Wednesday, 29 June 2011

At Paszab with Parno Graszt 1

On Monday night the train to Nyíregyháza in the north-east of Hungary. This involved taking all the sound equipment, which involved several bags, one of them so heavy it takes two of us to carry it. The hole needs a bigger than usual taxi. So we ordered one and were dropped at Nyugati pályaudvar (Western Terminal). I went to buy tickets and we mae our way to the platform with not much time to spare. I hopped on the train to check we were on the right carriage - we weren't - so I hopped of again, leaving my smaller lighter bag with the computer in it without realising it. I realised it had gone and thought it had been stolen. The train went and I changed the tickets to the next express, first making the sort of arrangements one would make if one had lost a computer with valuable information on it.

But then, wonderful to relate, about two hours into our journey, a text from Réka, one of the managers of Parno Graszt, to say my bag had been found and was on its way to Nyíregyháza. A kind young man in first class had contacted her to say so and would drop the bag off with her. Her telephone number was among those on a sheet of paper in my folder. A miracle. By then a cancelled debit card to replace.

We caught the later train and, having arrived, found a taxi and checked in at the Korona Hotel in the main square. The Korona is an old provincial grand hotel in need of some renovation. It also has its own pub, named The John Bull. The John Bull is a precise copy of English pubs in furnishings and bar. It even has a dartboard. As if this were not strange and surprising enough it also serves a remarkable menu well beyond the ambitions of any pub likely to be called The John Bull, involving major Hungarian dishes but also vegetarian dishes with tofu, all prepared with a certain genius.

Next rainy morning we realise the proposed timetable was far too tight, so the producer, Elizabeth, and I set about changing it, through texts and calls with Réka. The tickets we had were fine but in Hungary you need seat reservations too or they don't let you on. That means a taxi ride for me to buy new reservations. I like to talk to taxi drivers about whatever town we are in, and this man drove me through the old town and the new one telling me about employment and unemployment in the city.

Unemployment is high, and even higher out in the small towns and villages, approaching 70% in many cases. Meanwhile the old town sweeps by with its pale blue baroque and rococo public buildings, then the later estates with their neat post-Stalinist tenements. There used to be trams here, says the driver, but they were removed in the lat sixties.

The firnedly young man on reception in the hotel is our driver to Paszab and carries both the two-man-weight bag and the other heaviest bag with ease to the car. Réka turns up with József, the leader of Parno Graszt and we set off to follow them.

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