Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I have let this blog lie fallow for long enough now. I feel the ground has been replenished, and the nutrients returned to this previously barren land. Or alternatively, sitting in Munich airport as I am at the moment, I have a bit of spare time on my hands, and thought I could productively fill it by typing in some rubbish on here.

So, let’s wrap up this interminable holiday ramble which I began months ago, and which is news that is so old that it should be called olds. (Ha! I bet no-one’s made that gag before. It’s kind of Rodney Dangerfield/Jimmy Tarbuck level. Maybe I could sell it to one of them, if they weren’t dead. Is Tarby dead yet? No? Pity.)

We eventually made it to Slovenia, or Slovenija as seems to be the more right on spelling, after much much travelling (see previous post). We had rented a cottage in a small village called Bodonci, which is not far from the town of Murska Sobota in the far north east corner of the country (my father in law informed me that it, too, like Csíkszereda, was part of old Hungary – or “Big Hungary” if you prefer the slightly more nationalistic version. Murska Sobota is Mura Szombat in Hungarian, which means that it is – just like Csíkszereda – named after a day of the week. The parallels were pretty damned spooky already. However, if I’ve now whetted your appetite for me, you’re about to be pretty disappointed as I don’t think there are any).

The cottage was very excellent, having been set up specifically for families with children to visit by a Brit couple who moved over there and set up a business doing well, just what I’ve described really. You can, if you so wish, find their website here.

My mum and dad came over to complete the picture, with me driving up to Graz to pick them up (and at the end of the week dropping them off at Maribor airport). Inter-parental-generation communication was limited language wise, but everybody seemed to get on very well.

Bodonci is in a national park which uniquely (the literature implied) spans the borders of three countries – Slovenia, Austria and Hungary. I can’t tell you what it was called for I have forgotten, and I am not 100% sure if you can describe a national park that is simultaneously in three countries actually as a national park, but there you go. A tri-national park? A Euro-park? Parc-a-Trois? I dunno. Anyway, it’s very nice indeed, with lots of rolling hills and attractive if not spectacular scenery. The house was stocked with a selection of bikes and this seems to be the most popular leisure pursuit in the area. Not too far away is the very nice town of Ptuj, which despite apparently being named after the noise made by someone spitting (yes, it is pronounced how it looks like it should be), is extremely attractive.

Anyway, we had a very good time – a completely different kind of holiday to the first week in Croatia, but equally enjoyable. I’d tell you more, but I’m struggling to recall the details having actually experienced it so long ago.

Finally, we drove up to Budapest via the north shore of Lake Balaton and spent a couple of nights there, before making the long trek home. While in Pest (for we were there, on the less fashionable side of the river) we visited a “Vegetarian festival” which initially I was pleasantly surprised actually existed, and then when we got there I remembered what vegetarianism typically is in continental Europe – kind of a crackpot cult, which means that vegetarians (it is assumed) are also likely to be interested in buying mood altering crystals or having their auras read. Still, I guess it’s a start.

Finally: Tips for driving in Hungary

  1. There are good road signs but they are written in an appallingly difficult to read font.
  2. Most radio stations are named after famous Hungarians – the classical station is “Bartok”, there is one called “Kossuth” and another called “Petofi”. I was hoping there’d be a sports station called Puskas, but no. There is also one called Slager, which isn’t the name of a famous Hungarian, but is seemingly a German word meaning “Rubbish music from the 80s”
  3. Whereas in most countries the capital city features on a disproportionate number of road signs, in Hungary, apparently, all roads lead to Miskolc. I’ve no idea where Miskolc is (though it seems to be almost omnipresent) or what it is famous for, but every road sign seems to direct you there.

Now I have to fly to Malta, so I will return anon, but hopefully significantly sooner than I have left this place of late.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Viva Zapada

It is snowing. It has been snowing since before we woke up. So far today (October 21st, let us not forget) we've had more snow in Csikszereda than we did in the entirety of last winter. I'm never really keen on heavy snowfall before the leaves have all fallen off the trees.

I have the strong sense that this winter is going to be a brutal one. If El Nino meant an easy, mild, and snow free winter, I suspect his sister will herald a hard, cold, and precipitous one. Balls.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I have been busy which is the reason why this blog has seen nothing but lots of tumbleweed spinning across it for an extended period. Since I'm freelance, this is a good thing, but I do miss the actual writing every now and then (I still compose blog posts in my head while I do other things, but they're now all stacked up and mixed together).

However, I do have the time to mention this shop which has opened up round the back of our flat. It advertises "English clothes" with the names of various English clothes shops on the outside (Next, Marks and Spencers, etc etc), and the note "second hand clothes from England". What's particularly interesting about this shop (since nothing I've told you so far is), is the business model it uses. You see they get a load of these second hand clothes in over the weekend, stick them all in bins all round the shop and then sell them for 11Lei per kilo. On Monday. Then on Tuesday the price drops to 9 Lei/kg. On Wednesday it's 7, Thursday is 5 and Friday it's 3. So if you want the pick of the stuff you have to go on Monday and pay more, and if you just don't care you can pay next to nothing on a Friday. No idea what happens on Saturday when the shop is closed. I hope they give what's left to charity, but I fear that they just send it on to another shop somewhere else in Romania to go through the system again (I'm fairly sure that this shop is not unique to Csikszereda).

We went in once (on a Monday), just to have a look, and it was mayhem, but the clothes were pretty pants. And I don't mean that literally. They also hadn't seemingly been washed at all, which meant rooting through the bins was even less appealing than it might normally have been. What really intrigues me is where they get the clothes from in the UK. Are they just stuff that has been left over after jumble sales, or stuff that has been given to charity, or do Oxfam shops clear out their shelves after a while and sell truckloads of clothes to this company for them to drive across Europe and flog to the Romanian public? I'd love to know. I really hope that there isn't someone making a tidy profit on what people have given away for charity, but some part of me fears this is the case.