Tisza river project
an artwork by Susan Silas


the dreamlife of mayflies


sights & sounds

summer & winter


ravens & pigeons


old photos


about the artist


© 2013 by Susan Silas

old photos

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I spent quite a bit of time in Tiszakürt. It is a small village in a rural part of Eastern Hungary along the Tisza river. There is a beautiful and well cared for Arboretum there. I got to know the people who run the Arboretum. They conduct tours on the Tisza during the Tiszavirag (mayfly swarm). They take people out on an otherwise abandoned Komp that now needs to be pushed along by a boat. Tálas Laci, the director of the Arboretum, arranged for me to get the use of a small flat-bottomed wooden boat that is very low to the water, enabling me to photograph near the water's surface without having to fight my way through the large crowds jammed onto the Komp for the tour.

I asked at the Arboretum if they had old photographs of the river that I could see. They didn't have an archive but introduced me to someone in town who took me to the home of a very old and frail man. Bovi Joska had been the local Komp vezetó (ferry driver). He and his wife welcomed me into their home and they allowed me to borrow and scan a dozen or so personal black and white snapshots he had saved. Two of the images had writing on the back and he wrote out a short description of himself for me.

Early in his career Bovi Joska worked on a ferry. Eventually, he steered a larger Komp or platform that could hold cars. He says that the Komp eventually ceased to operate at that crossing and that he later rowed people across in a small boat. There are Komp crossings all along the Tisza. On the road maps there are small symbols indicating that a crossing is possible at certain points along the waterway. Most of the Komps are attached to a cable that spans the river. The cable helps to keep the Komp from drifting away and makes steering across simpler. Most Komps have an outboard motor attached to them, but at one time they were pulled across the river by hand.

There are bridges that span the Tisza too. Some are larger permanent steel structures carrying two, sometimes four lanes of traffic across. Then there are low lying primitive wooden bridges that sit on the surface of the water. They appear be floating and are passable in the spring, summer and early fall but in winter they are pulled back against the shoreline and rest there all winter, to be put back in place again when the river thaws.

Most of the travel across the river by Komp appears to be local. There are many small villages nested along the river and travel from one to the other is fastest at these modest crossings that lead to small country roads. Truck traffic and longer distance travel takes place on larger roads further from the water. The first time I crossed the river on a Komp I asked the vezetó how old it was and he told me that the one we were presently on had been in service for 80 years. Prior to World War I the crossing was also at this spot; there was a very small Komp constructed completely of wood. The Komp vezetó seems to know everyone who boards the Komp, although on one occasion I waited with a toothless old man on a bicycle who was traveling back to the Ukraine. He had come to Hungary on his bicycle and now he was on his way home.



Komp crossing along the Tisza.
Photographs from the collection of Bovi Joska.