Magyar Szó

"Documenting the life of the Hungarian community in New Zealand"
- Az új-zélandi magyar közösség lapja.

Issue 80 - July 2005

Lost in Translation

Jó reggelt!

It is 8 am and we are not quite on Hungarian time yet, so it is a great chance to check the emails. The weather is just brilliant, and we are glad we brought the sunscreen.

We arrived Saturday and stored the bags at the station while we explored on foot. There are such lovely buildings here and the camera was kept quite busy. Our entertainment came when we got in a taxi to go to the resort. There were 3 in the queue and they insisted we took the first taxi even though he did not know where we were going. His mates explained and we heard the correct words such as balra and jobbra for left and right.

It was an amazingly clapped out taxi, no suspension and we bumped our way over some rather unkempt roads. It took us about 20 minutes to get across the bridge and on our way. Apologies that I have not fully mastered the Hungarian keyboard. We had given him the name written down, street and all, as instructed by Klara in Hungarian class, and just as well. We ourselves saw the sign saying Petneházy but the rest of the name was in Hungarian so he declined to agree with us that this was the right place.

He stopped a passing bicyclist pedalling in the opposite direction. Igen, he spoke Hungarian but was also a tourist, as was obvious from the map, in that he was pedalling towards Petneházy and we had passed it, he did not recognise the name. Trouble was he stopped the taxi in the middle of the road, and a small queue built up behind us is this narrow 2-lane road.

So he continued on despite our protests, and this time asked a woman at a bus stop heading in the opposite direction (again way past the turnoff!) But she did point back in the direction we had come so finally he turned around. Being a small narrow road it took him a three point turn, with another queue of frustrated motorists behind us, most of whom would not let him past. Finally he stopped again, just opposite the sign and this time got out of the car and asked the motorist who had had to stop behind us for directions. Yes, it was our street. We humped and bumped our way along the now one-lane road, and pulled to one side to ask the driver of the car approaching us whether we were in the right direction. By this point my patience was getting a little frail.

He tried to deliver us to the stables door, but I did persuade him to keep going the last 300 metres and finally we arrived bruised and in hysterics.

Yes, it turns out he was an illegal taxi, although we did get him from a legal taxi rank. Ah well, it was all fun and experience. Our Hungarian did not run to STOP so we shall dine out on that story for a long time.

Meanwhile we got congratulations for our pronunciation, and have had some lovely service from people who appreciated that we tried to speak their language. Budapest is just beautiful and it is a pleasure to be here…


We really enjoyed Budapest with its old buildings and fascinating history. Having taken pains to learn some Hungarian, it was startling how often people cheerfully addressed us in English, and theirs was so much better than the Italians'. But then, they probably appreciate some tourists whereas the Italians sure don't! It was heartening to be asked for directions while in Budapest! Did we really look like locals? Yes, it was also heartening to receive compliments about our pronunciation. We had some great meals and fine wines. We had made the decision to try local wines wherever possible and we were not disappointed. All 3 countries had lovely wines - we asked the advice of our waiters and they were unfailingly correct in their recommendations. Of all the nationalities we met, the Italians were the most bureaucratic and the least helpful;. So when we met strikes in their transport system, are you suprised???

You've heard about the mad taxi journey - the next day being Sunday, we continued our walk about Budapest. The great thing with their budacard is that you can jump on a tram or underground whenever you are tired and need a break. Trams are better as you get some fascinating views and you never know where you are going. They have some fascinating architectural features in their buildings, and we were constantly taking photos and causing the locals to look up in surprise - what are these mad people looking at? And then they had a second look and seemed to appreciate it too. We did some touristy things like the Operetta ship - where I loved the music and had the French / Italian couple opposite us grinning with my enthusiasm. That was a hoot of a trip - they went about 100 metres, turned round, went back 100 metres and we were all joking about the width of the Danube when finally they must have had clearance to go down the river so we could see the city by night. It is truly beautiful.

We found Roman ruins. Museums, old and modern history and still did not have time to cover it all. Yes we would like to go back. And they don't have 3 hour siestas in the middle of the day! That did create some difficulties in Italy, as there is only so much you can do in a 3-hour gap. We Kiwis don't seem to take 3 hours for a meal - and I did not observe Italians taking that long either! I think it is a communist hangover…and that was the interesting thing in all countries. The men seemed to hark back to the communist regimes and wanted to stay with the security and the need not to provide good service. They did not like competition. Except for the restaurant trade… Yes, we had some interesting chats with various hosts, and were made most welcome everywhere. Being from NZ was a novelty for most people, but nearly everyone knew of the place and several had family / friends who had been here as well. We'd start the day heading into the cities / towns (depending where we were) about 8.30 and return home late in the afternoon or even evening. We loved the bottles of iced lemon tea we found - Kiwis, where can we get those here???

We had the chance of a daytrip to Vienna and enjoyed that, apart from the chance rain storm. We went into a lovely cathedral in broad sunshine and came out to find it spitting. Then it rained so we went into a museum and came out to find it …yes, blue sunshine! The passports have a good set of stamps to show our travels! But we found Budapest better than Vienna, and I never thought I would say that! There are many museums in Budapest that we have yet to do. We had colleagues in the resort from Malaysia, Israel, Greece, Spain and others - we only got to know the first 4 couples, but we five shared a love of the old and interesting. Our room was a bit of a challenge - it overlooked the construction zone as they rebuilt their swimming pool. They started work at 7 am - just as well we were still on Kiwi time!

It was almost with regret that we took out train to Zagreb on Saturday. We enjoyed the trip, despite having so many military type personnel checking us over the border - Police, immigration, railway inspectors…but I was distraught when we arrived in Zagreb and went to buy out tickets to Spilt to find that the trains were out of action, and there seemed to be no buses. We even had miles to go to get into the hotel even though it was just across the road from the station (the reason we had chosen it!) So when we checked into our hotel I was not a happy chappy and showed it. I can recommend the Regent / Esplanade in Zagreb 150%! They were themselves concerned regarding our travel and so upgraded us to their best room - how many people can point to a commercial postcard and say which was their hotel room??? And there is so much to do in Zagreb, we were sorry to have only one day. In the usual European efficiency, our train turned out to be 2.5 hours earlier than we had expected so we were pleased to get an extra half day in Zagreb, what with the earlier train and the cancelled train to Split - we had to go by plane. Zagreb is close to Budapest in its beauty of buildings and wonderful museums. We had great food and wine as well - and let me tell you all, that I lost 2 pounds weight over the 4 week holiday! We walked miles every day and it was just great - when you are close to the city centres, or have transport to there (as in Budapest) you get to see so much!

Fiona Knight

Magyar Szó Issue 80 - July 2005