One of the things I like about house-sitting is the arbitrariness of it.
Sometimes, I get invited to cities like Vienna, Berlin or Stockholm. Places that everyone would want to go to, with plenty of things to see, cultural activities to indulge in, and friends to make. (Well, maybe not in Stockholm.) Cities where nobody asks what on earth I am doing there.
But just as often, I get invited to villages in the countryside. Places like Oberstenfeld, Venta Micena or Chastre. Places that I never knew existed. Villages that I would never have visited otherwise. Where everyone wonders what on earth I am doing there.
I enjoy both of these categories equally, especially when they alternate.
First, I soak up big city life and everything it has to offer. Then, I retreat to a village, where I can read books all day.
This month, it’s village time again, as I find myself in Lepsény. That’s in Hungary.
There won’t be much to write about, not least because I find Hungarian an impenetrable language. Almost none of the words are similar to any other language I know. (The Hungarian language used to have many more loanwords from Latin and German. But in the 18th and 19th century, the age of nationalism, Hungarian linguists invented tens of thousands of new words to replace anything that sounded vaguely foreign. Thank you!) When I am at the supermarket, I can only buy things that are sold open or that have a picture on the packaging. As if I was illiterate. Today, looking for milk, I luckily found a carton that had a cow on it.
So, instead of stories, here are a few photos, for you to imagine life in a typical Hungarian village.
I don’t actually mind a small village, as long as the owners leave me a car or – even better – there is a train station. Having grown up in a village (in Germany) with terrible public transport myself, I am always amazed when small villages have a train station.
Lepsény, with a population of around 3.000 people, not only has a train station. It has, and that really blew my mind, direct trains to Budapest, to Zagreb and to plenty of other beautiful cities.
Also, I can always take a walk down to Lake Balaton.
- More articles about Hungary.
- More about house-sitting. After Kyiv, this is only my second cat-sitting in Eastern Europe. But I would love to come to this part of the world more often, in case you know anyone who needs a house/cat sitter.
- And more photos.
Didn’t the carton with a picture of a cow have nicely preserved beef jerky?
I held it to my ear and shook it, to make sure it was liquid. (I just hope it won’t be cow blood.)
I am careful with milk, because in other countries I already got butter milk, sour cream, liquid yogurt, sheep/goat milk and other weird things when I really wanted cow milk.
All nice things too. You seem to have missed out on camel milk
That culinary delight has indeed bypassed me so far, I think.
(I have ridden on camels though, in Australia and in Israel.)
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Judging by the photo of Lake Balaton the 3000 people are probably a minority in their home town during the summer months.
I have to say that the lake is about 5 km away. (I am probably the only person who walks there.) So I am not sure if this particular village is too affected by tourism. Although it does have a large number of ice-cream shops, come to think of it.
But walking along the shoreline of the lake, yes, you can absolutely see all the infrastructure ready for next summer. It looks a bit eerie and depressing now in winter, all those empty beaches, ice-cream parlors, bars and grills. Now, you can have everything to yourself, but of course with most places being closed.
I have family from Pest. Thirty years ago, I decided to see the town my father-in-law hailed from, I spent six months learning the language, at least enough to converse with the landlady at the logings I had secured. I figured that there might be some residual benefit from their historical connection to Austria, and whenever my Hungarian efforts failed me, I turned to German and the combination worked out fairly well. In the years since, I have lost the benefits of those six months’ study. I want to offer you the remains of useful Hungarian that I remember. ‘Két gombóc, kérem’ will get you two scoops of ice cream at the gelateria, and ‘Szeretném a nagy méretű vattacukrot’ will get you a very large cotton candy, especially in April when the lilacs are in bloom! According to my f-i-l, I never did get the accent just right, but my hankering for sweet treats was always well satisfied.
Hungarian is a crazy language. I hope these phrases make your days there happy ones.
Wow! Amazing that you still remember something after 30 years!
You must have used those candy-purchasing phrases a lot. 😉
This looks like the kind of place I’d love to retreat to in a few years. Not sure what I’d do all day, but it looks like a nice place to figure it out.
Interestingly enough, the people for whom I am house-sitting are from the UK and have early/semi-retired to Hungary.
And there are quite a few people here from central Europe who have moved east, where it’s cheaper to buy a house, cheaper to live, more quiet and relaxed. And with a direct train to Budapest and Zagreb, you are really still in the middle of Europe.
And, as I have been finding out, there are plenty of interesting places in the vicinity. Just today, I discovered two nice castles, one of them abandoned and maybe waiting for you. ;-) (Photos coming soon.)