Hungary’s transport is so Budapest-centralized that from Balaton it made sense to go all the way back to Budapest to then go down again to Pecs. All highways lead to Budapest, all major train lines, and 1 in 5 Hungarians live in the capital. It’s to the detriment of the development of the country.
I made a quick two day stop with Greg in Pecs, (I am sure there is a way to incorporate an accent mark over the “e” in “Pecs”, but I haven’t dedicated myself to finding it yet–and it is pronounced “Paych”) the town I used to teach English in. I see they still have made no progress on a statue of me in front of the school. That slight notwithstanding, living in Pecs was one of the best things I have ever done. It is also the only time in my adult life I have lived in one place for 8 months.
As much as I like Pecs, I was surprised to see that it was chosen as one of the 2010 Cultural Capitals of Europe. This despite that it is something of a Hungarian backwater. The highway only arrived this year. A 4th Tesco in construction and a huge shopping mall are actively sucking the life out of the town. Tesco is saturating Hungary like nothing I have seen before. It is unbelievable how a giant Tesco will be found in the smallest of Hungarian towns.
Greg and I stayed with a friend on the hill overlooking town with an amazing view. She offered Greg a welcome drink. “I have pear brandy, plum brandy, cherry brandy, Czech brandy, Polish brandy…” and when Greg was stunned into silence by these choices, she said she also had beer and wine and everything else.
We went to Villany so they could drink local wines and enjoy watching me drive home, which I suspect is the real reason we went. Everyone and their mother is in the wine business in Villany and the wine cellars often serve zsiros kenyer (literally “fatty bread”) which is white fat slathered on a slice of bread with raw onions and paprika to go along with your wine. I would love to see the reaction on the patrons of California’s Napa Valley wineries if that was offered to them, but if they take the plunge, I have to admit they might find it tasty, too. I forget the reason fatty bread and wine go together, but I would bet major research at top Hungarian universities has been done.
We watched the World Cup from a TV hung outside with a picture perfect view over Pecs. Couldn’t have been nicer and the extra space allowed us to practice our World Cup referee gesture for “No!”, which is two index fingers together and then quickly drawn apart. It’s the simple pleasures in life…
The time blew and I didn’t get a chance to see some old students/friends of mine, very regretfully. Maybe I can get back down.