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. 



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

The Budapest Central Markets

The Budapest market is located in a marvellous wrought iron and glass structure that is a cross between a palace, a 19th century railway station and a botanical garden glass house. It has the same feel as our own Adelaide Central Market with similar stalls especially food.



The Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Who is the odd man out? Tony Curtis, Graham Norton and Estee Lauder? Lets analyze this. All three used the same makeup foundation.  One passed away two years ago, the other two are alive. Two are Jewish and one is a gentile. Two are circumsized and one is not. Two donated zillions to the Great Synagogue in Budapest after the Hungarian Revolution for its restoration. So the correct answer is “Graham Norton” who despite circumcision, did not donate zillions to the synagogue.

Having trekked to and through many churches and cathedrals in Italy last year, to the exasperation of my companions, I spent Monday morning exploring the Jewish quarter. The Great Synagogue in Pest presents a decidely Christian aspect both inside and out: it has a long nave, a transept and elevated pulpits and an organ. It is to the unitiated, a catholic cathedral. The jewish sect in Pest are called Neologs and  intentionally designed their synagogue to keep the christians on side.This really upset the fundamentlst old school jews who left the synagogue in droves. There are two characteristics however that mark it as a synagogue: the men and women are separated at worship (unless you are the wicket keeper for the Bangladesh World Cup Cricket team)  and secondly the organ is absolutely not played on sundays. Tickling the ivories and stomping on the pedals is regarded as ‘work” and there is no work whatsover on the sabbath. I of course can verify this as even playing the Alto Recorder is hard, with a capital “H”, work. I then walked around the streets of what was the Jewish ghetto during the second world war with a guide who I would describe as the archetypal Jewish boy from the Bronx.

sunlight appears to strike the alter



The Budapest international airport , alternative name  Franz Liszt Aiport,  is rather unique if not quaint.  A vast and desolate cracked concrete apron, tall barbwire fences with concrete posts painted in faded red and white stripes, a double storey terminal with a few air bridges,  the only indication of 20th century infrastructure not to mention the parked sparse modern jets in the tarmac. It has a colourless, cold-war look and feel. I would not have been surprised if a DC3 landed and Humphrey Bogart disembarked, undid his trenchcoat and lite up a Camel… Or vice-a-versa.

But the cavernous arrival hall had more Hungarian security police than arriving passengers. At the foot of the stairs, before we reached immigration even, a couple of well endowed police persons (male and female) seemed to randomly pull across alighting passengers for a passport check. In truth it was far from random as the only criteria was that you were dressed in a burkah or bore a striking resemblence to Osama Bin Laden. Why on earth would you do this immediatley after the plane has safely landed? Other than this, the journey through customs and immigration was a cunundrum of contradiction, as I sped passed a bored immigration official, after a cursory glance at my passport and a mechanical stamp of an entry visa.  My back pack was one of the first up the chute , yet another benefit of travelling Business.
The customs hall had the usual red and green path assuming that that you are truthful about your declaration, I took the green door, to see before me a desolate, endless and totally unmanned corridor. Eddys of wind swirled the detritious of a take away society into the corners of the concourse and a large black security X-ray machine, cracked, covered in dust and cobwebs, looked as though it had last been fired up during  the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.
Travelling Business Class with Emirates has the added bonus of a limousine pick up and drop off service. At Budapest I am greeted by a clean cut Hungarian man in a huge black BMW. He instantly reminds me of Osley Miraveti both in looks and his accent and spoken English. It is more than a little disconcerting.
Just outside the airport is a large open aviation museum with several static aeroplanes from vintage to modern large jet aircraft which my chauffeur explains are open to all for climbing both inside and out. I make a mental note to return.
The drive from airport to the centre of the city takes about 20 minutes and as it is Sunday the roads are relatively free of traffic. Huge concrete housing estates built in the 1950s line the streets and one has a sense of desolation, intensified by the  avenues of dormant deciduous trees that to this australian, appear dead. But my first impression is that the residential parts of the city are similar in look and feel to East Berlin that I visited 2 years ago, but without the cancerous spreading graffiti of their more westernised european counterparts.
 Residential appartments by night
The Zenit hotel Budapest is very central with a great restaurant specialising in ham. I had slept rather fitfully on the plane I perceived, yet despite a few brief disruptions I awoke around 8:30 am Adelaide time and just 3 hours from landing. Then after a shower at the hotel slept again for 3 hours then got up and did a brief introduction to Budapest by night…. During which I became hopelessly disorientated.

How I create my blogs

A picture is worth a thousand words   

Hence my basic necessities are quite simple  


I must have music at the same time – either headphones or a Bluetooth speaker 


My room in the Zenit Hotel Budapest home for the next week 

I slept a few hours on arriving then walked the Danube River at night it was quite crisp but clear weather