AMENDMENT: The rail strike has since ended and trains are running throughout Hungary.

Hear that? No? That's because Budapest is missing a distinct sound. The sound of trains.

This photo was taken at peak rush hour time at Nyugati station, one of the city's main and usually most bustling domestic train stations. Take note of the arrival and departure board - nearly empty, save for a train headed to the airport. It's not exactly what I'd call active.

Since last Saturday there has been a strike that started with the railroad's domestic workers, but then spread by week's start to almost all trains in and out of Hungary. It's been reported that the cause for the strike is an internal battle between train officials and employees over money employees feel they deserve after the sale of a private sector of MAV.

Walk into any of Budapest's three main train stations, including Keleti, which normally handles most of the international traffic, and you'll be surprised at the deserted nature that haunts the iron and glass lattice-work. Despite Christmas being just days away, the strike shows no signs of stopping, which spells disaster, or at least major headaches, for holiday travelers with destinations outside of Hungary. However, it's been said that railroad employees will suspend the strike temporarily on the Christmas holiday. For those who want to arrive to family and friends earlier than Christmas Day, good luck.

A separate strike at Budapest's airport has holiday travelers needing to arrive at the airport three hours before departure to ensure everything goes smoothly. At this point, the bus is your best bet, either that or good old fashioned thumbing it.

Jacob P.

Ophélie Bretnacher has been MISSING since Thursday December 4th, in Budapest. She was last seen at around 3AM between Portside de Cuba and Chain Bridge. Her bag was found with her ID and phone on the Pest side of the bridge, but no sign of Ophélie. If anyone has ANY information, please contact the facebook group here or call this number:


Please help us look for her by spreading the word to your friends, your help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you. has gone viral!

That means we've posted a very silly video on Youtube which may or may not pass as entertainment. You decide!

If you think anyone might be amused, annoyed or believe that Bob and Skyler might be in earnest, please pass on the link. After all, you are our pathogens!

Down and Out in Budapest

With every Christmas comes new decorative fads, and Budapest is no exception. Last year seemed to be the year of mini-Santas climbing towards windows like jolly little gremlin-burglars. This year, they've grown and they've taken to hanging around outside shops, doing little jigs.
Just take a trip down the körűt and you'll see a few. Some just stand there; others shift from one leg to the other, to keep warm; one even has a saxophone, although he didn't bother to show up when I went to see him yesterday. Busking's not for everyone.

The one thing they all share is that they don't exactly exude Christmas - or Mikolas - cheer. Jingle Bells couldn't have been further from my mind. Several of them look like they've been standing outside for too long; like they have no homes to go to. In fact, I saw a disturbed-looking homeless person outside 'Plus' supermarket the same morning doing much the same thing, instilling a mixture of pity and repulsion in the passers-by.

Left out on the street, Santa isn't bearing up so well, and he's not even real. The guy outside "Plus", however, is as real as you or I.

So for anyone who's interested, there are several charities who are working to improve the lives of the homeless in Budapest. The Hungarian Maltese Charity is one of the most visible and has information in English here. Alternatively, you can donate direct to the homeless foundation, Fedél Nélküliekért Alapítvány, who are the ones who sell the papers on the streets. ("Számlaszám" is the account number.)

There, that's as much Christmas spirit as you're likely to get from me.

Andy Sz.

Giving Thanks

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November. With the holiday just days away, American expatriates here in Budapest may find themselves scrambling for a way to celebrate the earliest American Federal holiday.
My suggestion: go to Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő and have the duck, it's pretty close to a traditional Thanksgiving meal and you'll be just as stuffed. However, if you'd rather not spend the holiday sullenly stuffing face alone, and actually enjoy sappily celebrating being overly thankful with friends and family, be my guest. Sure, we all may see Thanksgiving as a grandiose excuse to make a massive meal, shovel it in, then stumble to the sofa to watch American football the rest of the day while in a tryptophan-induced near-coma. To that I say, do some research about actual Thanksgiving. Native Americans were slaughtered.

A 1895 New York Times article stated, "New York celebrated her first Thanksgiving Day [...] in 1644, [...] the Dutch citizens of New York killed nearly 600 Indians and then marched home and 'cheerfully' ate their Thanksgiving Day dinners." The first Thanksgiving, which took place almost a quarter decade before this incident, supposedly celebrated a successful harvest season and the Pilgrims and Native Americans harmonious friendship. So if the hatred was still there 23 years later, one could bet that few puritanical pilgrims were sitting down with "them Injins" to gnaw on some turkeys.

One thing I'm reveling in while safe and sound here in Budapest: NO BLACK FRIDAY. For those of you unfamiliar; no this is not a racially slanderous day. It's the day after Thanksgiving where in America people start their official Christmas shopping and are insane about it. Just about every retailer in the U S of A has a ludicrous deal running, which they wildly advertise. In turn that forces people to camp outside of stores, waiting for the doors to open at some ungodly hour of the morning. All this just to end up getting scratched, kicked, stampeded, scraped, burned, stabbed, shot, et cetera by other rabid deal-seekers.

So be thankful this Thanksgiving you don't have to deal with inane questions from your folks, nagging in-laws, an annoying kid sister, or fighting for the last Tickle Me Elmo or that plasma flat screen you want to snag for your fiancé for x-mas.

Jacob P.

graffiti |grəˈfētē| plural noun ( sing. -to |-tō|) [treated as sing. or pl. ] writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place : the walls were covered with graffiti | [as adj. ] a graffiti artist.

Just like any other major metropolitan city, Budapest has its fair share of graffiti. Whether you think it's an eyesore or view it as street art, it's not going anywhere, so you might as well embrace it. From the ironic to the blasé, from the political to the classic 'fuck' scrawled on a wall, it pops up in new places daily, which might just make your routine, same old-same old, walking routes a bit more interesting. Here's a small taste of what Budapest has to offer:

Now, if you're sitting there thinking: "Is that all Budapest can come up with?", you've missed our point somewhat. But to satisfy the appetites of any graffiti art lovers out there, check out SF's blog here or here.

Jacob P.

Andy T.

If our shocking expose of bad Budapest customer service (Miserable People in Shops) were a television series, it would be a very unsatisfying one. Episodes rock up only when we remember to make them. And they're never that interesting - in fact, by now we'd have been well and truly cancelled.

But we'll soldier on with this rubbish until we decide to pull the plug. My latest encounter with a Miserable Person happened in the Manna ABC on Friday night. It's on the corner of Bajcsy Zsilinsky utca. Of all Les Miserables, this woman takes the cake. And keeps it. All for herself. Which is exactly what she tried to do with my change.

What makes this particular incident doubly sad is that a very nice Real used to occupy the building next door but has recently closed down, presumably because it couldn't compete with the shiny Manna ABC 0-24 that barged its way into the neighbourhood. The man who ran Real was a creepily pleasant chap who spoke English very well. One night, he gave me a ham and cheese croissant free of charge. 'We're closing' he said, 'and I'll just throw it out. Take it. Have it for breakfast.' I couldn't imagine Manna ABC giving me a free croissant. If they did, they'd probably throw it at my head.


What happened exactly?
It was about one in the morning and I fancied taking a stroll around Parliament. I'm leaving Budapest in a week and was feeling nostalgic enough to get out of my bedroom for a walk on some deserted streets. To help me, I needed a) a bag of peanuts, b) a can of beer and c) some milk for the morning.

This is shaping up to be as interesting as the last Miserable People in etc.
Thanks. Anyway, I got to the counter and laid my three items out. 585 ft. Disaster! Digging into my pockets I realised I only had 400 ft.

Go on. Please.
I will. It was time for an executive decision, so I left the counter and stood by the fruit and veg for a bit in order to concentrate. Peanuts were essential, as was beer. Milk? I could get up in the morning and get some, or just skip breakfast.

What happened next?
Well, me changing my mind was a disaster of epic proportions. The financial crisis? Dwarfed. Global warming? Dwarfed. She'd already scanned the items! And once the items have been scanned, there's no going back. Never. Ever. The member of staff, a sour looking oldish woman who looked like she'd put her make up on in the dark, stood staring at me. Chewing. Like a cow.

It's a disaster once the items have been scanned. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to un-scan items? Do you? No, you don't. Why didn't you get on your knees and beg a thousand pardons?
I should have, I know. Instead I paid for my items and waited for the change (30 forint).

It didn't arrive. So I looked at her, pointed at the till, and mouthed ineptly in Hungarian that I should have some change. At which point she picked up the beer, slammed it down on the desk then picked up the peanuts and slammed them down on the beer! Slam! Slam! Slam!

It was. But knowing I was right, I started to flap my arms about a bit. I pointed at the price tags, and stood there till she gave me my money.

How did it end?
She realised her mistake and slammed the money on the counter. I slammed my beer into a pocket. She slammed a basket onto the floor. I slammed the door. Slam! Slam! Slam! Slam! Slam!

You won't be going back there then.
No. And neither should you.

Andy T.

Here are some pictures of Sunday mornings in my area. Always a horrible minefield of broken glass, sick, wee wee and litter. This is an interactive post - I've included some hymn lyrics, to make up for the fact that most people out boozing/weeing/vomiting near my house last night won't have managed to get up in time for church. All together now.

The purple headed mountains,

The river running by,

The sunset and the morning, that brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,

The pleasant summer sun,

The ripe fruits in the garden, He made them every one.

Andy T.

Who is Gloria Jean, exactly? I picture her as a huge, hugely successful woman, the ageing head of a global coffee empire who sits around in her Beverly Hills mansion, eating crackers, while ogling the pool guy. Her coffee shop is a recent addition to the city - there are branches in Hősök tere, Mammut and on the körút, near Nyugati.

Forget my first question. A more pertinent one would be, who exactly does Gloria Jean think she is? I was walking past the Hősök tere branch the other day when I was forced to do a double take.

Guess how much a kicsi cappuccino costs. Go on, guess. Wrong. Try again. No, still wrong. One more chance. Okay, you’re rubbish at this, I'll tell you. A small cappuccino at Gloria Jean’s would set you back 615 ft. Six hundred and fifteen ft. What is this - Dubai? Why, for that much, I could buy a, a, a… dinosaur! Even the California Coffee Company opts for a less ballsy 490 ft.

615 ft is a ridiculous price, made even more ridiculous by the fact that the minimum wage here is 69,000 ft per month. If that’s net, which it isn’t, the average minimum wage employee working 22 days a month would earn 3136 ft per day. Now then, let’s say that on their way to their job, said worker stops in for a morning coffee every day at Gloria Jean’s. In a single month they’d spend 13,530 ft on coffee. Which leaves them just 55,470 ft to pay for such luxuries as food, a travel pass and rent.

But of course, it isn’t aimed at the average Hungarian, it’s aimed at the decidedly average tourist. As a Hungarian friend of mine pointed out (after having been duped into paying an arm and a leg for a coffee and a sandwich in Gloria's), at the very least it solves the problem of tourists not being able to get a hot drink in Hősök tere. No, it’s much better now - they can visit one of Hungary’s most striking monuments and wonder at the fact that a cappuccino costs more than double what you would pay in a New York Starbucks. Truly amazing. Glory be!

Andy T.

My metro arrived at Deák ter. I got off and walked into the concourse beyond the platform, along with the majority of the morning commuters. Obviously, I was in a rush, as I tend to be in the mornings, and strode briskly towards the escalators that lead to Metro 3.
Now, it seems to me that ticket inspectors aren't employed for their tactical nouse. There were about eight of them, arranged in such a way that they could chat to each other at the base of the right-hand escalator, casually menacing passers-by. In principle, I agree with the idea of ticket inspectors but why are they so bloody ineffectual? If they're intending to stop people without tickets, they're standing in the wrong place! With two up escalators, one right, one left, what kind of fare-dodger would choose the one with the flock of inspectors?

Well, perhaps a gutsy, wily one! Possessing a ticket, as I did, I
headed for the emptier escalator on the right, and a stray inspector drifted towards me. I ignored her, but three metres from safety, she asked for my ticket. Irritated, I found that the best way to convey "Look, I obviously have a ticket because I've chosen this escalator!", was to ignore her again. This proved rather effective, as the inspector waited until I was halfway up the ecalator before she employed her next tactic: "Uram!" ("Sir!"), she cried out.

I'm sure there are some people who would find this call impossible to disregard. No doubt there are some who would turn around at the top of the escalator, take the first escalator back down, interrupt the inspector's subsequent conversation about why they never catch anyone without a ticket, and say:

"I'm terribly sorry, madam, did you want to see my ticket? Here it is. And, if I may, might I add: you haven't caught anyone because you're not even trying!"

And... while I'm on the subject: why are there never any inspectors at Kossuth tér? Do MPs and bank staff travel free?

Andy Sz.

The unseasonably cold weather, coupled with pissing rain doesn’t make for the most ideal of conditions to hold a jazz festival, let alone an event that’s outdoors.

Luckily thou
gh, this only put a slight dampener on Friday night’s main event for the MOL Jazz Festival at Közraktár. Held in a long white tent, it was a bit like being in the jazz tent of a larger music festival, except there weren't any other stages; this was it.
The bands kicked off with Zoltán Lantos, a man clearly indebted to the work of McLaughlin, and his Mirrorworld quartet. Think Mahavishnu, or Shakti (but a bit less Indian). There were Hungarian folk melodies in there too, as well as some pretty straight funky jazz fusion. Nothing mind-blowing, but absolutely fine. Their set finished with a long, reasonably smug drum solo, which in fact, was the last time we came across any drums that evening.

Next up was the duo of Heinz Sauer on saxophone and pianist Michael Wollner. This was easily the highlight of the evening - a genteel performance; these guys filled an otherwise chilly tent with their warm on-stage connection.

The Argentinean "Horacio Fumero Trio" followed: different from the last group, but not that different. Fumero probably kept a few more people in the tent with some endearing chat. If you could ignore the cold, trumpeter Raynald Colom’s solos were a bit of an ear-opener. We couldn't, so halfway through we drifted home.

Jacob P.

So how exactly do you do a blind beer taste test? Well, I'm told there are three ways. The first is the most common: get someone not taking part to serve the beer. Second, rarer: turn all the lights out. Third: if everyone there wants to take part but no one trusts each other enough to turn the lights out, use socks. Come again?
Yes, socks, it's obvious. Select the beers you wish to test, in our case, Dreher, Borsodi, Soproni, Arany Ászok and Kőbányai. Sit in a circle and distribute the cans/bottles evenly. Find 5 different pairs of socks, ideally the ones with days of the week on them, and put them within easy reach. Then all close your eyes and slide the beers around the circle until none of you know which is which anymore. With your eyes still closed, put the beers in the socks. Now you can safely open your eyes and test the beers. Simple.

We embarked upon our scientific study. Beers are listed according to the socks they were in. The voting system: 3 judges, each awarding 15 points. 5 points for the best, 1 for the worst.

Friday socks (orange)

It's lively... bubbly... a sharp acidity. (If we thought we were lacking the rudimentary descriptive language, we weren't going to show it.) Jacob looks like he's taking it very seriously. 'It's like having sex with a woman you met on the street, on the street.' He's referring to the cheap beer combined with a panoramic view of Budapest, for such occasions require a fitting stage.
Points: 1 + 2.5 + 2 = 5.5

socks (blue)

Alert: Andy's seen the can. Operation "Rescue Beer Test Integrity" commences, as Jacob is elected to close his eyes and swap some socks over. Disaster averted.

Cheaper than the last one, said one. More flavour on the first sip, said another. Sweeter, made with river water. Almondy. Yes, I'm getting almonds. I think I've come across this on the tram, early in the morning. What does hoppy mean? This one's not hoppy. Points: 2 + 2.5 + 1 = 5.5

Sunday socks (khaki)

They all taste a bit the same. The word hoppy is gaining ground now but what exactly does it mean? We like saying it and this is therefore the hoppiest yet. Jacob bangs on about IPA, a little motif for him for the evening. Comparisons are being made. It's inferior to the last one. No, this is my favourite - the closest to IPA. It's lager, it's nothing like IPA. Yes, but it's hoppy and IPA's hoppy. Points: 5 + 1 + 4.5 = 10.5

Tuesday socks (one red, one pink)

This is the beer you drink when you're sick. Orsi says it smells funny. I don't think it smells funny. I think it's alright. It tastes like crackers. Yes, it does. It does taste like crackers. Jacob's spot on. Jacob's cream crackers. Points: 3 + 4 + 4.5 = 11.5

Wednesday socks (grey)

There's a full moon tonight. 'That's not a full moon, that's gibbous.' This beer is the best, although I've written that on three separate occasions. Maybe it's the beer talking. Give me some more. It's got a floral nose; it tastes like dandelions. Everyone agrees. "A true drinking beer", whatever that means. Points: 4 + 5 + 3 = 12

Are we going to unveil them? Yes, let's unveil
them. I can hardly contain my excitement (no irony intended).

Friday, in joint 4th is... Borsodi. Saturday, also joint 4th is Arany Ászok. In 3rd place, in the Sunday socks is Dreher. And in 2nd, masquerading as Tuesday is Kőbányai. Finally, in 1st place, Hungary's finest everyday beer is... Soproni! Cue 'Formula 1'-style celebration... but with beer.

Our results, certified by the Cambridge examining board - bore a few surprises. Borsodi, one of my staple choices out on the town, fared rather poorly. Meanwhile,
Kőbányai, the cheapest of the bunch, was pretty well-received. Perhaps most significantly, the results show a certain trend: the more you drink, the better beer tastes. You probably didn't need us to tell you that, which I think, adds a certain legitimacy to our experiment.

Andy Sz.

2ManyBloggas 2

Thehub doesn't usually get invited to parties. The last time we did, we were told in no uncertain terms that this one would be our very last and we were 'an absolute disgrace' - words that were shouted loudly by a scary man who kept clipping us around the ears.

All that hurt a lot but it didn't stop us from nicking a load of random objects on the way out - including a copy of
Woman's Own, a set of candlesticks, a miserable-looking cat who howled so much we had to leave it in the street somewhere, and a high-heeled shoe. It still gets worn from time to time, that.

So, given our track record, imagine our surprise when yesterday we were told we're going to be part of the very exciting 2ManyBloggas 2 party at Trafo in a week and a half, organised by Kunk, the best two djs of electro/indie/etc. in Budapest. Check them out here.

Here's what Kunk's Brandon has to say about the event...

'Part schmooze-fest, part fashion show, part tech convention, and all awesome, Kunk’s 2ManyBloggas2 will see the collision of art, music, culture and fashion blogs wrapped into one tasty indie/electro party package on September 20 in Trafo. The event, building upon the success of its first version last winter, will be live-blogged at, with posts being submitted by party-goers and projected on screen.

Attendees will be handed name tags upon entrance with empty fields to write their name, as well as they blog they most identify with. During the evening, giveaways will be awarded to both a random raffle pick from all attendees, as well as to the blog garnering the most worn name tags. Each blog will also have their own space for placement of promo material'.


Great. Sounds like they're even trusting us enough to give us our own table! Bet we can think of some funny things to do with that.

Anyway, next Saturday (20th), stick it in your diary, and we don't care if you live abroad - Andy and I will be extremely disappointed if you aren't there. With our name on your name tag. Oh, here's some details and a list of the blogs involved.


Kunk presents: 2ManyBloggas2
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Trafo Bar Tango
Address: IX. Lilliom u. 41
Entrance: 800 HUF
DJs: Kunk, Kollektiva, WPAHP, Gumipop, Tonyo vs. Adi (The Moog)



See you at Trafo then. We'll be the ones getting clipped round the ears.

Andy T.

Bodies - The Exhibition

VAM Design Center
, 3300ft - 3900 ft, until 31st December
Pest Centre, VI, Deak F. ter
(M 1,2,3) 4 min

So, it looks like Budapest may have one of the ‘bad’ bodies exhibitions. Not that the exhibition is bad - I haven’t been - but the bodies themselves could be bad. Or not. I don’t know. Are they? Maybe.

Back home in Manchester over the summer, I saw a huge amount of advertising for another display of cadavers - Dr von Hagen‘s Bodyworlds 4. Same, but different. My curiosity was tickled and I decided to head over to Wikipedia the other day for a bit of grave digging.

It turned out that Premier Exhibition's Bodies, currently showing at VAM design on Kiraly (one of 10 venues globally), is not the original. It debuted in 2005, ten years after von Hagen's Bodyworlds first opened, and the good doctor has sued Premier in the past. Apparently, people get confused as to which exhibition is which. Fancy that!

Unsurprisingly, both shows have generated their fair share of controversy. Germaine Greer claimed she would no more go to an exhibition of dead bodies than she would eat a live one, while the Catholic Church feel these displays are inconsistent with the idea of reverence towards the human body. People have taken issue with gender stereotyping within the exhibits, and there’s even a virtual picket line/protest which currently has 277 people (not) standing in it.

Comments there make for interesting reading - ‘I was very glad to find a way to protest this neo-Nazi exhibit’ writes Jean D’Ascenzo of New Jersey. Palo Paley looks like she was so furious she decided to text in her cryptic contribution - ‘will u make this exhibition with the flesh of ur child??,‘ while Timothy Ingram opts for a rather more succinct ’Evil.’

Setting religious objections or comparisons to a travelling freakshow aside, there is a more legitimitate concern relating to the Budapest exhibition - and that is where exactly Premier's cadavers come from. Von Hagen’s bodies are obtained via a donation program, but Premier are not quite as transparent. They say corpses are received from the Chinese government. However, any moral concerns about that are not helped by the ghoulish disclaimer on one of Premier's official sites...


‘This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons‘.


That appeared in May, after an investigation into all this led by the New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who went on in a concluding statement to say...


'The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China. Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals. Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner.

This settlement in New York resulted in Premier, from May 2008 on, being required to provide written documentation of who the subjects are, as well as proof that they consented to be part of this exhibition. But as far as I can tell... that's only in New York!

So there you have it. A couple of major, quite similar corpse exhibitions touring the planet - one of them is fine, if you like that sort of thing, and the other seems a good deal shadier, with a remarkably cavalier attitude towards human rights...

...and we get that one. Interesting times we're living in though.

Andy T.

Dogs, the homeless and miserable folk - whenever people come to visit me in Budapest, they always seem to notice those three things.

A while ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about sad Hungarians, and she suggested that the main reason people have the hump here is because they simply don’t have enough money. That scrimping and saving just to make ends meet is enough to bring anyone down. There’s probably a good deal of truth in that.

Back in February, we published a blog entry about a miserable woman in Match, who got annoyed with me for standing in the wrong place. Intended to be part of a series, it never really got off the ground for two reasons - firstly, because in all honesty, we forgot, and perhaps more significantly, I really haven’t had too many sour encounters over the last six months. That is, until I moved house last week and bumped into a new neighbour…


What happened this time?
I was clattering out of my house, late for an appointment, feeling a little groggy, when I ran into a man 'pon the stair. Smoking a cigarette, he looked like Kurt Russell, if Kurt Russell had really let himself go.

He mooed ‘hello’ to me, and I murmured back politely, but not overly so, ‘Jó napot kívánok'

What an interesting story!

Thanks, I’m not finished. He obviously hadn’t heard my greeting. As I pulled open the front door, the man mooed again, much louder and more sarcastically. ’HEEEEEELLLLOO.’ Then he made a ‘pffffff’ noise, like a deflating beach ball.

How did you react?
Less polite this time, I turned around and asked him what ‘his problem was,’ and let him know that I’d just said ‘fucking jó napot kívánok.’

What did he do?

He mooed, and took another drag from his cigarette. Then I closed the door, and he stood there alone, mooing to himself in the hallway.

How did you feel?

Sad, hurt, annoyed and miserable.

Why didn’t you go and moo ’heeelllo’ at someone else, to make yourself feel better?

Because I’m not a baby.

Andy T.


Our first words in 83 days, and I thought nothing would be more appropriate, because we’re just about to zoooom back onto the radar. (We’ve been in England by the way, in London for a few months). However, that’s not the only reason I wrote


Ever since I got back, I’ve woken up each morning to the sounds of aeroplanes zooooming over the house. What on earth is going on? Are we at war? Did Slovakia invade?

Well... not quite. It’s the Red Bull Air Race, which involves several days of practice, practice, practice, qualifying, race. From the pictures on the Red Bull website, of upside-down, twirling planes in front of the Parliament building, you’d think this is going to be quite a spectacle. That, coupled with the involvement of Péter Besenyei, one of Hungary’s best, and best-known sportsmen was certainly enough to pique my interest.

He seems like quite a character, this Besenyei. I came across a Guardian interview with him the other day, in which he made the quite magnificent claim that n
o-one has ever thrown up in one of his flying machines. (Erm... have me on board, Péter, and I’ll be sick all over you).

Here are the rules for the Red Bull Air Race, in case you were wondering what it’s all about.

"During the first day, pilots run two training rounds then two qualification rounds. The times of the last training session determine flight order for both qualifying rounds, slowest racing first. The best time from either qualifying run counts. Twelve pilots with the fastest times continue on to race the second day. The lowest four who made it through qualifying race for ninth place and one World Series point in the aptly named "Point One" round. The top eight, or "Super Eights" are seeded based on qualification times then race head-to-head. Winners from the Super Eight round race again in the semifinals while losers are ranked 5th through 8th based on their time. From the semifinals, the pilots either head to the final to determine the winner and runner-up, or to the consolation final to settle third and fourth places".

No, I didn't read them either. Anyway, the idea of an air race still got me all hot and excited, so I headed down there yesterday afternoon, images of spiralling, nose-diving aircraft filling my head. The first thing I saw was a helicopter turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself, turning upside down, righting itself. Very far away - part of the air show. As I wasn't actually in a helicopter of my own and hadn't had a drop of red bull, the whole experience left me feeling slightly restive. I blinked up into the sky and waited for it to stop. It did, and qualifying started. This involved some brightly coloured aeroplanes zooming down towards the Danube, traversing a few pylons, then flying away, all to the strains of Prodigy's Firestarter. And... that's it! Again and again. Later, I wandered down the bank of the river and found a few stages pumping out bad 50's rock to a handful of onlookers, and a bunch of stalls selling food that nobody was eating because the weather was too hot.

Now, I don't mind races, and red bull serves a purpose, but part of me wonders if it's so necessary for this event to bring the noise in such a spectacular fashion, for such a sustained length of time. Even on Monday, when I went to the river to watch the sun sink behind the hills, I was confronted with some kind of metal fence, beyond which stood a pair of speakers pumping out mundane pop. Aren't people living/working nearby?

As I write this, it's three o'clock on St. Stephen's Day and I'm in
Gozsdu courtyard - all I can hear is the sound of aircraft zooooming overhead. To hell with it. Maybe I'll go down to the river and give Péter some love. It's not like I can take a siesta.

Andy T.

Put your general rubbish in there,

your cans in there,

your cigis in there,

your paper in there,

and your dogs in there.

Andy T

To my left, a couple of kidneys and a brain, on a plate. To my right, three men stand at a table, hacking up half a pig. In front of them lies a mysterious bucket of gore, a loose eyeball perched on top. I’m standing, staring right back at it, when my Hungarian friend leans over and recommends some brain. Try it. It’s goood, he says. Very good with eggs! If you like, we can ask Mother to fry it up for breakfast tomorrow…

We’re standing in a darkened garage in the heart of the Hungarian countryside. Dropped cold into this house of horror, a scene like this would look jaw-droppingly wrong. However, five hours (and several pálinkas) after it all began, it’s very acceptable. In fact, the pig has started to look less like an ex-farmyard animal and more like an extravagant jigsaw - tricky, three-dimensional and ultra-realistic. Putting all of this back together would take hours, I think, swaying slightly.

Can it really be only 10.45 am? I gulp down some wine, look at my watch, then step over a box of pig’s head (ears, snout, face etc.), and around a bucket of fresh, chopped up skin. Five minutes earlier, our friend Támas had picked up a piece of this, tossed salt onto it, and popped it into his mouth. ’Try it. It’s goood’ he’d said, holding one out to me. Woof! Politely, I’d declined.

Even though I’d hardly moved, arriving at this point felt like a journey, especially for someone as squeamish as myself. Watching
Cannibal Ferox is fine in the comfort of your bedroom, but having scenes acted out in front of you is altogether different. In the garage, a head had been taken apart, in the back garden a spine removed with Father's bare hands. Upstairs, in the relative comfort of the kitchen, mother and daughter stirred a bucket of blood, preparing a breakfast of fresh liver and black pudding. And everywhere, the house was greasy. Smudges were left on the kitchen window, the door handles smeared with fat.

We’d met the pig the previous evening and watched it jostle for space in its pen, with three others. It was bulky and certainly no Babe - in fact, he looked about as graceful as a bus, manoeuvring its way around Tesco car park. Perhaps it was this that put me off. At six fifteen, when I emerged blinking into the sunlight, the pig was lying on its side, blood trickling out of its throat. I went over to the corner of the garden, looked at the tractor for a while, then drank a pálinka. After that, we bathed the pig, set fire to it, and strung him up.

It’s an odd time to have a pig killing, mid-May, and it only really happens if you’ve got extra pigs. Even though it was far too hot to smoke any meat, not much went to waste. A good deal of it disappeared into the refrigerator and we ate what we could - sausage, liver sausage, blood liver sausage, deep fried pork. Fat was cooked and put aside for later, snout and ears put into pig cheese, brain saved for some kind of mad breakfast.

Ultimately, I’d half expected to come back from this pig killing a hollow man, like John Rambo, or failing that, a vegetarian, like John Rambo (only joking, he definitely eats meat). Neither happened - I still like meat, and I’m still fine with the fact that to eat it, you have to kill an animal. In reality, I actually returned from Bakony feeling more like a hermaphrodite.

Let me explain. Tasks at a Hungarian pig killing are divided up pretty squarely, and while I wasn’t man enough to kill the animal, I wasn’t quite enough of a woman to be allowed into the kitchen to stir blood, and chop onions. Instead, I floated around with a camera and a microphone, slack-jawed, giggling.

However, if there’s one thing I did learn from this weekend, it’s that organs really do look like organs. A heart looks like a heart, liver like liver, intestines like intestines and that there’s an undeniable similarity between the insides of pigs and humans. Give me a human liver, and I might know what to do, eventually. A bowl of human blood, maybe I could cook it. You see, it isn't that I want to kill a man, but right now, it really doesn't feel like that much of a stretch. With time, maybe, possibly, perhaps… I could learn.

Andy T.

Dawn. The countryside. An adorable pig blinks away sleep, wondering why on earth he’s been woken up so early, and what so many people are doing near his pen. Goodness gracious, thinks the animal. Perhaps I’ve been doing something right after all. They’re here to play with me! It’s my lucky day!

In the kitchen, a clock strikes six and a last shot of p
álinka is downed. From across the garden, a burly, moustachioed man strides towards the enclosure.

Hello, thinks the pig. That’s the chap who feeds me every day. It’s about time they gave me a bit of tucker! Chocolate drops, hopefully.

Although the animal has no idea, this macabre routine is well-rehearsed. The crowd looms over him... his legs are grabbed roughly, and the pig starts to get cross. Now, come on, he thinks. There's no need for all this. Let's play nicely for a bit, then we all can eat the chocolate drops together. Oi! Ow!

‘…kill the pig, cut his throat, bash him in, kill the pig! cut his throat! bash him in! KILL THE PIG…!’ As the chanting reaches a peak, the knife plunges down, slicing him from ear to ear. A river of blood fills the garden.


It's not the right season, but I'm going to my first pig killing this weekend and I'm apprehensive, to say the least. This is the itinerary, which was sent to me via email.

Regular schedule: awakening (at 5 o'clock), pálinka, killing the pig, pálinka, breaming the pig, pálinka, breakfast (fried?/baked? blood with onion), stripping the pig, pálinka, lunch (lots of meat), pálinka, making black pudding, liverwurst, sausage etc., pálinka and wine.

Other than that, I've no idea what to expect. Comely maidens smothered in gore, carrying buckets of blood back and forth. The village joker dancing about with a pig's head on. Me, sitting at the kitchen table at 7am, pissed out of my mind, next to the pig's still-beating heart. Whatever happens, I hope I won't be returning from this journey into hell (Bakony), scarred and changed forever, like DeNiro in The Deer Hunter.

Time will tell. Anyway, there'll be a report put up about all of this nonsense sometime next week...

Andy T.


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