Archive for September, 2009

Peppers, peppers and more peppers.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

We thought we’d have a mooching about day today. Breakfast was great, we were the only people staying at the hotel last night and they did us proud.
Maria wanted some peppers to take back (apparently the ones in England just aren’t the same) so we headed off to Szekszárd, which has a market. It was one those typical Hungarian markets, stalls are provided and then all sorts of people bring in whatever they have to sell. Some are real traders, others little old ladies with a handfull of produce left over from what they grow in their garden.
Maria made a start on her pepper shopping
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I think some of these might be a bit hot.
We then headed for Decs, on the trail of some more folk art, but found the place only opens on Tuesdays and Fridays or by appointment. a bit of a disapointment. We diverted to Paks instead. They have an unusual church (if the pictures are anything to go by) and are supposed to do excellent halászlé. The pictures of the church don’t do it justice. It was stunning, very organic in shape.
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It was closed, but what we could see from the door looked beautiful.
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We then headed off for the halászlé, since it was special I decided to have a try. I’m not sure I would have if I’d known they would give me a bib(!!) to wear.
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Still it did taste good. Maria hates fish bones so she chickened out and had some pork instead. It was covered in garlic and we had to share the car with her for the rest of the day!
We needed to cross the Danube so instead of driving for miles we took the Komp, a sort of dinky ferry.
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…and headed for Kalocsa, another of the towns famous for it’s embroidery. Luckily as it is nearing the end of the season their stocks were much depleted and we got away without buying any. We did buy some china, but it was pretty.
We were then ready for a quiet sit down and a cake in the square in the centre of Kalocsa. I do like Hungarian cakes, it was just a shame I couldn’t manage an ice cream as well.
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On the way we saw some fields of peppers, Kalocsa is one of the prime paprika areas, and some houses with red peppers drying before being ground into paprika.
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It looks most attractive. There are also roadside stalls selling veg. and Maria saw some with peppers. So of course we had to stop.
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She bought not just a few but a whole sack!!!! The boot of the car is stuffed!
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They are talking of going to Tescos tomorrow and shopping! I am NOT going back to England on the roofrack.

Farewell to Eger.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

On Monday we had very little energy left. So we found the market in Eger and bought a few bits and pieces, poppy seed, beans, walnuts.. It’s a lovely market, full of little old ladies selling the produce from their gardens.
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After a quiet sit down and cake, we headed back to start on the mamoth task of packing. Starting with 65(!!!) bottles of wine and all Maria’s purchases. John said if he never saw another stair he’d be happy.
Despite being shattered he wanted to go up to one of the local wine cellars but Maria didn’t really fancy it. The more he suggested the more she got stubborn and refused. In the end he went on his own, (and bought more wine) while she stayed and sulked.
I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to get some of the grapes that grew over the tables at the Csárda. I’d seen other people pick some but they would never let me. I thought while no one was paying attention to me I could climb up a vine and be done before they missed me. It would have worked too if I hadn’t got stuck.
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Still I got my grapes and only a little telling off.
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Today we moved on. We managed to fit everything in the car (just) but I understand they are intending to buy some more wine and peppers!!!. We are off to a little castle in Simontornya.
I was browsing through the guide book when I noticed a write up about an ice cream place, not too far from our route. So I insisted we divert for lunch. Well worth it, perhaps not hundreds, but LOTS of flavours of lovely ice cream, and wonderful cakes.P9293933
The castle seems lovely, I have MY OWN BED and internet.

From horses to planes.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Saturday was Claire and Robs last full day so we decide to go out to the great plain, Hortobágy. I’ve been before with Maria and John to the Bridge Fair at the famous 9 arch bridge.
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They have done a lot of work since then and we had a good wander around the exhibits, and Maria got all dewy eyed about some weaving. Apparently it’s just like her mum used to have and she had to have a couple of tea towels. I think she has the biggest collection of tea towels in the world, I don’t know where they all came from. We then decided to take a ride out onto the puszta (plain) in a horse drawn cart. It was rather dusty but well worth it. We saw some great displays of horsemanship.
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The evening was spent quietly packing, trying to decide how much could be taken on the plane and what would have to be left for us to take back in the car.
On Sunday morning we took the kids to the airport. We were sorry to see them go but both had to get back to their jobs. We went back to Eger via one of the wine cellars and bought a few more bottles of wine (36!!!) and then went into Eger for a quiet sit down (and cake and ice cream).
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Hollokö

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Off to Hollokö on Friday. This village is a world heritage site and very attractive and picturesque.
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The only problem is the roads are very difficult and tiring to walk on.
We met a very nice lady selling some of her embroidery who was very taken with me and asked us to send her a photo when we got home.
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By the time we got to the end of the village Maria and John were keen to make their way back, so it left just Claire, Robert and I to climb to the castle. Claire is almost as good as Maria at muttering.
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Apparently as maria and John made their way back through the village my fame had spread and I was asked for. I was busy making a new friend at the castle. (I think his outfit was a bit out of date.)
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We had a quick cake and iced coffee before heading back. The nice young lady agve me a bunch of wild lavender. Once we got back to Eger we were all shattered and fit for nothing but some nice food and a drink I’m getting quite fond of pálinka
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And on to Thursday.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

We’ve been trying to alternate days with long drives with days nearby. So Thursday we decided to spend the day in Eger. First we went to the Rác church. It is a Serbian Orthodox church and as such HIGHLY decorated. Even I was impressed.
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The only problem was getting up to it. It involved some rather steep, uneven and rickety stairs. You can imagine Maria’s reaction. She’s getting well practised at muttering. After that she needed a quiet sit down, so she settled to some sketching and John to some sitting quietly in Dobo Square. Claire has noticed that the Hungarians seem fond of having a quiet sit down, on a bench, a wall.. anything handy really. I think John is trying to blend in. We youngsters headed up to the castle, a bit of a climb but well worth it. The view was tremendous.
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After all that exercise we felt we deserved a treat, and when John texted that he had hunted down a cukrázda, we felt it was time to join them. The ice cream was excellent.
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On the way back we bought a watermelon and some local grapes from a roadside seller. I’m afraid I rather pigged out on it. But it tastes so much better than the stuff we get back home.
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Internet is back!!!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

We lost the internet for DAYS! It was something to do with the router or something (I leave these technical things to John). So I’ve not been able to post, but we’ve been busy. Hope I can remember everything.
On Wednesday we went to Tokaj, in search of some more wine. We wanted to taste before buying, but when Maria saw the stairs to the cellar, she decided to stay at the top, well someone has to drive anyway and Hungary has a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. She could trust our taste.
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After we ‘d bought a couple of dozen bottles we thought a bit of culture would go down well. The museum has a lot of icons and both Claire and Maria are rather fond of them, so John, Robert and I had a quiet sit down while they ooh-ed and aah-ed.
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The drive back was interesting, the whole area is covered in vineyards.
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We had bought a couple of packs of carsd so settled down back at the Csárda with a few glasses of pálinka to play. Robert is pretty good, but I reckon I could have beaten the rest of them, but they refused to play for money. Chickens.
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Craft and wine

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

We woke to another beautiful morning, does it never rain here? (hope I haven’t jinxed it). As we open the door to our little house you’re greeted with a very typical Hungarian view.
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No wonder Maria loves geraniums. We set off to Mezökövesd to have another look at this painted Tulipános Láda (Tulip Chest). Mezökövesd is a town famous for it’s folk art, especially embroidery. A small area of the town has been maintained as it was for the last couple of hundred years and the houses turned into a combination of museums and studios. It is all very picturesque.
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John and Robert found a shady spot to sit while I went off with Maria and Claire. After a while I abandoned them and joined the boys, there is only so much I want to know about the finer points of needlework, weaving, spinning etc. Although the stuff about housekeeping in the old days was very interesting. Maria was particularly taken with the idea that the ranking female in the family (ie. the oldest) got the warmest cosiest spot to sleep, and the men slept in the stables and only came into the house for meals. Maria did ask how come they still had such large families, she got the answer ‘Haystacks’, which I don’t understand but she refuses to explain.
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The furniture painter was in one of these houses and the Tulipános Láda was still much loved and John decided to buy. Maria also hankered after a piece of embroidery, but even she agreed it was too mush to buy right now. Didn’t stop her buying a smaller piece of embroidery and a Miska Kancso (a sort of Hungarian version of a Toby Jug), I hope there’s room in the car for me on the way back to England.
We then visited one of the best wine cellars in the district, to taste and possibly buy.
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Vines as far as the eye could see. We watched some grapes being picked and looked at the old presses. I think this one is a bit too big for me to manage.
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This was a bit more my size but still loked like blooming hard work.
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Still the end result is lovely, Claire and Rob bought a couple of bottles to take back with them and John and Maria are going to call back after dropping the youngsters at the airport on Sunday and buy a couple of cases.
Tomorrow we’re off to another wine growing region, Tokaj. I really am starting to worry about space in the car.

Wine

Monday, September 21st, 2009

A rather restless morning, what with Robert getting up at 5.00am and Claire heading for the shower about 9.00, it seemed to take a long time for the family to get up. I nibbled on a bit of cake while waiting. Once we had mopped up the bathroom from Claire flooding it, we headed off to breakfast and then off to the Mátra hills. We were having a folk arty day. We first went to Heves to see some weaving and off course buy some, Claire is as bad as Maria, in fact she spent even more than her.
Then we went off to look at some dolls in traditional costumes. They were nice, but once you’ve seen 3 or 4 I feel you’ve seen enough. Maria however got chatting to the lady who runs the place and it took forever to get away.
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We bought a watermelon from a roadside stall, so since we had no knife we paid a visit to a Tesco. We needed more water anyway and Maria and Claire were keen to re-sample Traubisoda, a drink made from grapes and various chemicals. They have fond memories of it from years gone by.
By the time we got back to the hotel/csárda time was getting on, and I had been promised a visit to the wine cellars. Maria decided not to come with us and sat under the vine drinking wine and dabbling in a bit of embroidery.
The csárda does look attractive.
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We visited several cellars and John made us give him tasting notes, so he would know where to go back to and buy later. I was really looking forward to cellar number 16, Molnár Pince.I made friends with a very nice young lady there last time we visited 2 years ago. As it happens she wasn’t there, but the young lady who was there seemed to take a bit of a shine to me.
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We then joined Maria under the vines at the csárda and had a bite to eat. Tomorrow is another busy day, I hope this lovely weather holds.

Feeling poorly

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

I think I must have picked up a bug yesterday since I’m feeling rather poorly this morning. We had a lovely time at the wedding yesterday, the people were friendly, generous and very hospitable. The bride (and the bridesmaids) were beautiful.
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The pálinka flowed freely and it was rude not to accept since people were constantly offering toasts. I may have had slightly more than I should.
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The food was excellent, particularly the mutton pörkölt, cooked in pots on open fires. There were lots of opportunities to socialise in between course, Maria chatted a lot to the grooms mum, a very nice and generous lady. And of course the wine flowed freely.
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Eger is of course famous for it’s red wine. By about midnight we were flagging, the party was going to continue until about 7am when they were going to move onto one of the local wine cellars. We just stayed to sample the brides cake (lovely) and take part in the selling of the bride. Not as bad as it sounds, it is a Hungarian custom that rather than buying lots of (sometimes useless) presents guests pay (whatever they want) for the privilege of a dance with the bride. Before we could leave, the grooms mum very kindly loaded us up with a bottle of pálinka, some savoury snacks and stacks of cakes. We won’t need to buy any cakes during our stay here.
John was fast asleep by 1.00am but Maria kept me awake for ages singing along with the gipsy band and the revelers downstairs. Luckily she eventually fell asleep so I could too.
She woke me up far too early, apparently we had to fetch Claire and Robert from the airport. I told her I wasn’t feeling well but she insisted I went along, and she kept muttering something about a hangover. I was rather surprised since I didn’t think she had that much to drink.
We have now picked up Claire and Rob. We haven’t done much today, eaten and drunk a bit and then planned the rest of this week.

And on to Eger

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

So off to the operetta, it’s all go around here, Maria seems to have tried to fill every evening. Still it should be quieter in Eger. We arrived outside the Operetta Theatre to find a street show being put on by various stars of the Operetta and Thalia theatres. Shame we didn’t get there earlier but at least we were in time to see one our favourite numbers from Csokos Asszony.
We then went in to see The Bayader, enjoyable but not destined to become one of our favourites, too many scene changes and too complex a story, and the songs weren’t as memorable as some. Still we enjoyed it.
We got back to the hotel too late for the restaurant (it closed at 10!) so we had room service. Arrived promptly enough and nicely set out but they had forgoten the cucumber salad.
We meant to get up early this morning, but as usual overslept and packed in a hurry. At check out John told the girl on reception the hotel was not what he expected of a Hilton, when she said she hoped they could make it up to us next time, he told her there wouldn’t be a next time. I don’t think he was impressed.
Anyway on to Eger, we are staying at a hotel we have stayed at before but we’ve taken a suite ‘cos Claire and Robert are joining us.
We thought we’d drive into town first and visit a tourist info. As it was we arrived after 1.00 and it was shut but there was a market in the square so we had a wander around.
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John found some nice wine so I think we’ll be visiting their cellars later in the week, Maria found a furniture painter from Mezökövesd who she has arranged to visit. We were also lucky enough to see the ‘Queen of the Wine’ drive off after being crowned.
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We then drove out to Szépaszonyvöly, which is where the wine cellars are, and incidentally our hotel. We found the suite is in fact a little house in the grounds. It’s lovely, but Maria said she’s happy that she is in the downstairs bedroom, she dislikes spiral staircases.
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We also got a nice surprise. The hotel (apart from our room) has been taken over by a wedding party and they have very kindly invited us to the wedding. I’ve never been to a Hungarian wedding, I hope I’ll know how to dance.