From Budapest to Corbridge (UK)

The flight to Newcastle was via Amsterdam and the departure time delayed by the late arrival of our plane to Budapest. Gusty high winds were to blame at Schipol and this proved to be true as we approached Amsterdam, the plane pitching and yawing and then a rather unexpected gentle landing, relatively speaking , so much so that the passengers broke out in a round of applause. It is possible with the GermanWings catastrophe still fresh in the minds  of the flying public, that the applause was more to do with the fact that we just landed, no matter how we did it!
At Newcastle, gusty winds again made landing diffucult and on this occasion the pilot indeed put the plane down rather heavily! There were a few squeals from the girls on board ( but not this one) and the First Officer apologised as we taxied to the apron.  
Quentin, my cousin and his wife Jan live in the village of Corbridge about 18 miles from Newcastle.
 
The weather forecast for yesterday was “rain developing by 4pm, then sleet arriving around 4:30pm followed by light snow around 6 pm.” Remember this is Spring! It was an education to realise that the BOM in the UK are just as likely to get it wrong as it’s Australian counterpart. By 4 pm it was snowing.
Here follows a few pictures of the mass of Spring bulbs in flower now around Corbridge.
 

the Peartree Bed and breakfast

  

  

walk from Corbridge to Hexham

  

Hexham Abbey

       

A special request – Szentendre

I have been asked by Chris to upload some more pictures of this delighful village. So here we are. Those photographs that are crystal clear were take by Chris, whilst mine may be a bit “foggy”!

There may be some  duplications from the previous post.  Chris is a superb photographer and showed me the finer points of taking snaps  with the iPhone. 

I    

               

A Day in the Country near Budpapest.

I met a delightful couple in Budapest, Chris and Garbor who invited me to spend the day with them and we drove to the village of Szentendre, about 30 km to the north of Budapest. 

 

Gabor, Chris and I

 
Some background: whenever there was a bend in a river, the ancient romans settled! The Danube was no exception and all along the highway from Budapest to Szentendre there are ancient ruins (other than me, I hasten to add) from Roman times.
 
Wikipedia says this about the history of Szentendre:

The area where Szentendre is today was uninhabited when the Magyars arrived. In the 9th century, Árpád’s companion, the sacral prince Kurszán, settled here. He renovated the Roman fortress that had fallen into ruin and re-established a settlement on the remains of the Roman building. Little is known about the history of Szentendre between the 9th and 10th centuries. 


My comment : If you read the preceding paragraph in a  cursory way, in all probability, you missed this questionable use of english : “Árpád’s companion, the sacral prince Kurszán, settled here…” Now if Arpad was a male, then it is possible that Prince Kurszan may indeed have been his sacral companion, but I rather suspect that the correct adjective is ‘sacred’.

The city was largely depopulated in the Turkish era. According to a 17th-century census, only one family and their service staff remained here at that time… one family!

After the Turks were expelled from the area, foreign settlers moved to the settlement. Today evidence of the town’s prosperity in this time can be seen in the baroque style of the houses, the Mediterranean atmosphere of the town’s architecture, its beautiful churches, the cobblestoned streets, and its narrow alleys. 

There was also considerable Dalmatian immigration. The Dalmatian families settled on Donkey Mountain where Dalmát Street preserves their memory today. Even in the 1980s, this street was inhabited exclusively by descendants of the original Dalmatians. 


But I can’t say that I saw any, which begs the question “How do you spot a Dalmatian”?   I know terrible pun!  So rather than bore the reader with words, here are some pictures of Szentendre.

 

village square , the flowers are real

 

 

A very quiet street !

 

   

panorama of the village square

  

  

  

  

Idle conference  jottings

Some unrelated jottings during a couple if boring conference sessions.


I had a sense of unease and frustration from day one at the conference. As english is my first and only language, I can’t morally complain about a failure to comprehend when the presenter has a thick Russian accent at a conference in Hungary. Secondly I am bombarded by the very worst convoluted unfathomable PowerPoint slides. Finally at least two sessions discussed new and novel ways to deliver medication to the patient using inventions that have been engineered in a small start up company in which, if one reads the small print of the financial disclosure, the presenter has an interest. 

Many of the papers described using various types of electrical or magnetic stimulation of specific superficial cranial nerves. 

Unashamedly, enrolled patient numbers in these trials were often less than a few dozen!  All one can categorically state is that based on statistically questionable studies of  a few migraneurs, these medical technology companies will make many millions of dollars.

Migraine is often crippling with protracted vomiting. So a minute pump with silastic tubing could deliver the abortive drug into the rectum. How this might work is conjectural but it would certainly take the focus away from the head. Imagine what a creative advertising company could come up with

” yes we know, migraine is a bummer…”

“Migraine – get your head round this…”

” Migraine – does not have to be a pain in the butt.. Or does it?”

” Migraine – we have the answer to your annus horribilus”

” We guarantee to get to the bottom of your migraine”.
Another technology company displayed a leather upholstered reclining chair with a circular magnet which sat on and around the skull. Picture an expensive old fashioned hair salon perm chair but more like a Jason recliner. Elderly patients who were mildly forgetful, sat in this contraption and whilst a high powered magnetic field swirled around their skull, at the same time they were submitted to mind games on a computer screen. Doing this every day for a few months apparently improved  their mental ability which was maintained for at least 12 months.

Surfing my news feeds threw up this bit of fascinating trivia: the results of a 2011 census found only 2,418 self-identified Scientologists in England and Wales. (In contrast, 176,632 respondents identified as Jedi Knights.)


Back to the conference! Hans Lassman a member of the faculty presenting on MS looked for all the world like Victor Borge and on beginning his presentation , had his voice and accent! 
  

day 1 was held in the Hungarian Academy of Science

 

Back to the Present

In the morning I walked along the Danube to the wondrous architectural masterpiece, the national Parliament. Imagine my surprise when 4 young soldiers materialised on the steps and proceeded to give a precision demonstration of genuine sabre dancing. Now this is what Marilyn should introduce at her establishment. I made a brief video and if I ever discover how to upload it, I shall include In the meantime a picture of the parliament.

the National Parliament building

  

the National Parliament building close up

  

the National Parliament building side view

Then I meandered along the main retail Avenue of Budapest – think Armeni and Zegna.  This wide thoroughfare terminates at a great Park with castles and the famous Szechenyi Baths. It is impossible to describe this watery wonderland and I assumed that taking pictures would be prohibited. It is a vast complex of spa, steam, sauna plunge pools, outdoor and indoor pools and 2 large wave pools. I hasten to explain that this does not mean that groups of  young  Hungarian men sit at each end of  the pool and wink a and wave at each other, sadly. The complex has acres of mosaic tiles and I fantasise that this was exactly how the Ancient Romans and Greeks bathed. There are excellent photographs on the Web.

I was offered an “eternal youth massage” using grape seed oil to which has been added more than 27 minerals extracted from the Dead Sea. The irony of promising  eternal youth using an extract from the Dead Sea where there is no living organism, I judged would he lost on my rather muscular masseuse. But I did feel significantly younger – until I got up from the couch and hobbled to the door.

  

the main entrance to the baths. If only the Norwood Pool had something similar!

   

That evening I had made a booking at the Aranyszaras restaurant which I had stumbled across on my day walk. It had a fascinating menu, a “Michelin Recommended” sticker in the window and excellent reviews in TripAdvisor. I am an adventurous diner and as with my custom to attend local musical concerts, I will seek out local eateries and ask the staff to help choose a menu of local fare. 

It appears that the Hungarians are the European equivalent to the Chinese when it comes to utilising literally every part of a beast in their cooking. I confess that I will not allow Tofu or chicken claws to pass my lips in an Asian establishment. When in Hungary I do as the Hungarians do but I draw the line at minced bull’s testicle. Indeed the mere thought of it brings tears to my eyes and induces a brisk cremasteric reflex.
To save you the irritation of a Google search: 

The cremasteric reflex is a superficial (i.e., close to the skin’s surface) reflex observed in human males.

This reflex is elicited by lightly stroking the inner thigh with the 3rd finger. The normal response is an immediate contraction of the cremasteric muscle that pulls up the ipsilateral testis….” 

Having uncrossed my legs, here are pictures of the Hungarian dishes that the waiter recommend. 

 

Entree: Hazi szarvaskolbasz mustarral or.. Home made deer sausage with mustard

 

Main Course: Muflon porkolt, lilahagymas tarhonyaval or Mouflon stew with egg barley and purple onion. Meflon is a sort of wild deer or venison.

Budapest in 5 easy walks.

I have ticked all the “must see sights” according to the City Walks brochure. Sadly I have missed the Marilyn Night Club which promises “table dancing, lap dancing, strip tease show…. Beautiful Hungarian dancers” and this all for free entry…I asked the young Hungarian man at breakfast if there had been a spelling mistake (lost in translation) and it should have stated: “sabre dancing and tap dancing”? He reassured me that it was spelt correctly. I could not imagine anything more painful than someone dancing on my lap. I assume that one removes one’s shoes? When I learned ballroom dancing in High School and even purchased dancing pumps, my teacher was constantly emphasising that one “danced on one’s balls.” I am absolutely sure that she did not in any way or form imagine this variation. 

I suspect that I had a much more enjoyable time at my evening baroque concert in the  Saint Stephen Basilica which was programmed on the principle to “send them away happy”. There were no less than 5 variations or versions of Ave Maria scattered throughout the evening for organ, soprano, tenor, violin and lastly trumpet! Sadly the rather intimate nature of the event was negated in the cold cavernous cathedral so despite the acoustics, the evening felt rather flat. Now if there had been a more than reasonable Alto Recorder in the ensemble…

When travelling in each major city, I always try to attend a classical music concert or opera, for several reasons. Most of my readers will know that music is a love and on an equal footing with medicine. Secondly listening to famous international ensembles and thirdly the concert halls and opera houses of  Europe are beautiful architectural creations and a ticket to a performance gets me inside for a not so free tour.

As a consequence I have been blessed to witness some truly memorable musical occasions. A production of The Barber of Seville at the Swedish Royal Opera house in Stockholm during 2012 spings to mind.

Then there is the spontaneous  and totally unexpected memorable  musical moment. One such occurred  whilst I was in Brazil.

At Tiradentes I stayed at the Pousada Solar da Ponte. This was an abandoned, half completed mansion, stumbled upon by a dapper and friendly Englishman and his portuguese wife almost 40 years ago! They purchased it, financed it’s completion into a 4 star pousada! The owner, John, now in his 80 s was a chatty delightful host. 

The ornate church in Tiradentes housed the sole remaining organ of a renowned portuguese organ builder from the 18th century. By lucky coincidence John informed me  there was an organ recital on the Friday night so I went along! Varied programme of conventional western 16 and 17th organ music including of course J.S.Bach. I will never forget that evening.
 

the Opera house

 


3 Home Truths

As a consequence of a whole day of trekking around Budapest, it has been clearly driven home to me that

I am a senior citizen
I am a foreigner in a strange land
I am straight with a capital “S”.

Now that I have your  undivided  attention I will write a few thoughts first, then explain myself as clearly and objectively  as any member of the present cabinet in our egalitarian country.

There has not been a single tourist attraction which charges  admission, that has not assumed I am entitled to a Senior discount. Indeed despite warning that concession tickets will only be provided with correct ID, be it student or pensioner, I have never been asked to show proof of age! I toy with the idea of trying to confuse and confront the box office staff by explaining that I am a mature age student. The poor staff are stressed enough with the wheelbarrow loads of Hungarian Forints that are required for entry. The last of the Russian thought police left as late as 1991, so decide not to push my luck.

I have commented favourably on the lack of foreign tourists in Budapest and indeed it is possible that the featherless-fur-topped-oriental-biped, may becoming an endangered species? They usually migrate in huge flocks but inexplicably, have been known en masse to plunge over cliffs on isolated sandy bays as far a field as the Gold Coast in Queensland. They have an uncanny ability to  navigate and are never seen, in Australia at least, out side of Sydney, Ayres Rock and Cairns. A unique experiment conducted last year compared 100 in whom their ipads, a sort of homing device,  had been delicately excised, compared to 100 with an intact iPad. Those with their ipads removed, were subsequently found, obviously disiorientated as far a field as Kangaroo Island, whilst one was found near death on the Nullabour Plains.  

It would be of intense interest to David Attenborough and indeed to Charles Darwin were he still alive, to discover the rapidity with which evolution has made remarkable changes to the featherless-fur-topped-oriental-biped. Within the space of 2 at most 3 years, many have  developed an obvious protrubance around the anterior shoulder and arm (either side) which will extend quite dramatically and often without warning. The reason or advantage for this was shrouded in mystery for a few years and it was not until a lone animal was secretly video-ed at dawn on Bondi Beach with this protuberance, phallic like and fully extended with an iPad at the tip!  There is still debate about what this behaviour achieves. The most obvious hypothesis is that it is a mating ritual, a sort of “here I am, don’t I look fabulous, come and get me’.
But I digress, I am certainly instantly recognised, not only as an old man, but a foreigner plus tourist and therefore wealthy. I am enticed into shops to buy, I am approached by numerous young men flashing what appears to be an Apple iPhone 6 in cellophane wrap and available to buy at an insanely cheap price.  A cheap Apple product is an oxymoron! Just as there have been since time immemorial cheap imitation swiss watches, so we can look forward to the Apple equivalent and with the same expectations for reliability.  
Now, to respond to the howls of doubt and derision from the likes of Peter James-Martin, I present evidence of my Hungarian masculinity. My hotel, excellent situation almost on the Danube, I discovered over the last two evenings, is also smack bang in the middle of the red-light district. Meandering home after a couple of late nights walking along the Danube embankment, I am accosted on each and every night by young women who are keen to “get to know me” and “give me a good time”.  I try various excuses: “too tired”,  “not interested” and the ultimate untruth : “too many beers”. I must be secreting testosterone by the bucket load, as a semi circle of Hungarian mistresses are becoming more moist with every passing minute and I fear that I will be woman-handled to the asphalt. I pull my ultimate weapon out of my pocket… NO not that one, and in a squeaky high pitched voice explain that I have a boyfriend and he would not be impressed if I acquiesced. There is stunned silence, then one madam questions ‘you have a BOYFRIEND?”  Yes I retort, and to a woman they all exclaim “we don’t believe you”! 
It was so easy and as the Hon Christopher Pyne stated so succinctly ” I Fixed it, I am a FIXER!” 
I carried on home intact. 
 

Saint Stephens Basilica

 
 

Saint Stephens at night

  

Interior of Basilica – i attended a concert about which i shall write some more later