Posted by: Valerie | October 20, 2011

Hungarian Odyssey Part III

October 1 – 28 degrees!

This is the day we should have been in Vienna but the schedule doesn’t work so now we are back in Szolnok with the sweet lady, Terike.

I feel most awkward sitting here in the only living room writing this but I feel more awkward gawping at Hungarian telly! To get here from our last visit was a fairly boring drive of about 120km. What did make it more interesting were the prostitutes leaning against trees or fences at intervals along the way. We counted 13 girls spaced out along about 50 km of rural road. Some were dressed in as little as a thong and skimpy bra. The truck drivers pick them up and chuck them out again when they are finished with them. Actually it was a sickening sight as some of them are very, very young looking.  One girl even tried flagging Joe down in spite of me sitting right there. Cheeky bitch! As you may guess, prostitution is not illegal here.

October 7th – 9 degrees!

We can’t complain – today is the first day of miserable weather we have seen on the entire trip and we leave for home on the 11th so that’s not bad at all!

Six days without writing and I have almost forgotten what has happened in the intervening time.  We drove into Pest to visit another relative who is married to a horrible witch. The wonder is that he has neither offed himself or strangled her. Sanyi (husband) is a state-certified folk artist and does really lovely work in wood – chess sets etc. and he has also produced some wonderful furniture. Officially he has retired but is still working on projects. Sadly though, the witch Ica (Itza) has insisted that he act as a store detective for her son’s business which is importing and selling junky clothes from China and selling them cheap in the Asia Market, a huge mall in a poorer part of Pest. Lalli (the son), Rita (the wife) and Szofika (the sullen daughter) all work there, with Ica criticizing everything they all do.  Honestly, this woman is truly ghastly. I guess she’s about 60, has everything possible medically wrong with her(?) although she seems quite healthy enough to plague everyone else, has dyed her hair scarlet and bits of shiny scalp gleam through – an interesting effect. When we met her, she was wearing red pants, a flowered t-shirt with sparkles all over it and an orangey-yellow blouse over the top of it. She NEVER stops yapping whether you are listening or not and when Joe was trying to do something tricky with his borrowed cell phone (everything was tricky between Joe and that phone!) she yakked on and on and Joe was saying quite audibly “shut the fuck up, Ica, shut the fuck UP!” She paid not a scrap of attention. She does understand some English so it’s important to watch what one says.

Witchie Itchy had arranged for us to stay at her son’s house which is regarded as a great deal of steps above the accommodation of the rest of the family. Certainly a lot of money had been splashed around without a modicum of taste. I think I counted five huge flat-screen TVS in the house. It was a very sad house though. Witchie spends all day annoying the family and then drags poor Sanyi back to her son’s house for dinner which she neither buys nor prepares – ever. The wife Rita is understandably tearing her hair out as she is left to deal with the old bag, two kids and everything else as her husband spends all night out gambling in the hope of keeping the business afloat. At least that his excuse. He is an addict for sure.

We escaped next day for another day in Budapest and went up to town in a rattly yellow tram car and had rather a lovely time wandering the upmarket area, poking around the posh shops and turning our noses up at the tourist trash. While I had been at Asia Market the previous day, I bought a handbag from the rack in one of Lalli’s stores and now I am in possession of a  Gussace purse! Get that! Who wouldn’t want one of them???

Next day began with a somewhat hair-raising trip driving diagonally right across Budapest and ended four hours later in the tiny hamlet of Bikal, not too far from the southern city of Pécs (Paych). The EU has partnered with an Austrian developer to produce an extremely upscale resort there with a hotel complex and a fake but faithful renaissance village, rather like Upper Canada Village in as much as the miller, the baker, the smith etc etc were all actually working and producing real stuff. I was tempted to buy some wool but loyalty to Rosemary prevented me.  No yaks, Rosemary, but some old-style sheep with curly horns, lots of donkeys – even an albino! Our reason for going there was to see Joe’s nephew’s sculptures. I know I have spoken of him before. Barnus is a most talented guy and was fortunate enough to get a huge commission to provide statues all over the park surrounding the resort.

Barnus with statue

Barnus had booked our accommodation and we were astounded to be shown to a two-room suite with a large two-person bath and all the luxuries you could imagine. It was very Germanic in appearance with lots of dark wood and fake plaster made to look as if it were falling off. The bath was very, very nice.

B. joined us next morning and showed us around the park. His work had all been conceived with the future location almost becoming part of the sculpture. It was our last really warm day and after our sculpture tour we were taken to a “mediaeval” bird show with hawks and owls doing what trained hawks and owls do. We enjoyed it. Later we were treated to a “mediaeval” tournament with lots of horse tricks and then a joust. Now we had seen the same stuff last time we were in Hungary and then again when we were in  England (but that was at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s family seat) but we smiled and pretended we had never seen such a thing.

Being very keen to have us meet his latest love, Barnus then whisked us off to Siofok which is a holiday resort on the famous Lake Balaton, really the only large body of water in the country. There is something that I really like about holiday places out of season. The girlfriend, Argi, had found us an unoccupied holiday apartment in a large building. The view of the sun going down over the lake was so stupendous, breathtaking etc. that I forgot to actually look at the apartment which was under renovation and pretty tatty. No matter, there was a bed to sleep in. The girlfriend spoke some English and was very pleasant. The pair is obviously madly in love and couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I can remember that stage – just…

I had planned to do some photographs of the Balaton next day but we awoke to white caps and black clouds and so it remained.

Back to Szigetszentmiklos for a couple of nights with a side trip to Keckemét to see another relative for  an hour or two and now we are sitting in our last hotel, close to Ferihégy Airport. We leave here at 5.30 am for our flight to Copenhagen (????) and our connection to Toronto. No doubt we will crawl happily back to our little nest in Bancroft at around 7.00 pm.

Huh! It was 8.30 before we got home as our ride was an hour and a half late picking us up.

Just a few thoughts before I wrap up this topic, I promise! The first part of our holiday was primarily spent doing the tourist thing which was of course enjoyable, the second part was relative driven. Although spending time with strangers that I could not understand was not my choice, it gave me a much better idea of what living in Hungary is like. The older country people seem to live very much as they have done since the fifties, many live in the same house which they may have built with their own hands. Certainly Joe’s niece and her husband in Torokszentmiklos did that – right down to making the mud bricks themselves! They don’t have a car – never had one and nor do most of their neighbours. They do have cell phones though – I suspect that every human over the age of three has at least one cell phone. Some have many.

The small towns seem to have lost their economic bases and the young people are leaving. An old, sad story. The EU has funded all sorts of projects – schools, parks etc. but somehow it makes little difference.  One person said to me (in English) that after communism was done with people lived quite well. They didn’t earn much money but there were jobs and everything was cheap. The EU has meant steeply rising prices, emigrating doctors and other professionals.

In the cities, it’s not so different but instead of owning houses most of the people are crammed into tiny communist era apartments. Here many do have cars in spite of a litre of gas costing the equivalent of an hour of work at minimum wage. There is heavy truck traffic as the huge camions clog the main roads and motorways.

The scenery is lovely, the villages are dying, the medium sized towns seemed to be doing OK and most are very attractive. Budapest is lovely in the centre but it’s a big city and of course it has its underside. It is noticeable that more people speak some English since my first visit in 2004 and I assume that is a result of the EU.

There is lots more to say but I am rambling now and will leave it right here.

Thanks for coming along on the trip.


It's been a blast!



  1. You’ll have to come here next time. :o)

    • OK Sarah – we’ll be right there!

  2. I feel your pain, Valerie. The best part of going away is coming home.
    What kind of animal is that? A camel or a donkey?

    • It’s a donkey having a good laugh.

  3. I really enjoyed your “Odyssey” Valerie. It’s not often one can experience how the local people actually live when you’re a tourist in another country. We had a little of that this year in Jordan when we were invited into several people’s homes.

    • I’d love to hear about Jordan! My brief experience of Egypt was that people were extremely welcoming.
      As the ywere in Hungary – it seemed they couldn’t get enough of us! Frankly I’ve had enough of their plumbing!

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