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.

 

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.

 

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Dr. John Flynn

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19th June, Sunday

Bratislava near nine, Sunday night. I’m in a café, the Papillon, off Hlavné námestie, the main square in the old town, with a pot of tea. The kitchen’s closed but there’s a terrific downpour outside and I’ll have to wait until it stops, to find food, which will most likely be of the fast variety. The Earl Grey (“Early Grey” on the menu) is nice, actually, and I wasn’t that hungry to begin with but must eat something before bed. Up early, I’ll go around the Staré mesto (old town) again and maybe get into some churches. At the Hotel Tatra I managed to sleep a couple of hours in a big room. It’s a four-star and makes a change from the box room at the Strasser in Graz.

The Schlossberg hill is a genuine attraction in Graz and I’m glad I checked the city…

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An afternoon in Salzburg

An afternoon in Salzburg

August 2018

Had an afternoon to pass in Salzburg on my way to Munich from Linz. Though the thronged Getreide Gasse as always shows anthills to be only in their infancy (I gave it a miss), elsewhere is generally more relaxed and you can hear Mozart seeping out of windows, both chorally and instrumentally. Drank two beers in the Zipfer Bierhaus, which I knew was an interesting place from previous visits in spring and summer 2015. Given the hot day, I sat inside at one of the round tables near the counter, where it was cool.

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Most other customers sat outside the front entrance. I was near the staff, who were particularly relaxed and friendly, but one cannot point a camera in their faces. There seemed to be a buzz around a shift change between three and four. It was a pity I had to leave before five o’clock.

 

 

Regensburg

Regensburg

August 2018

There’s a lot to see in Regensburg but not much to do at night. I know it was only a Tuesday but, given the amount of tourists, I’m surprised the town wants to shut down by eleven, like a curfew. I was having an acceptable homemade dunkel at the Weissbräuhaus when the waitress told me, Ich muss kassieren. No problem but I added I wanted to try the helles (lighter-coloured) version before I left.

Whatever it was that I got, it wasn’t even cold. The receipt suggested a different drink altogether (“Alt. Bayr.”) but given the suspicious delay in bringing the drink, I don’t believe it was a mistake. Just throw something out to him, we’re closing early. The last bottle on the shelf.

Anyway, I left it there. I wasn’t going to be bothered giving grief to the waitress and I’d heard enough of the Himmler inside, pontificating behind the counter whenever she went near him. Pity I tipped her before I tasted it, though. In contrast, the sweet girl with the very pretty dark eyes at the Ratskeller (where I’d had a meal, earlier) well deserved hers.

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I told her it was her luck too that the ticket machine at the train station in Freising was very temperamental about the banknotes it would accept. A girl beside me there had offered twice to swap notes but I already had a fistful of them. Ended up with too many coins in the change, having had to fire in a twenty to cover the last two euro of the fare. Getting to Freising from Munich airport was easy, quick and cheap on the 635 bus. The train onward then cut the Munich to Regensburg journey in half.

As well as the many cobbled alleys here, there are numerous pedestrianised streets but for some reason cars are still allowed to drive down them, albeit relatively slowly. Another thing to look over your shoulder for is the cyclists, especially at night when it becomes evident that having a light on one’s bike is, for many here, not an example of Germanic order.

The Ratskeller has a lovely bottle of beer on the menu. It’s called Regensburger Bruckmandl. Blue label. 33 cl. Quite strong too. Three of them combined with evening heat to make crossing the Steinernebrücke (over and back) not something I’d have liked to do in a hurry.

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At Regensburg the Danube has divided in three. The setting sun and the greenery made up for the never-ending works on the old bridge.