Catherine Schwarz savours the linguistic vagaries of Hungary

‘Bull‘s blood and goulash‘ was the usual response of friends when they heard of my plans to go to a dictionary conference in Budapest. They might. had their Hungarian been up to it. have said ‘bikaver‘ and ‘porkolt‘ and given me advance warning ofthe general unpredictability ofthe Hungarian language.

There was no need. however. for a knowledge of the language on the hospitable Malev (Hungarian Airways) flight to Budapest. on which we first made the acquaintance of the many salamis and pickled guerkins with which we were to become very familiar over the following days. We arrived at the airport well fortified to withstand the comparative scrutiny of ourselves and our visa photographs in this apparently formal situation. our ignorance of the language was possibly a bonus. The two young officials lightened the tedium oftheir task by exchanging seemingly uncomplimentary and no doubt apt comments about the travellers.

ln Budapest I found it fun. ifa little frustrating. to wander round in an

only slowly diminishing cloud of incomprehension. I learned the hard way that ‘ferfi‘ does not mean ‘ladies‘. and that once the ‘nOi‘ is located and translated. it‘s not much use if accompanied by ‘zarva‘ (‘closed‘). Very few shop signs are instantly deducible. It can also be totally demoralising to realise that the point ofan obviously unsophisticated but presumably significant 10ft notice is completely beyond your grasp. Fortunately in conversation you usually get by with English or. more successfully. German relics of the old Austro-Hungarian empire still abound. Whatever language you use. you generally have to supplement it with sign language by pointing to the light on the dashboard and then to the heavens. we managed to relay to the perplexed taxi-driver that we wanted to go to the ‘Red Star‘ (‘Voros (.‘sillag‘) hotel. Once the penny had dropped. he spent the entire journey repeating to himself in a thick Hungarian accent ‘Red Star. Red Star‘. Perhaps he will find the phrase useful.

Taxis are only one of the many incredibly cheap forms of transport in Budapest. For 3 forints (l forint is just over lp) you can travel as far as you like on a bus. trolley-bus or tram. And it is helpful to know (when you realise that you have yet again misread the destination board of a bus and are crossing one of the

many Danube bridges to the side you don't want to be on) that for only

another 3 forints. you can at least get yourself back to square one. Square one is usually Moscow Square. Easier to cope with and just as cheap is the Metro. ()ne ofthe lines. opened in 1896. prides itselfon being the first underground line in Europe. ()n the other more recent lines. the Soviet-built wide-gauge cars are spacious. substantial and sneakingly reminiscent ofa poor man‘s Orient Express. Then there is the cog-wheel railway that lifts you gently through the leafy suburbs. past charming if elegantly ageing villas with sleepy black cats and chained Alsations to Szabadsag-hegy (Holiday Hill). This is 460 metres above sea-level and is the site in winterofthe ski slopes. Near the terminus of the cog-wheel


(01 493 0263) forthe visa application form. Otherwise. contact the Hungarian Consulate direct at 35b Eaton Place. London

Getting There

I A student airfare oftrom 2146 return to Budapest. departing Heathrow. is

railway is the starting point of yet another stalwart of the Budapest transport system. The Pioneer Railway runs for 7'/: miles through the picturesque and hiker-friendly woods. linking a number ofsmall communities with each other and with Budapest. It carries housewives and tourists. off-duty Russian national servicemen and hikers. and exuberant local family parties. complete with candy-floss. bretzels and plastic windmills. This narrow-gauge railway is staffed almost entirely by 8 to 1-1 year-olds. These station—masters. guards. ticket-collectors and signal operators. immaculate in diminutive navy and red uniforms. supervise efficiently and confidently the

Travel offer an accommodation booking service and will advise you on prices etc. Hostels and B & B are both relatively

available. Check your sun (01 235 2554) cheap. Tourist offices will studenttravel specialists 10am—12am Mon—Fri. 3'50 '9‘ 0‘" moms in WW3“! (Edinburgh Travel Centre or . houses. With these. you're Campus Travel in Glasgow) useful 2 supposed to vacate the forfull details and . roomforthe middle partof conditions. The cheapest 'n'ormatton the (fav- Apex flight is 2173. also I Most credit cards are 'BUSZ W93“ a"? "‘8 "'"eammw- accepted. An International has“: "emo'k ot'ou'is‘

For under 26s. Eurotrain Driving Licence is “me”. but they are mostly

and Transalpino do return rail fares for £142.10. with a Scottish add-onfare payable too.

Danube Travel (see next entry for contact number) does all-in city breaks at

compulsory. but Green Card Insurance. Contactyour nearestAA office for application form forthe licence. Drivers are not permitted any alcohol whilst driving. The climate

concerned with changing currency, booking rooms and hiring cars. They will supply you with basic information and maps. TOURINFORM at 17-19 Petoii utca in the Belvaros

“1me hotels. is generally continental- "i" be ab'emanswe' Getting 'n that is. it's cold in winter “"9",” "' "‘0"? “9'3"- and can be warm 5,, Opening hours: Mon—Sat I All British passport summer. Shops are open 33"“st 3"“ 3"" holders require visas. lfyou from 7am—7pm on slim-19m (tel 170 300)- are arriving by plane,you weekdays. Museums and "89"” can get a visa upon arrival, art galleries are open every - - but you'll need two day except Monday. Dank Pum'cat'ons passport-sized photos. your hours are 9am-1pm on I the ROUGH GUIDE To passport and a completed weekdays. Plug sockets are EASTERN EUROPE is an application form. And you continental. excellent source ofallyou may have to wait. There is a need in know about

fee payable. Send a SAEto Danube Travel. 6 Conduit Street. London W1 R 9T6

Where To Stay

I If you're not going on an inclusive holiday. Danube

Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Published by Harrap Columbus at £7.95.

smooth running of the train and the wellbeing of its passengers. Smart. perfectly-timed salutes greet the arrival of the train at. and acknowledge its departure from. each of the manned stations on its route. Youthful announcements are made too. clear and articulate. so that even the least-tutored passenger can recognise the names of the immanent stations Normafa. Janos-hegy. Huvosvolgy. Only the engine drivers are adult. and you wonder why. such is the efficiency of the youthful pioneers.

Budapest and Hungary have so much to offer architecture. museums. concerts. street markets and cafes. Options for pleasure are limitless. There's a trip on a service bus to the cathedral city of Esztergom. where only the Danube and a lack of a visa separate you from (.‘zechoslovakia. ()r a drive through expanses ol'sunflowers. stretching to the horizon and punctuated occasionally by grey Russian barracks surrounded by barbed wire fences. ()r you can sail on the (very un-bluel) Danube. with the fairy-tale silhouette of Old Buda as company. in the knowledge that in this country. where laissez-faire can unexpectedly take over. no-one is likely to tell you to relinquish the empty lemonade crates that you have commandeered as uncomfortable but necessary deck-stools. And there are surprises: realising that the soldier with dog guarding the radio mast just beside the conference centre actually has his rifle at the ready: enjoying the delightsoflocal supermarket shopping where wine costs ()0 forints a bottle and a local woman overcomes. somehow. language barriers to extol the virtues of her favourite brand of mineral water; and admiring the glories ofthe fruit and vegetable stalls. where grapes. peaches and wasps abound and mushrooms of all shapes. sizes and colours flaunt their variety. But all these delights were just tasters. This was. after all. a working week.

64 The List ll 24 November 1988