Sunday, July 29, 2007

Speed Bump

Hungarians don't consider a bump in the road just an obstacle, they actually refer to a speed bump as a cop in the ground.

Fekvő rendőr means a lying policeman. It's how Hungarians say speed bump. It sounds a bit like, "Fuck you rendőr," the type of language that Burnapest does not condone in any way.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Transylvania Sans Dracula

Last week was hotter than csípős paprika, and Burnapest's throng flocked to water in all its forms. A lesser known spot to cool down is this trickling beauty called Phaeton Cascade. It's not technically in Hungary -- it lies about 100 kilometers past the Romanian border -- but with a quarter of the population speaking Hungarian, you might never know it.
The waterfall is named after the Greek myth of Phaeton, the son of Apollo who wished more than anything to drive the ornery chariot of fire. As a half mortal he failed and plunged into the icy waters below. The name is fitting because the cascade resembles an icy beam of light falling from an insurmountable height.

The waterfall was tough to get to. It involved a tough trek up a steep grade of loose gravel, but it was well worth it. The top of the waterfall is the source of a clean mountain spring and the cool shower at the base will wash the sweat right away.
If you're unable to find the waterfall, there's a lot more to see in the area if you have a car -- travel in Romania is next to impossible without one. The Magyars call the region Erdélyi, and I call the horseshoe shaped range at the base of the Carpathians just plain beautiful. Grab a topo for Padis and explore yourself (you sure as hell won't find it on Google maps).

The Bear's Caves are close and they're easy enough to find. The caves are famous for their striations and the fact that a bunch of cave bears were trapped inside when the cavern collapsed tens of thousands of years ago. Another waterfall, Szerenad in Hungarian, is nearby.

There are several of pensions and cabins in the area and an internet search will lead you there. For the more adventurous, however, the only accommodations worth noting are the ones in the quaint bedrooms of a local's home. Here's a picture of our hosts:
This is Teréz Lőrincz and her daughter. Teréz doesn't speak a lick of English or Romanian, but that won't stop her from telling you -- through a set of silver incisors -- the deep-seeded and tumultuous history of Hungarians in Transylvania. It's been a black eye for Hungary since the end of World War I when the Treaty of Trianon left the country a fraction of its former glory. Nowhere is it felt more than in these guarded walls in the Romanian countryside.

For a a real glimpse of Hungary 50 years ago, step into
Teréz's mother's room. Even though the woman died four years ago, her room and the adjoining "clean" room have been preserved better than the raspberry jam you get for lunch. Speaking of food, that's the real value of the weekend, which runs about 30 euros.

Breakfast: fried bacon fat, spicy lecso, homemade butter and cheese, fried eggplant and a nasty spirit steeped in herbs and onions.
Lunch: sandwiches and fruit, whew!
Dinner: green bean or cauliflower soup, fried veal, mashed potatoes, liver, onions, and, of course, lots of Palinka (this is the traditional Hungarian spirit. If you don't drink a little, you might get smacked with a stick by
Teréz's husband Péter).

If you speak a little Hungarian and you want to give it a try, here's the number: 04-0745-496994

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perfect Party Phrase

The latest Burnapest expression comes from Balaton Sound, where there was lots of sunbathing, drinking and dancing. Of course, at times like this, when the Palinka is flowing and everybody cheers when "Groove is in the Heart" plays, things tend to get a little sloppy. That's when you say:

"Kész Vagyok..."

Literally, it means, "I'm ready." But when you should have been in bed an hour ago and your memory is fading, it really means, "I'm done."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Balaton Sound

The first Balaton Sound festival went off without too many problems. It's hard to beat such a mellow daytime feeling where music drifts in on a soft breeze while taking a dip in chilly Lake Balaton. There were the obligatory gripes about commercialism, but it must be difficult for the organizers to turn a profit on just the ticket sales.

There was an emphasis on soul and ethnic music on the festival's main stage.

The Beastie Boys unveiled their new instrumental album.

The Brand New Heavies played from their new album as well but found more success in playing the classics.And, the Basement Jaxx played a surprisingly diverse set with lots from the horn section and a new wardrobe from the female vocalists every two songs.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Get out of the way!

Friday is a great time to learn a new expression, so here we go! Have you ever been watching television, perhaps an intense basketball game or a movie with subtitles when someone ventures lackadaisically into your line of sight?

You might say, "You make a better door than a window," to the obstacle in question. Well, the Hungarians have a similar saying:

"Apad nem volt üveges!"

It means, literally, your father was not a glass maker. It seems to get the same point across.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Balaton Boogie Time

The first ever Balaton Sound begins tonight and goes on through the weekend. The music festivus is the second major alternative music gathering in Hungary this summer. Last week, Prodigy and the Roots rocked the Volt Festival. Check out Swedish band Koop from the Sopron shindig.

Balaton Sound should be interesting because it takes place on the southern bank of Europe's largest body of fresh water, Lake Balaton. Three "Bs" of master mixing will all be there: Beastie Boys, Brand New Heavies and Basement Jaxx.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sex Sells, but at What Cost?

Just below trendy Deák Ferenc square in Budapest lies a modest installation with a lofty goal: to wipe sexist ads from billboards and kiosks throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Ads and Gender Project asserts that this one step would change the way women are often treated like sex objects.

Check out the Hungarian website Tű for some better examples. It may sound prudish, but many ads are shockingly sexist. That's what the advertisers want, of course, for the consumer to be shocked and aroused. But here's the rub: the European Union has set standards for woman's equality, and Hungary isn't exactly known for stamping out chauvinism. The EU, however, doesn't exactly practice what it preaches. Check out this promo for European film.

This free exhibit steers the boat in the right direction. By speaking through pictures instead of lectures -- which of course are also offered as part of the program -- the viewer understands the dichotomy of real life and consumerism. These artists don't demand change, they ask for it nicely. They don't trample free-speech rights, they suggest advertisers police themselves and find more creative ways to sell their product beyond pasting a 10-meter-tall ass on the side of the street.

Whether or not that's the most effective form of feminism remains to be seen. It would be foolish to adopt another form of feminism when Hungary, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, is such a unique country that has seen so much change in the last 20 years. Many hold violently to "traditional" values and though the woman's movement is about 100 years old here, it's never made much of an impact on fundamentalists. Shocko, shocko...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

White Pride Meets Gay Pride in Budapest

Burnapest officially launches with a recap of last weekend's clash between the spandex-clad supporters of gay pride and the fuzzy-scalped guardians of "traditional Hungarian values."

Budapest's Pride Parade coincided with the city's 12th annual LGBT film and culture festival, and there was even a high-ranking government official, Gabor Szetey, there to come out of the closet. The parade was relatively modest; an MTI story estimated 2,000 people marched. There were a couple of floats blasting Euro house, some rainbow flags and a large contingent of conservatively dressed supporters meandering down Budapest's main avenues.

Of course, at least 20 police cars, several police wagons, a mobile command center, and countless foot patrols followed. Unfortunately, Budapest's finest, though prepared for the worst, failed to stop a reported barrage of eggs, bottles and sandbags from injuring at least eight merry marchers.

The attackers consisted of the usual suspects: skinheads, fascists and toothless old hags. What was most disturbing, however, was the reaction of onlookers who just happened to be having a coffee on the sidewalk.

One man remarked, "How can they do this when the country is facing so many problems already." He added that Hungary was a Christian country and there was already enough corruption, greed and criminality to repent for. The last thing the country needed, he continued, was to add unbridled sodomy to the list.

The guy probably didn't want to hear that Jesus would most likely side with Sodomites than sloped-brow pipe-wielding protesters near Baross Utca.

To the credit of State Secretary of Justice and Law Enforcement Ferenc Kondorosi, the police did come out in force and they are now committed to finding and calling to account all those who committed a crime.

I'm sure the department's most senior inspectors are out combing neighborhoods right now, knocking on the doors of known rabble rousers and impounding rotten eggs by the dozen. Good luck. I guess changing the attitudes of a "Christian" nation may take more than a billy club and a badge.