks like some low-income housing. In Sap, this might be high-income housing. No wait, there’s this photo:
Nice little house, looks like a Fiat or something in the driveway. Those apartments above must be the projects of Sap. The mean streets. The Sappian Ghetto. Look at those TV antennas – you just know these poor Slovaki-ungarians probably have no high-speed Internet.
The website doesn’t have a lot of information. There’s a mention of the mayor, Miriam Bartal, contact information, post office data, and a map in case you want to be the one who increases the town’s population to 536. They included something called a ‘Cooperation Agreement’, but that’s a PDF document, and my browser won’t automatically translate it into English. Needless to say, the Slovakian language is big on starting a lot of words with ‘zml’. That’s about all I can tell you from that document.
Okay, my research is running a little dry on the Sappers of Sap, Slovakia. One thing I still want to know about is the experience of living in a village that has been forced to change its national affiliation more often than some nations change leaders. 96% of Sap’s population is of Hungarian descent, which means the 4% who are native Slovakians are in the extreme minority in their own country. Surely Sap is not alone in sporting this weird configuration.
There are a number of municipalities in the Dunajská Streda region of Slovakia, many of them featuring an ethnically Hungarian bias at least as strong as Sap’s.
There’s Mad, a village I selected at random from the list because I think it’s great that there’s a place in the world named after a juvenile humor magazine. The Maddites live under a similar situation as the Sapples: mostly Hungarian but forced to wave a different flag.
How about the village of Horný Bar? First off – another great name. I totally want to have a drink in Horný Bar. Of the 1250 or so residents, almost 1200 of them are of Hungarian descent. So why doesn’t the entire region just pack up and repatriate themselves where they belong?
They can’t. Thanks to the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947, the borders were redrawn to settle reparation entitlements after the second World War. Hungary, who always seems to fall on the wrong side of these things, was meant to pay $100,000,000 (in 1938 US dollars) to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The only way that border is being re-drawn is if we see another war in Europe. The Sappites are staying put.
This is the Sap coat of arms. I can’t find any information on the meaning of the symbols, but I’m impressed by any coat of arms that actually features an arm. I only wish the arm was clad in a coat, but I guess they didn’t want to over-do the literal thing.
I have really run out of things to talk about with Sap. You’ve seen pictures, you’ve read its convoluted history, yet I still have about a hundred words left to write. For the remainder of my daily tithe, I’m going to list a few of the other villages in the Dunajská Streda district of southwestern Slovakia, as translated by Google Chrome’s built-in translator.
First I’d like to point out that the district itself translates to Danube Wednesday. Some of the towns within include Top Bar, Nozzle, Bottom Bar, New Life, Hamlet, Hair, Pens, Tools, The Beam Of The Isle, Upper Tolls, Balloon, and Golden Ears.
I think the real lesson here is that those of us who grew up in towns and cities that have not changed national allegiances in our lifetimes should be grateful we’ve never had to keep up with the paperwork. Maybe the lesson is that national boundaries don’t often reflect a population’s ethnic make-up.
Or perhaps the lesson is more simple. I should stick with my policy of not writing about villages.