Friday, August 26, 2005

Gentleman Poster

Clearing off some pics from my phone, I found this one from a couple of weeks ago. A very simple poster but no promotion of any sale or cause. It may have had something to do with the shop close by specializing in hunting apparel, but maybe not.

Whoever the gentleman poster of gentleman posters is, I salute you. I enjoyed the strange posters campaigning for the protection of Jókai tér and these are pretty good too. More please!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Doggy Don't Do Doggy Do

Not sure how long these have been around in Budapest but I noticed new signs up on a couple of streets telling people to pick up the poop and pop it in a proper potty place (sorry, once I started I couldn't stop). The one here translates to, "Not a single Teréz district dog can clean up after you".

Updated! - 2005-08-25 12 noon

Read moreIt appears that Budapest councils have invested in proper poo bins for dogs. Maybe they got one too many letters from irate drunks who got a handful of crap when they were fishing for cigarette butts. Maybe not.

Personally I think they're great. I don't have a dog but welcome any effort to get the shit off the streets. I'm always having to tell visitors not to gaze at the architecture too much, they have to keep an eye on the pavements if they don't want a smelly squelch in their sandals.

The bins are well thought out. They even have a plastic bag dispenser for you to scoop up the stuff, though I wonder how long they will last out in the wild. The Mobil WC website is also worth a whirl, if only for their "English toilets" (Angol WC). Apparently we English will rest our posteriors on only the poshest of porcelain.

Just read a story about Budapest spending $1 million on a special campaign to stamp out doggy do. Mind you, I spend most of my days trying not to stamp on it.

City officials estimate that Budapest's 400,000 dogs produce around 14,600 tonnes of dog waste each year, more than the weight of the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye combined.

All we need is a shocking artist to recreate full-size national monuments out of the crap on the streets and it would become a tourist attraction.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Big Celebration

I suppose if I'm meant to be writing about Hungarian things then I can't really leave out St. Stephen's Day. Good old St. Stephen is the big hero for the country, mainly because he got the various tribes together to form the first proper Hungary. He's also the man deemed responsible for bringing Christianity to the country.

Read moreYou can even see a bit of the man himself. Just pop into the basilica (St. Stephen's Basilica of course) and make your way into the wing on the left. There may or may not be signs showing the way to the Szent jobb (Holy right). This is meant to be the actual right hand of the man, encased in a, erm, case and holding a red ribbon. Not bad grip for someone that's been dead for over 1,000 years.

Each year on August 20th the hand is taken outside for a little trip. Sermons are given and everyone gets serious. That is, until the acrobatic planes start flying around the Danube, the concerts start up and everyone (really everyone) masses on the riverside to watch a huge display of fireworks.

The fireworks is what really St. Stephen's day seems to be about nowadays. Every year they get bigger, brighter, louder. Every year the opposition parties complain about how much money the government is wasting on it but then spent more when they get into power. If you're in Hungary on August 20th, it's just something you have to see.

Some pics

Fireworks from Gellert hegy

Fireworks set off from the Chain Bridge.

In front of the castle.

Chain Bridge again.

They just keep coming for a full half hour.

You have to be comfortable with crowds.

This was taken before the crowds came. Notice something? Yes, that's right, there are no cars. For the day, they tow away all the cars from the streets next to the basilica. This time I think they put up the notice late so our car just disappeared. Luckily we knew what was going on from last year and where they tow the car to. A quick hunt around Szabadság tér the next day proved successful and a dodgy driving manouver got it back into the street with no help from the one-way system.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Normal Service Resumed

Trying to get back into the swing of things. I think it's a bit late for a Sziget summary so you'll just have to go back and read the individual posts. I think it suffice to say it was one of the best Szigets in recent years. Even after the hardcore 8 days I went (in the evening while working during the day) I felt that I could go more. It was that enjoyable.

Read moreUnfortunately, I did carry on with a couple of extra nights straight after it, including an extensive kert krawl. Which only compounded my Sziget flu; the streaming cold and sore throat a person gets every year after the festival.

To make matters even worse I've been injected with all sorts of extra diseases including (but not limited to) yellow fever. But don't worry, I'm not partaking in some strange new extreme sport where I push my body as close to collapse as possible (although sometimes it feels like it). I'm just preparing for a trip, which will of course also be documented here, though I may have to update the name of the blog for a bit.

Until then, I'll carry on posting normal Hungary-ish topics as I can.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Faux Update

It's not really an update. Just a quick post to tell you lovely people that the real Sziget update will happen sometime during the weekend.

Right now I'm drinking my pre-emptive alka seltzer after another kert crawl. Bringing the total nights out to 10 in a row so far. Tomorrow is another with some guy from out of town followed by the fireworks on Szt. Istvan's day on the 20th.

Hopefully, sometime this week I'll get some sleep.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 7

The end has come and we must say goodbye to the Sziget. But it went out in rock and roll fashion with The Hives which put on a great performance and could now be my new favourite band.

Read moreDidn't really get into the Algerian music from Khaled at the World Music Stage, but made up for it with a parpingly good gig by the Pitzikato Brass Band in the Roma tent down the road.

Again, no time to get all the details down here. You'll just have to be content with a few photos and wait till I build my energy levels back up to write up the highlights properly.

Some photos

The Hives were superb.

Celebrity spotting. The guy in the orange shirt invading the camera is the real celeb.

Khaled play at the World Music Stage but didn't get me going.

But Pitzikato Brass Band at the Roma Tent really oompah'd it up.

Banks and banks of knobs.

The view from down here. It's a bit blurry after a few pints.

A quick trip to the tripping tent.

Koós János plays to a packed tent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 6

Day 6, for us, started off with the Pannonia Allstars Ska Orchestra who were ska-tastic. That was followed by a tasty bite at the German sausage circus.

Read moreNick Cave was headlining. The guy looks like a zombie but he was definitely alive and (high) kicking last night. The main stage seemed to have turned up the volume as well as I seem to have gone slightly deaf in my right ear.

Either that or it was from the rocking Hollywood Roses knocking out Guns and Roses covers for a full two hours.

Caught a bit of Kensington Road at the Bahia stage before my bratwurst caught up with me and I had to dash to the loos (the nice one with lights, sinks etc).

Was raining a lot during the day but it stayed away for the evening. At least it stopped a lot of the dust. The Sziget was beginning to resemble some sort of brown Sahara.

Last day of the Sziget today. Got to make the most of it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 5

Sleep..... I need to sleep....

No updates for the previous days. I promise I'll catch up with them when I've caught up with some sleep.

Just to keep with the daily posting here's a couple of pics from the Franz Ferdinand gig which was fantastic.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 4

Argh... spent so long doing the update for Day 3 I haven't had time to write up Day 4. So you'll have to make do with some (very) quick notes for now.

- Juggling, twirling, balancing. All this plus puppets
- Container Man
- Logical games and the chess champion
- Lookout
- Korn & Corn
- Spielberg

Actually, looking back, it was a quiet day. Got to the Sziget around 4pm and left at about 11pm. Bands weren't to our tastes and we were too knackered to do much so we took it easy.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 3

Got back at 4am but had a great lie-in this morning. No time to do a proper post as off again to the Sziget.

Here's a quick roundup of Day 3. I'll add details later maybe.

- Brand New Heavies (BA made them late)
- Basement Jaxx (Big women in big band)
- The crazy woman (songs about smelly people on the metro)
- The old pair (becoming a cult?)
- Turbonegro (packed with people doing the "we will rock you" hand clap)
- Megasztar (packed and could hardly see anything)
- Zap Mama (sounds like Macy Gray)
- Pupilla Projekt
- Charged up phone
- Ate langos & Balkan Burger
- Beer from travelling pumps
- Impromptu dumpster drumming


Click for the updateSo here's a quick update...

Brand New Heavies
The Brand New Heavies were late but they were great. The British Airways strikes at Heathrow meant they got in a lot later than expected. We missed the beginning of the show but when we turned up they were belting out the old favourites of Dream On Dreamer and Midnight At The Oasis. The new singer may have a more slightly timid voice than the original but she did well and wiggled her bottom sufficiently enough to keep everyone interested but the gig was cut short as their time had run out.

Basement Jaxx
I never realised how big the band was for Basement Jaxx. More and more people just kept coming onto the stage to perform. It made the whole gig seem like a group of friends taking turns to sing and dance. Which is what a band is I guess. The stars for me were the two er... large ladies that sand Fresh. They really got the crowd going.

The crazy woman
The crazy woman was what the lovely lady called her but her band went by the name of Tereskova. They were playing at Wan2 and drew quite a few people. Imagine if you will a very classy set up with violins, trumpets and smooth backing vocals from the girl from Jazz+az, and the lead singer being an attractive woman with long blond hair, belting out songs along the lines of The nut cake is ready, kitty's got lovely fur, Smelly people on the metro etc. Very bizarre songs with an absolutely crazy woman.

The old pair
Korda György and Balázs Klári to give them their proper names. They've been around forever, or at least the last 25 years. They turn up on TV shows and do "playback" of their old classics. They were playing in the Táncdalfesztivál tent in a slot between a wet t-shirt contest and DJ Paplan and the tent was so full we had to watch from just outside the entrance. Everyone sang along, cheered and clapped. Everyone knew the words. I think this says something about the culture in Hungary and while everyone thinks that people are listening to the latest DJs and following the latest fashions, the majority still like good old fashioned stuff. Maybe.

Again, so packed that we just hung around the entrance. When we got there, the Turbonegro (which we couldn't really see) was playing some rock tune that had the crowd clapping just like when Queen plays We will rock you. Didn't hang around long.

Similar to the old pair above, the tent was packed with people trying to catch a glimpse of the stars from the Megasztar TV show. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. The stars didn't seem to have the confidence that comes from playing live often and the tunes (all covers) reminded me of a rather well practised team of kareoke performers.

Zap Mama
Recommended by some friends, we just caught the end of Zap Mama. They were pretty good and the lead singer reminded me of Macy Gray, which is a good thing in my book. Funky & groovy.

Pupilla Projekt
Another one of the Shameless projects, we ended the evening sitting on the floor of the Ambient tent listening to quite non-ambient music from Pupilla Projekt. Or rather, it was good music and not the usual kind of lullaby stuff that sends the ambient tent into sleep.

Other notes from the day ...

Charged up phone
A great free service on the Sziget provided Pannon is the stall providing free charging of mobile phones. I forgot to check my phone before we left for the Sziget and realised it was about to die and leave me socially challenged. There was a bit of a queue to hand over the phone but picked it up 2 hours later, fully charged. Lovely.

Ate Langos & Balkan Burger
Title says it all really, but to expand, Langos is great if greasy, so the lovely lady and I halved one. Followed a short while after by half a Balkan Burger (aka pljeskavica each. The Balkan Burger being an absolutely huge (though thin) meat burger the size of a dinner plate. Others had warned of Balkan Burger Belly after consumption though I put this down to devouring a whole one in half the time, we had no complaints.

Beer from travelling pumps
For people that think there still aren't enough bars on the Sziget, there are bartenders with beer on their backs happy to dispense a pint wherever they are. Though the beer I had from one of these tasted slightly different. It might have been the end of the barrel or it might have been something to do with the container they carry on their backs. I think I'll stick with the normal pubs if I can.

Impromptu dumpster drumming
Walking down the path to the World Music Stage we heard some metallic drumming going on. I thought it was some proper act going on but it turned out to be a group of people just banging on the huge metal bins by the side of the road. More and more people joined in until there was no space left. It all seemed very spontaneous and also quite musical.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sziget 2005 - Day 2

Another fast exit from work and fast entrance onto the Sziget. Even with Batthyány tér metro station closed it's still not too bad to get there in good time.

Last night we managed to catch Natalie (neat), Lord (loud), Underworld (underwhelming but interesting "camera painting") and caracasUnderpop (cracking).

Read moreQuick story. A friend plays bass in caracasUnderpop and I went to sneak a beer to him backstage (apparently the organizers weren't that keen about beer on stage). I was expecting to be stopped by some burly bouncer but maybe my air of confidence (and lack of drunken swaying) convinced them I was meant to be there. No one asked me who I was so I just walked straight to the artists area behind the stage. Handed over the beer, said hello to the band and used their superior portaloo. Maybe I should try these at all gigs.

Okay, here's some photos...

It's not all big stage acts. Here's a friend of the lovely lady belting out a number on the Talentum Szinpad.

Another homegrown band trying to build up.

Natalie Imbruglia shaking her thang (that would be her hair) at the crowd.

An old favourite of the lovely lady. Lord was loud, well it was on the HammerWorld Szinpad. Comparing elements, I'd say it was more rock than metal. I missed most of the show trying to get a beer. By the time I was served, the band was wrapping up. Turned out they started much earlier than scheduled.

Came across an activity area with people making fools of themselves trying to hit baseballs and shoot arrows.

Never mind flying saucers, it's the flying cones you have to watch out for. They're a colourful bunch.

The grownups try to amuse themselves....

... but it's the kids that have the best toys. The fun park was strictly for children, no adults allowed. It might be worth trying to rent a kid out just to have a go.

While some unlit paths make you feel like you're walking into the forest of blood and death, these people made it more uplifting. This way you'll see the crazed serial killer's face lit up by the glowing pig hanging from a wire.

I wasn't that inspired by Underworld but the crowd were getting into it, especially when they played their well known Born Slippy. The video screens either side of the stage weren't working for most of the performance but when they did get connected we were treated to some bizarre images from the camera held by the band's frontman. At least that impressed me.

The ambient tent where people go to chill out. Or sleep...

... until caracasUnderpop start up.

After tramping round the sziget for a few hours, it's time to rest our feet.