Days: 492-494 (30 October 2015 – 1 November 2015)
Total distance travelled: 128,846.8 kilometres (80,029.04 miles)
Roughly two and a half years ago, like my aunt and cousin before me, I had the privilege of being able to visit and stay with part of the Hungarian side of my family (my grandmother was a post-war refugee).
Here we were, a mere forty five kilometres distant, and suddenly our plans to visit for a second time were looking a little less certain.
With the over-sensationalised refugee ‘crisis’ in full swing, Hungary’s southern borders until recently had been closed, and with the rail service between Subotica and Szeged still suspended, it was with some relief we found that the roads were again open, meaning a bus service was our only chance.
We made our arrangements, and made the short journey between the two, culturally very similar cities (Subotica being at one time part of Hungary) without incident, and with no sign of the desperate folk fleeing war ravaged Syria other than a seemingly empty tent city and the still shiny and new wire fence.
It wasn’t long before we were camped inside the Szeged bus terminal, waiting for collection by Cili (my second cousin Cecilia) and doing our best not to get high from the fumes a fresh coat of paint produces in an enclosed space.
Caught up at work, she eventually got to us, and with daughter Yazi (Yazmine) & son Marcel in tow, we hugged our way to the car and on to their lovely home.
Unlike our previous visit, there was far less interest from both parties in seeing some of the sights (we’d done that on our last visit), so it wasn’t long before we were celebrating our family reunion with drinks. Lots of drinks… and a little delicious food as well!
This set the tone for the next few days.
Beer aplenty, the occasional shot of Pálinka (think fruit brandy), repeat.
It was lucky by now our liver’s were pretty well practiced!
More family arrived and the night was passed in revelry and a decent round of drinking.
Given we’d kicked off at around two in the afternoon, it was a solid session for all concerned!
Not surprisingly, we slept late, the only memory of note the following morning the result of a little mischief on my part.
Yazi, like so many kids her age, is fond of sweet things, however she is probably a little fonder than most.
As we all reclined on a sofa, Yazi took her recently prepared mug of black tea and proceeded to carefully measure and add around four spoonfuls of sugar (no exaggeration), tested its sweetness, before wandering off to attend to some other task.
Seeing an opportunity too good to pass up, I casually switched her steaming mug, for my own, seemingly identical but for the fact that I’d added no sugar myself.
Needless to say, the look of horror and confusion on her face after her first sip saw plenty of laughs all round!
Our excursion for the day took us to the river Tisza, although it was a much colder day than anything we’d experienced on our previous visit (the temperature today was in the teens, rather than over forty degrees celcius).
Here, with the help of a grant from the EU, the hubby of another second cousin Szuzsi (Szuzsanna), had set up a floating bar/cafe and boat hire business.
The clever fact about the boats, is they are all powered by rechargeable, electric motors with a maximum speed slow enough, that anybody hiring them does not require a boat licence.
Miraculously some more beers appeared before us, whilst eventually a few more family members arrived as well, by which time the day had grown late.
Next thing we knew, we were all piled into a pair of the aforementioned boats, and putting our way up river.
Chocolate biscuits were shared, whilst a flask of Pálinka was passed around as well, apparently to keep the chill at bay.
It certainly wasn’t a bad location from which to take in the sunset over the city, although there was a short period where we wondered if we might be marooned on the water, such was the lack of progress we were making under the power of such weak engines.
We did eventually make it back to the dock, however leave it we did not, well at least not for a very long time.
More drinks flowed, food began to appear, and long after the last paying customer had actually departed, there we all were drinking an reveling the night away.
All through a combination of more beer, more Pálinka and the liberal addition at some point of red wine.
Somehow word got out that we’d be back here tomorrow anyway, with the plan being to have a bit of a group paddle and picnic.
When the morning did indeed see us return, I must confess we were feeling a little worse for wear… although not as bad as Szuzsi who’d by all accounts spent a portion of the night depositing her own special formula of burley into the Tizsa (yes, she was sick)!
Truth be told, it was one hell of an effort to put down the first nip of Pálinka that day as well, but in our defence, that first nip was offered not long after ten in the morning, just before we piled into our canoes!
With a few warm cans of beer between our legs and full canoes, we began our journey which proved a combination of both paddling and at times simply floating on by.
The idea of a picnic was a nice one, especially given how kind the weather continued to be to us, but by the time we found a nice sandy bank where we could all come ashore, it was a well and truly shaded and in truth a little cold.
Still, it was a nice spot to crack open a thermos of coffee and munch on some home made bread, salami and other cured meats.
Soon we were all warm enough again, working up a sweat once more as we began the paddle back towards the main river and our launching place on the floating dock.
We paused for a time, watching two fisherman wrestle with possibly the largest catfish we’d ever seen, a struggle that was to continue long enough that it was still ongoing by the time we’d floated out of view.
We all dined out at a riverside restaurant that evening, although for the first time since our arrival, the drinks were not flowing as I think we were all pretty much exhausted and perhaps a little mindful of how much more our livers could handle…
The following morning, our weekend and short side excursion to Szeged was done, that same night finding us back in Belgrade for a brief one night stay (no, my passport was not yet ready), a mere stepping stone on our way towards new adventures.
We’d left again having made a promise that we’d indeed see each other again soon.
* Our bus from Subotica to Szeged cost us 460.00 Dinar each, plus another 20.00 per bag that we put underneath the bus.