Into Hungary

16. Juni 2016 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

I´m approaching this country with utmost care, trying to avoid stereotypes and purging myself of the mixed memories I have of our childhood neighbours who had fled from Hungary after the 1956 uprising. My father, to whose opinions I must have been helplessly exposed, always thought that with the political refugees, some unhealthy „elements“ had snuck away with the approval of the communist government. Our neighbours did nothing worse than tend to their little house and their several cars with zeal, and, admittedly, a lot of noise, toxic stench and loud quarrels, and unfortunately long into balmy summer nights. And they had a dog named Fitzgo who practically hung himself up barking at every passer-by.

In any case, the two specimens Reto and I met in the dining car out of Vienna didn´t help much to dispel the notion that the Magyars are prone to making themselves unpopular somehow.  One of them, a security officer working at the United Nations (he claimed), believed in reincarnation as a form of punishment for bad deeds, while at the same time tracing back his roots to 15th century Transsylvanian aristocrats. He also praised the Hungarians as the ultimate fighters, and expressed a vivid interest in the big boobs of Serbian girls. 

His drinking companion had light blue eyes, a crew-cut and spoke some German after working in Austria for 20 years. Himself a kind of emigrant (though I´m not sure if he ever saw the parallel), he was adamant about not letting any refugees from Syria into Hungary, since it was clear that any Muslim could blow himself up with an explosive belt any minute of the day, and, more infuriatingly, would tell his wife she could not walk in public without a headscarf or Burkah (yes, the man really meant his own wife). Even my friend Reto, who normally picks up on any chance to have a conversation about life, the universe and social justice, gave up the reasoning quickly.

The bicycle ride along a quiet arm of the Danube out of Budapest has been rather pleasant. It´s evident that the people cherish their homes and Datschas, fenced or walled in and often far from finished, with little sense of community in the village centres – hardly a cafe or outdoor restaurant, yet usually a couple of plastic chairs in front of a hole in the wall named Sports Bar, with a bunch of tired glassy-eyed men tending to their equilibrium of alcohol and thick blood in the middle of the morning.

But as opposed to Sicily and Corsica, there are people walking in the village streets and the odd bulky man on a shaky bicycle. Although this is the Eurovelo 6 continental bike path, we haven´t encountered any long-distance cyclists yet – there would be hundreds of them west of Vienna. Yes, the social scenery of this neck of the woods is not exactly cheerful, but it has a strange depressive charm.

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