Sopron

Sopron

2019

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25 May, Saturday

In the Rockline bar here in Sopron (pop. 63,000) I made some new friends. I got invited to join the one remaining table, once the other stragglers had gone. Like in a playground, one of the first things they asked was my age. T. said she only knew L. because L. had once interviewed her for a survey. T. had dark, kind eyes and lovely teeth. Z. the waiter told stories from his night at the Corvinus restaurant on Fő tér, the main square. I think the group expected to have to speak German to the stranger. It’s a border town, a beautiful Baroque border town, but the fact that I don’t make a dog’s dinner of Hungarian was a source of wonder.

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26 May, Sunday

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Leonard Cohen is coming calmly over the speakers at the Generális restaurant on Fő tér as a man with no arms steadily and assiduously eats spaghetti at the next table. Cohen now sings The Partisan with the angelic French chorus and the rhythm of a fluttering heartbeat. Last night P. the barman claimed Sopron hadn’t suffered too much in the war because it wasn’t on the railway line between Budapest and Vienna. It was out of the way, he added.

The man with no arms has gone, with his wife. A Thalidomide victim, with small hands. Very small hands. But he managed to smoke and drink as well, while his wife was in the Goat Church across the square.

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By his accent the man at the nearest table on the other side is from Dublin. He has gone pensive after settling up with a Danke blurted to the Köszönöm szépen from the waitress. He’s no spring chicken and now he’s off on his phone again. He seems to want to know badly if two Irishmen died on Mount Everest in the past week. They did. Will I bother telling him? He’s about to leave.

Told him. A talkative chap in need of a shave, he was in Hungary to walk from Sopron to Lenti. As well as something of his life on the buses, he told me he’d got up as far as the third level on Everest but then remembered his age (62) and had the sense to turn back and get down off it. After a pizza, a Coke, a bottle of Soproni beer and some ice cream, I too turned back and took to the bed for most of the sunny afternoon. The slight headache while sitting at the restaurant table went away and I’m keen on some rest.

A shower was taken to wake me up for dinner. A bath soak had done it before lunch. At first I went up in the lift to the Museum Café beside the Fire Tower. There I drank another bottle of Soproni, a Coke and a water while a kids’ quiz took place beside me. I didn’t sit out on the terrace. It had rained eventually while I was indoors and the free tables and seats were uncovered and wet. There’s no view out there anyway.

Afterwards I chose the Corvinus for dinner, having spotted my waiter friend downing a beer in a quiet moment on the quieter side of the building, facing the town hall. The venison stew was fine even though they threw some hash browns on the plate for trunking. I might have gone for something more expensive but hadn’t got around to taking out more forints. The 5,000 I had was enough for the plate, a beer and a decent tip for my man. The view from the table was free.

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As I left, cars were pulling up on the square and election boxes were being carried into the town hall. Those involved were all dressed up, like for a wedding.

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By half past ten I ventured out once more for provisions like water, chocolate and peanuts. There’s a small 24h élelmiszer near the Rockline on Ógabona tér. The pub was closed, as Z. had predicted, though my phone had indicated a late opening. Then again, its online presence also says “Gastropub” when all I saw there was peanuts.

27 May, Monday

At the Erhardt Panzió they have a good, varied breakfast menu to go with the basics laid out for the bleary-eyed. This means they don’t have to waste time and ingredients cooking uneaten food. The pretty young blonde with the glasses asked me if I wanted anything off it but, though bacon and eggs would normally be cool, I just said, ah nem, túl korán nekem (ah no, too early for me) and she smiled and went away.

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The next time I’ll even try the restaurant in the garden. After a chat with the same sweet girl as I paid at reception, I walked straight down Mátyás Király utca to the station and soon left Sopron.

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Bad directions from a stranger had given me the runaround from there on Saturday night. Anyway, just an hour and a quarter later, I was back in Vienna, with many photos of Sopron.

 

 

 

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Tihany

Tihany

Tihany…

I was here in April 2009. Tihany village lies near the narrowest point of the eighty-mile-long Lake Balaton. The little lake behind the village (see the video below) is a geological anomaly that is 25 m higher than the real one. The stone jetty below the Benedictine abbey is on the eastern side of the peninsula. The hazy Balaton is a light, smoothie green. We had lunch below the crest of the great lake view beside the abbey (apatság) and then we got the ferry to the south shore.

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This short drone video (courtesy of Zoltán Tóth) is well worth watching.

Old Parish and Helvick

Old Parish and Helvick

This is the Irish south coast, in the nominally Irish-speaking part of Co. Waterford that centres on An Rinn (‘Ring’, which translates as headland or promontory). The road signs are all in Irish, the schools teach through that medium, but most of the people there use English most of the time. Nevertheless if a visitor wants to speak the language, he or she will be accommodated. They all know it and can show it off. In any pub or café the language can commonly be overheard.

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The Old Parish (Sean Phobal) area, it is locally believed, was the first Christian parish in Ireland, in late Roman times, and indeed this part of the south coast was the first Christian part of the island. Many of the gravestone inscriptions are wholly or partly in Irish.

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One of the roads to Helvick Head from Old Parish is known as Sea View or Radharc na mara. Helvick is a place name of obvious Scandinavian origin and the rocky shelf to which the name refers can still be seen beyond where the fishing harbour wall meets the hill.

 

Paris … Another 48 Hours

Paris … Another 48 Hours

2019

23 March, Saturday

Tired on the road to Cork even though JP was driving. The flight was a bit short for sleeping. Just and hour and a quarter. We checked into our rooms at the Verlain and went straight to St. Germain. The Bar du Marché was too busy but it was only when we sat down at Café Buci that I remembered I’d been there before. Sick in late December 2013. The tough boeuf and the sweet waitress. This time we had a couple of bottles of beer, a couple of large kirs (my vote) and a cold platter that was much more than just meat and cheese (that was JP’s vote).

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I felt immediately relaxed and refreshed, though by the time we got to the Piano Vache, via the Sorbonne and the Place du Panthéon, where the setting sun lit up the stone, I was feeling the mixture of a couple of strong drinks with the underlying fatigue. It had been a busy week.

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Anyway, the beer fridge in the Piano Vache was suspiciously poorly stocked and the chap behind the counter was really only interested in rolling dice on the counter. We still managed with what was available and P. caught up with us before dark. Different flight.

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Dinner (for me) was a pizza at an Italian restaurant JP knew, around the corner. There I quietly realized how much Italian I’d forgotten. The white tablecloth reminded me of a sinking feeling of anxiety typical at weddings but I held it together.

When we left that place, JP called an Uber and a large, pretty girl with ripped jeans and lovely North African eyes took us over to the Cork & Cavan by the Canal St. Martin. 

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There, as if by magic, I managed to locate a copy of The Cynic’s Handbook on the bookshelves.Running my fingers along the nearest volumes, I found it by touch alone. Told JP to keep it, especially as it had the pub stamp and all. Next time I’ll bring a few more copies over. We left before closing time, after all three of us ran out of steam.

 

24 March, Sunday

Up before noon in a better state than I’d feared at five in the morning. We went to Montparnasse and had lunch at Le Select. You can never go wrong there with the cheese burger and the crispy chips (fries). Lunch needed to be simple and tasty.

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Then we marched to the station to get the 14.09 to Chartres. The Paris suburbs were misty grey. The cathedral is a class apart and I’ve seen a few.

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On 16 August 1944 the Americans believed the Germans were using the cathedral as an observation post. It was about to be shelled to bits when Col. Welborn Barton Griffith, accompanied by a single enlisted man, entered the German-occupied town. They got to the cathedral and climbed to the top of the bell tower. Finding no Germans inside, the colonel returned to his own lines and prevented the shelling. Later that day he was killed two miles north of the town.

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After a couple of drinks in Le Serpente, P. and I went in. JP was in it twice before. He wandered off. When we found him again, he and I had fortifying Irish coffees in a café where a glass exploded behind the counter. On the train back I had a nap and then a job to explain all the Brexit threats to a fellow passenger, a woman sitting on a facing seat. Both she and P. had been frustrated by the locked toilets on the train. C’est difficile à expliquer, même en anglais. But she got the picture.

JP suggested we go to the Galway by the St. Michel metro, within sight of Notre Dame. He knew it from his nephew, who’d eventually got barred.  The easygoing girls behind the counter were from Toronto and Sheffield. One or two oddballs drank there, including a black American who spoke like an actor and kept calling the Canadian girl “Honey biscuit” to JP’s disdain. He wore a cloth cap, a black leather jacket and fingerless black gloves. P. stayed until midnight or so and JP and I left at closing time (2 AM).

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Notes on Budapest, November 2018

Notes on Budapest, November 2018

23rd November, Friday

Ninety percent of the passengers on the plane were women. Christmas market excitement was at fever pitch in the hen house. Our young taxi driver was very talkative and I wanted to go back into the language at the deep end. After checking in at the Opera Residence apartments, JP and I went to the Pótkulcs bar near Nyugati station. Michael caught up with us there. The staff were sour and unpleasant. The Kőbányai beer and the atmosphere were OK.

 

24th November, Saturday

We had lunch in the Central Kávéház and dessert in Café Gerbeaud before the clockwise walking tour continued.

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Over in Buda, I should have cut out everything between Bécsi kapu (the Vienna gate) and Szent István körút, as inessential. Darkness fell but back in Pest I guided the lads as far as Beckett’s on Liszt Ferenc tér.

I’m deep in action on a secret mission,
Contact’s broken down
Time drags by, I’m above suspicion,
There’s a voice on the telephone

When I got there, the lads were on high stools. I paid my respects to Declan and he put up a pint on the house.

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At two in the morning we were the last to leave but the goulash (& bread) had been excellent trunking. We had slipped away for a while to explore other places in the rain but Szimpla Kert had a young queue and Kuplung and Fekete Kutya seemed to be gone. We only had the one in Kisüzem. Lower lighting might help there. It’s brighter than this stock photo suggests.

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25th November, Sunday

Half past eleven, I was first into Beckett’s for the full Irish (breakfast). More rain. Having an earlier flight, Michael left in a taxi for the airport after that.

 

After the basilica, JP and I passed more time in one of the three elegant Café Vians before heading to the airport ourselves. The same taxi driver picked us up. Same non-stop chat.