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May 16, 2002
Another Spritzer please

By Alex Dominguez
from the en vino veritas dept.
GYÖR, Hungary (JNS) _ The cheapest and best thing to drink here is white wine and seltzer, called fröcs in some places, which means 'splash.' That's because when it's in the 80s (F) beer is too heavy, although that didn't stop me from getting a boiled pigs shank with a nice helping of sauerkrat for lunch in nearby Sopron (Cho-prahn).

Two glasses of the spritzer thingy, adolescent yet effervescent, cost 160 forints (65 cents) at Matroz, a small bar near the river in Györ, where we stood outside and watched people walk by, much cheaper people watching than in Budapest. It's made with a variety of wines such as rizling(riesling), and kekfranks(blue french), and they're all fresh and tasty.

We started drinking them after we rolled out of Budapest on Tuesday at noon on a creaky Soviet -era train (1,000 forints, four dollars) and watched the pastures roll by for two hours, sitting next two smelly old men and commenting on town names such as Tatabanya, where all the big breasted women around here must come from.

In Györ, about halfway to Vienna where four rivers meet, we met Andor 'Paul' Farkas, an expatriate American and the grandson of a former Hungarian diplomat, who now works providing solutions, mostly computer based, for various governmental agencies. About 15 million people speak Hungarian worldwide, about 10 million in Hungary and 5 million in neighboring countries and elsewhere, not surprising for a country that is less than half its former size because of post World War I treaties, he tells us.

"Obviously a plot by the shadow government against a strongly Catholic country," El Conde notes.

On Wednesday, it was off to lunch at the Vaskakas, or the Iron Rooster , an impressive cellar with vaulted brick ceiling and marble floors in the basement of a portion of the wall that used to surround the old city. Even though the place looks too expensive to enter, the daily special is 380 forints ($1.50). We each had vegetable soup out of a large tureen placed in the middle of the table before having one of the three daily choices. Andor and Gibran had beef purkot, a type of country stew, and I, sated on pork for once, had pureed spinach over boiled potatoes with a fried egg on top, and a glass of local white wine made from Italian riesling grapes (virginal but not shy).

Then it was off for more beer and wine, and an attempt at conversation with the Hungarian supermodels _ obviously planted as employee spies at our hotel by Neighborhood Secret Agent Dack McSwain to thwart our plans to rebuild the Hungarian Empire. The two women, despite their looks, seemed happy to serve us beers in the afternoon and omelettes for breakfast, and to help us learn their language, even taking care to place a fresh cucumber garnish and a light sprinkling of paprika on my eggs each morning.

El Conde notes some words are very similar to Spanish, proba, for example, is like prueba, and both mean to try, or test, something. Cukor, sugar, sounds like azucar, also sugar, in Spanish. And the word for train car, kolcsi, is pronounced just like the Spanish word for car, coche, also coach.

But all is not play for the International Playboys. Andor thinks the Soviets might finally be of use to Hungary because of their efforts in Cuba, where many broken down Hungarian-made buses might provide an opportunity for spare parts sales.

The count, meanwhile, thinks Hungary's baths, including some smaller spas in Györ have enormous marketing potential, but must be packaged slightly differently. Treatments at the Hotel Gellert _ such as the tub bath with sudatorium, 4000 forint; carbon acid bath, 1,500 forints; impulse current therapy or interference therapy, both 700 forints; four cells galvanic bath, 500; salt chamber block, 2,500; and gingival shower, 5,000 _ all sound pleasant enough, but might be confusing to some.

Posted by Alex at May 16, 2002 07:29 AM
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