Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Recycling Scene

Hungary isn't well known for it's green qualities, though I have written before about the bottle bins that are dotted around the town. I've also heard from a couple of different people that the bins are a farce as there aren't enough proper recycling facilities to actually deal with all the plastic and glass people throw away so it just ends up in normal landfill anyway.

I was reading another foreigner's take on Hungary and saw that he's very into recycling and a bit shocked at how people don't feel the moral obligation to do it here. You can read it here but be warned it's only a needle of a paragraph amongst a haystack of witterings.

More about chucking outIt might be because I moved here before the recycling took off in the UK (I now hear they have separate bins for glass, paper etc at each house in my home village) but I've always been impressed by the efforts of Hungarians not to waste anything in the first place. In the lovely lady's family, who are my main contacts to Hungarian home life, waste in general is frowned upon. The "waste not want not" theme is the same as my family too, so we get along quite well. The Hungarian grandmother would even go so far as to cut the plastic milk bags (you know the ones, the cheapest milk you can get, sometimes tastes a bit funny) into strips and then weave them into tough doormats. It works quite well and there's one sitting in front of our flat.

If it looks like someone can make use of something then it usually is. In Budapest there are lots of tramps feeding their palinka habit by pushing trolleys around town and collecting up anything they think might be worth a bit of cash. They deal mainly in cardboard that's left out next to the bins (it's rarely put in the bins). Old water and gas pipes are also picked up when they're thrown out but I think that's more of a jackpot win for the scavengers. There isn't a day that goes by without seeing at least one guy pushing his trolley along stacked high with cardboard and paper. Trying to get as much on before going to the depo where they'll get paid by the kilogram for it. I have no idea what the going rate for paper is, but from my Opi experience, scrap metal is 8Ft/kilo.

So my point is that while it looks like people don't recycle, I think they do. It's just in a different way. People waste less to begin with, then the recycling items they do chuck away are placed outside of bins for others to make use of. How sustainable this method is as the country gets richer and more "disposable" with hopefully fewer homeless, I'm not sure but right now I certainly don't feel guilty about throwing out my huge stacks of papers. I know they will be happily received by someone that needs the money from them.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Budapest Social Club

Last week was a week for socialising. The big boss was in town most of last week and drinks were on him on Thursday. Which destroys productivity on Friday but even though copious amounts of Corona was quaffed down at the expat favourite of Iguana, no one was too far gone the next day. I was particularly happy with how my body coped with it with no real feelings of hangover, just a need to sleep.

However, Friday was also a night on the town. Super-Kert Tuzraktér (formerly Tuzraktár) had it's opening night on April 7th. They had a good line up of bands but the one's we wanted to see were caracasUnderpop.

Read moreThey were excellent and definitely got the freezing crowds warmed up in the chilly cellar venue. Outside people sat around bonfires to get some heat or fill up with alcohol to keep the anti-freeze levels up. Tilos had DJs playing to provide some cool tunes but best of all was the kolbasz grill as there's no beating Meaf.

Saturday was a much more chilled out affair. I finally caught up on some sleep and awoke at a lazy 11am. The plan to look around at cars (still trying to find a replacement for Opi) went out the window and we had a relaxed breakfast watching double-bluffing super-spies in episodes of Alias. We then geared up for a trek (okay, bus journey) up to the hills to visit the Texan (and Canadian) and his famous BBQ. So we sat out on the terrace there, eating thick slices of grilled pork, mashed potato with sour cream and a side helping of lecso. Eeking out the warmth from the sunlight, sipping on frocs and chatting with friends. A fantastic way to recouperate.

Sunday came with an offer to go and see the opulent Orient Express that was in town for a just a few hours, but I had committed to fixing up the computer. Nothing wrong with it but on the way home on Friday I felt strangely compelled to buy a huge hard drive to rid me off all my low disk space problems (possibily brought on by lack of proper thought from the day after the night before). A simple operation but one that required shuffling around data between the two old disks before finally storing it on the new one. It ended taking up most of the afternoon but now I have a growling monster of a 300GB hard drive rumbling away by my right knee.

It was also election day on Sunday so the lady and I popped out into the sunshine once and over into the nearby school where she can vote. We then followed by a trip to the Danube which while receeding quickly is still quite high and the HÉV at Batthyány tér is not running. Then an impulse to indulge took us to the Europa Kavehaz on Szent Istvan krt where we got some cakes to go.

All in all a very pleasant few days and all that's left is to sleep for a few more.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Top Turf

Not sure what the reason was but I have my suspicions that the laying of this lovely green turf over the cobbles of the 6th district* was politically motivated**. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to have my normal walk to work broken up by a load of schoolkids mucking about on what seemed to be their new school playing field.

Unfortunately when I walked back that way after work the hoard of screaming kids had been replaced by a single screaming woman. No doubt she was a well-respected Hungarian entertainer who is a little past her sell-by date, but she was absolutely murdering all the songs she was screaching singing.

It may seem a cheap (or not so cheap) gimmicky trick to turn a pavement into a park but I love the fresh ideas that make people see their streets in a different light. Same goes for the good old Plage, which I hope makes a comeback this year.

* A lot of people think that the border between the 6th and 7th districts is Andrassy, but it's actually the lesser Kiraly. So this little square off Kiraly, between the post office and church, is 6th. Which is probably why they can squander their cash on fake grass.

** Turns out to be the SZDSZ party trick.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Napi Menu

Is it possible I haven't written about the glorious Napi Menus that grace Budapest restaurants? I've done a quick search using the Googley thing at the top of the page but it turns up nothing.

The napi menu, is the daily dish at a Meafery. If you look about they're scribbled on most blackboards around Liszt Ferenc tér and most are good value too. Forget the rip off tourist menus that promise traditional gulyas leves and hortobagyi palacsintas. Stick with the basic stuff and you'll usually get in under a thousand forints. Well, that's optimistic at the tér nowadays, but you won't go much over.

Current favourites are Menza, Karma and Leroys Fresco. If the menu at Grand Cafe Grand Miro Grand (there's a "Grand" in there somewhere but not sure where) then you'll end up with decent 3 courser as it also includes a cake.

Oh and someone should have a word with Pompeii which put out this interesting selection of food. While the Larded Roasted Pork with Oniony Potato sounds artery-clogging-great, the Thick Brown Soup and Rice with Meat could do with a bit of tarting up on the language front.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rising Tides

If you're in Budapest and haven't already seen it, get yourself down to the riverside before the riverside comes up to you. I took a stroll down there on Saturday afternoon and the flooding looked impressive. Went again on Tuesday evening and it's risen even higher.

Water levels have passed 860cm and is still on the way up. It might even be able to break the all-time record of 867cm set in 1876. I took a photo of the marker at one of the flooded tram stops but I have no idea how to read it properly, so I'll just post it here.

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It's quite astounding to have the Danube so high that it completely covers the walls at the tram lines. In fact it almost touches the trams overhead cables and is getting close to filling their tunnels completely.

The authorities have cottoned on to the crowds and set up a Disaster Tourism map detailing a nice little walk you can have to take in "Interestig sights to see: the flood of the Danube." While the street sellers are raking in sales of salty pretzels and coke.

Spare a thought though for the poor people that work selling tickets for the boats. The office is completely flooded and only the tops of the windows and roof is visible. Hope they got all the equipment out in time.

Some more pics

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Political Broadcast

It's obvious if you're living in Hungary but to those that may be out of the country and out of the loop, there's a national election coming up this weekend.

This means the town is covered in posters telling you who to vote for. I'm an innocent bystander in this battle as I can only vote for MEPs and not MPs.

There was a bit of a hoo-haa about the posters. Fidesz even changed their posters after they realised you don't really win votes by slagging off your own country. They switched from bitching about how crap the country's become during the last 4 years to saying how great it could be if they get into power.

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This past weekend was a flurry of activity with the two main parties organising rallies. MSZP chose Saturday to close half of Andrassy and paint the town red while Fidesz's orange men, women and children took over district V.

I'm definitely not into all the political goings on. You can read some more about it over at Pestiside. However, I will say that nipping out for vital ingredients for the Sunday lunch (grilled chicken*) was a surprising experience. Being the only foreigner in huge, orange, flag-waving crowds was a bit intimidating. But I guess it's all good fun.

* Rothchilds is truly a terrible place to shop with overpriced goods and they don't even have barcode readers. But on the plus side, some are open 24 hours and the one at Oktogon sells grilled chicken straight off the spit. Fantastic.

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