Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bratislava trams

Oh mummy dear, what is that thing that looks like strawberry jam?
Hush hush, my child, it is your pa, run over by a tram
Oh mummy, let us scoop it up and put him in a jar
And then we all can have for tea a little potted pa.

Bratislava tram in evening sun courtesy of ©FourBees
Inspired poetry courtesy of FourBees' dear late papa.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Budapest revolution

Budapest is a stunningly beautiful city
- when it's not revolting.

A ©FourBees digipic series.

Sorry, I'm too busy today to write
picture captions. If you'd like to know

where these pics were taken, just ask
and I'll draw you a map.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Budapest lomtalanítás

October sees the last chance lomtalanítás
A ©FourBees archive selection

No wonder they invented the term and the ritual: ‘spring cleaning’.
Once the sun finally peeps through, it is the best time of year to sweep away the dust accumulated during the winter, throw open the windows, take a deep breath and access the situation.
An essential part of the vernal rejuvenation is the desire to clear out all the unwanted excess baggage surrounding our lives and start again.
Purging the cupboards and chucking out all the junk we’d long forgotten gives an intense feeling of pleasure and rebirth, before it all accumulates again over the coming year.
In North America, the Saturday garage sale is an old tradition and in Britain car-boot sales are an important part of community life.
In Budapest, the 'spring' clear-out lasts from March to October and brings as much joy to the treasure-seeker as to those who throw out.
In Hungary, the ritual is known as lomtalanítás, which is literally the act of liberating oneself from lom - lumber, or unwanted household articles.
'I think all nations like to throw out stuff and start afresh', said sociologist Zsuzsa Éles.
'In Naples at New Year they throw out unwanted furniture from upstairs windows which can be quite dangerous. In Hungary we are more organized with different districts at different times'. Lomtalanítás occurs on prearranged days, notice of which is usually posted by letter boxes in the apartment block.
Residents are advised to put their trash out on the pavement during the evening before collection.
Sometimes these are hasty affairs, finished within a 24-hour period.
If you live in Downtown District V, there is a load of fascinating junk, but this year you have already missed the kukások (rubbish collectors) who arrived on the morning of Saturday 28 February and had everything swept up by 9am.
On Friday evening, 16 April, Bródy Sándor utca in District VIII was completely blocked from the Nagykörút to the Kis (Múzeum) körút with ironmonger’s items bargains blocking access and a wealth of heavy oak furniture for whoever fancied such a thing.
Lomtalanítás cuts across borders and class-divides, uniting everyone with the joy of finding a little nugget of treasure for free.
Even French screen legend Catherine Deneuve entered into the spirit of the event.
Last year, she was reportedly spotted in District V indulging in the traditional Hungarian treasure-hunting sport while in town for the Opera Ball.
She obviously has a keen eye for a bargain and, I heard, she crammed four chairs into the back of her chauffeur-driven Audi in the district V chuck-out, taking a little piece of Hungary back to her Provence farmhouse.
Larger districts can take three to four days to get everything cleared away.
Residents happily put beds, cupboards and mattresses, never mind those rotting fridges and quasi-sputnik washing machines outside without fear of local busybodies accusing them of anti-social behavior.
At first glance most of it appears to be junk.
But within minutes, the mounds become a magnet for antique collectors, scrap metal or cardboard merchants, gangs of traders and curious passers-by.
Teams go around the district in gangs, commandeering the best piles and sitting guarding them, while others seek out more tempting mountains of garbage.
They can be quite intimidating these days.
It seems that trash (scrap metal, possibly an antique chair or picture frame ) is big business, particularly in upmarket neighbourhoods like Rózsadomb (District II) with tasty pickings to be found.
During the lomtalanítás in District V one year, I was kept awake all night by enthusiastic groups of hunters.
People rummaged though the piles and argued over territory.
Peering over the balcony in the early hours, I witnessed an elderly gentleman carefully taking apart an ancient television.
He removed certain pieces meticulously, only he knew which bits were worth keeping.
For many, lomtalanítás represents an essential source of income. Just after the change of political system, I once witnessed evolution, if not revolution, in progress through lomtalanítás in District XIII.
Among a mountainous pile of cupboards, fridges and mattresses were strewn copies of a leather-bound book series entitled Sztálin I - XX, and the owner had decided it was time to relieve himself of all of them.
When I first walked past, the collection was complete.
Later in the afternoon, some issues were missing - obviously the more exciting episodes in the dictator’s life.
Eventually, by evening all the books had been snapped up.
Nearby, two students unfurled what must have been a very luxurious Persian carpet, but now only a few worn threads testified to its once-glorious past.
They seemed quite delighted with the find, however, rolled it up and headed off home. Lomtalanítás used to be quite a gentle pursuit, akin to sorting through dusty old books at a Sunday morning village fete.
Now with the growing gap between rich and poor, an element of desperation has crept in.
'A vaguely-regulated war has broken out in many districts, as groups of organized gangs tour the streets with their Ladas snapping up all the scrap metal and threatening those who converge on their patch', said Éles.
Tortured by incessant banging on those old-style drum washing machines, I wondered if I could make a sociological survey, during the metallic hammering which went on all day in my district’s appointed cathartic weekend.
It seemed that everyone in District XI was chucking out their top-loading East German models en masse, then possibly buying a swanky new brand, to keep up with the Kovácses.
The lomtalanítás ritual is like a giant recycling effort catering to the various needs of the population.
Unlike enforced recycling in Western Europe, based on guilty consciences, lomtalanítás represents a more local, evolutionary method which works just as efficiently as bottle banks. Those who take items home today will probably place them back on the pavement at some future date, nothing is really being thrown away and so the process perpetuates itself.
To the eternal horror of my Hungarian partner, I can never resist a quick look through the piles, which loom high in front of my door.
I shall be on the lookout in September when District XI has its regular purge and now I have the perfect excuse - if a superstar like Ms Deneuve doesn’t mind having a rummage for a bargain, then who are we to be so fastidious!
Go on, chuck out then get stuck in, who knows what you’ll discover.

The website of the Fővárosi Közterület-fenntartó Zártkörűen Működő Részvénytársaság (Zrt)
has a list of what districts chuck out on what dates, with maps and everything!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Behavioural problems

Gawd, praise de Lawd for Speculoooooooooooooooos

FourBees has a visceral loathing of celebrity chefs.
Doesn't the sight of Jammy Oilyver's tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth like a drooling village idiot put you right off your liver and onions?
Personally, it makes me heave and never want to eat again, ever.
The really annoying thing is that celebrity chefs serve so little purpose in life, except perhaps to line the cooks' already overly-stuffed pockets of their ill-fitting overcoats and inflate their already illogically gigantic egos with an unrealistic magnified estimation of their self-worth and value to society.
FourBees has never used a recipe, except for the occasional quiche, but then La Grande Abeille is not overly keen on dry-carbs anyway and you can get a pastry case at Match for €1.60, shove in some courgettes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms and liberal sprinklings of fresh parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary, and a begrudging egg or four (things in shells give me the willies) - problem solved.
It seems to me that anyone with an inkling about ingredients, a bit of imagination and €20 to spend in Delhaize, could eat in a restaurant and then re-create a divine and vastly superior version of the meal a few days later, minus the saliva/snot/spunk from the disgruntled sous chef...
FourBees worked for seven long years as a restaurant critic in a lard-infested cuisine-hell Central European city and many's the night she spent writhing around in agony, endless packets of Rennie and Milk of Magnesia by the bucket. Count the nights, the pain, the nausea...

Visit the FourBees Beehaviour myspace site for more ranting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bother in Brussels

To cheer up the Slovak socialists, here's a picture of somewhere I'd rather be than Brussels on a dreary and dimpsy Tuesday.
Can anybody put me out of my misery and tell me where it is?
and can I go there?

European Socialists are having a party - what if nobody brings a bottle?
On Thursday 12 October, the PES (Party of European Socialists) is having a meeting in Bruxelles to decide whether to kick out the Slovak socialist party, SMER (no relation to SMERSH....) because of its government coalition alliance with the SNS, a controversial right-wing nationalist party.
Prime Minister Robert Fico of the Slovak socialist party SMER (the name means 'direction') won the elections in June 2006 and entered into a dodgy coalition with the SNS (Slovak National Party) led by mayor of Žilina Ján Slota and cuddly Vladimír Mečiar's band of brutes the HZDS-LS (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia-People's Party).
Slota is up for re-election as mayor in December and, if successful, he will become the longest serving mayor of a Slovak town since change of regime in 1989.
He has been mayor of Žilina since 1990, another term would be his fifth in the post.
The SNS is well-know for its extreme politics and harsh rhetoric, targeting minorities such as Hungos, homos and Roma (how they'd loathe to be lumped together...).
According to Slota, ‘Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation’, ‘Slovaks should jump into their tanks and flatten Budapest’ and ‘the best policy for Gypsies is a long whip in a small yard’, just to mention a few of his trademark soundbites.
Ironically Slota's fan base is in the virtually Magyar-free zone of northern Slovakia.
Mečiar is a deeply shifty former boxer who in the mid-nineties tried to take Slovakia back to those good old Medieval days and when in government led Slovakia into international isolation.
I wouldn't normally bother my brain with thinking about politics having had quite enough of it, thank you kindly, when I reported from the dark and smoky corridors of the Hungarian Parliament.
If you ask me, they're all as bad as each other.
The Magyar and Slovak politicians are almost all chubby, sweaty, middle-aged men in bad suits with bad breath and all equally whiney about the past.
It's over, let it go.
Anyway, the Slovak socialists are going to get their bottoms beaten with a big bunch of nettles, and, as I spend my life writing about Slovakia, I really hope they pull themselves together.
In an interview with Danish magazine A4, PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen explained that, in 2001, the PES agreed that no socialist party could form alliances with parties that incite racial hatred.
He said 'We risk losing our legitimacy when criticising the government in Poland or in other countries if we don't keep our own house in order. The pan-European parties have a reponsibility to support European values and stand up against populism and nationalism'.
Hear hear.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Buda beauties

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Flood watermark on Fô utca. On 15 March 1838, the water was right up to my nipples. Rude finger pointing.

Ganz utca sign Another big-up to Ganz bácsi. They do a good sign in Bp. FourBees might do more on Mr Ganz in the near future. Switzo-born Ábrahám G was a splendid engineer.

Király baths on Fô utca (main street). As you can see, Hungarian youth has a deep respect for its Ottoman heritage... Time to let it go, and chill...or at least attend a graphics evening class.

More fabulous ©FourBees photo captions

Budapest beautiful Buda

© FourBees photo captions
'Twas in Olde Budapeste that FourBees discovered a deep and abiding passion for architecture and photography, and, of course, the gyönyörû-szép-irodalom-gazdag magyar nyelv. For, conveniently, as in all great Central European cities (I’m thinking here of my personal photogenic-faves: Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Bucharest, Brno, Sofia, Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Kijev, Lvov, Zagreb, Skopje, Tirana, Sarajevo and, whoopsadaisy, Praha) it is physically impossible to take a bad pic (although one glance at Flickr might dispute this). Compare with the truly dreary pics I took on a day trip to bourgeoise, cake-stuffed Lille recently [censored fr.yr.own.good]. Here is a little photo summary of the beauties to be found in Buda.
More tomorrow. Pest maybe.

Ganz foundry museum statue of András Mechwart, developer of the Ganz factory. Alajos Stróbl created a meisterwerk and a worker called Pospischil (sounds suspiciously SlovakoCzech) created the figure from the cast. Everthing got smashed in World War I and this remains. That Mechwart certainly has a chin on him. Dig those funky sandals!

Várkert bazár the sad, dilapidated state of the once proud castle market and a pavilion for fun, fun, fun built by Miklós Ybl in 1882. I know of a Brit-businessman (he's not my mate) who wanted to buy it and turn it into (horror of horrors) a shopping complex. Thankfully the city said no, although they might make an effort with the duster, or a panscrub, themselves.

Városmajor park in memory of the gunner battalion 1914-18. The German-helmet style headware is a bit disturbing, not?

Lukács baths the most beautiful thermal baths in Budapest. Frequent by ageing, gossipy literary folk rather than the soggy old queens who lurk in the steam of the Rudas and Rác.

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