Friday, November 28, 2008

Daniel Sparling on his project in Hungary 2008

In the picture: a moving Hungarian sunset

I arrived in Hungary just a day before I was to meet up with my fellow volunteers and begin my second project of the summer. After finding my accommodation for the night I decided to go for a some sightseeing and discovered, thanks in part to my trusty guidebook, that I was in a very exciting part of Budapest, right by the River Danube, with lots of interesting places to visit, and good places to eat (and drink). I looked around for a while, marvelling at some of the fantastic architecture on offer, but finally the long day of travelling I’d had caught up with me and I decided to head back and rest up for the next day.

The next day I met the other volunteers at the station and we left Budapest for Bükkösd. On the 3 and a half hour train journey I was able to get to know the people I would be working with for the next two weeks. Already there was a wide range of nationalities with an American, a Korean, a couple of Spaniards and a Czech, as well as the Hungarian camp leaders.

At the station in Bükkösd we were spared a two hour hike to Gyűrűfű as the village minibus was able to come and pick us up. On the minibus ride to the village I began to get a sense of how remote we were, a dirt track road through a forest was the only route in, and with my phone rapidly losing any sort of signal I knew this was going to be a really good place to escape to. In Gyűrűfű we checked out the very basic accommodation and went up to the work site. Seeing the half built house I was excited about getting started, but we were due at the hosts house for my first taste of real Hungarian cooking. It was getting dark and we finally sat down to paprika stuffed with meat, which we ate under the light of the stars and a few candles. With the dinner we had traditional Hungarian Palinka. Another long day of travelling made everyone tired and we eventually got back to our home and were able to curl up in our sleeping bags for a very disturbed night of sleep. Cesar, one of the Spaniards, slept soundly, but unfortunately the sounds he was making kept every one else up.

After getting a few hours sleep we were woken at 6 o’clock for breakfast, it was early but the beautiful morning scene made it worthwhile. We had a big Hungarian breakfast with lots of meat, local cheese, and very fresh milk. After filling up we started work and we were shown how to make ‘csömpölyeg’ (mud and straw balls). Feeling fresh on our first day we worked quickly and finished well ahead of schedule at 10. We cleaned up and went back to relax for a while before lunch, another fantastic meal, a local goat soup. After lunch we were able to have a siesta and we were woken up to ‘energizers’, which were to become a regular feature, followed by a work shop, which started off with games to get to know each other and each other’s countries, and involved lots of drawing.

In the picture: volunteers built an earth-house, doing stamped wall, throwing adobe, doing masonry, wall carving, plastering, etc.

The evening work was preparing for the work the next day, with digging and pick axing to ‘mine’ the mud that was used to fill the ditches where csömpölyeg were made. After dinner we played a few more games to get to know each other, this time involving some alcohol, and went off for a better second nights sleep.

On the second day we gained the final four volunteers, another Korean and three French friends, all of whom were eager to work and got stuck in when they arrived. A couple of days of work passed before we were told at lunch that we had the afternoon off, and we prepared for a special night with Czech food and a Spanish Sangria.

The next morning we got a lie in before we left on an 8km hike to another village, where we held up the bar at cocktail bar run by a Nigerian-Hungarian man. We walked around the local village before meeting a local artist/Santa Claus doppleganger, who painted a few pictures for us.

We got straight back into work routine, and this continued until the apparent ‘storm of the century’ hit and we were unable to do any more. Prompting another rest day and we hiked to Ibafa where a tour of the famous pipe museum was rivalled by the local bar (no surprise where we spent most time).

Over the next few days, between work, we visited some of the other houses in the village and learnt about the traditional, sustainable techniques that were used to build them, as well as given the history of the village and how it is run now. The two weeks had seemed to fly by and soon we had finished up work on the last day in Gyűrűfű and were preparing for a bonfire in the evening. As we lay around the fire watching shooting stars above us I realised that I would soon be leaving this remote, beautiful place and getting back to the stressful lives we all have, stuck under piles of university work and student debt, although I wasn’t going to miss the cold showers!

The next day we packed up and left Gyűrűfű, hiking back to Bükkösd, before getting the train to Pécs where we were treated to a festival, with lots of singing and dancing, although two weeks of hard work, and another day of travelling, had us all drained and we were unable to experience more of it, but gladly headed for bed. In the morning we packed up again and caught the intercity train to Budapest, where, after some sad goodbyes, we went our separate ways, and before I knew it I was back on very wet, home soil.

In the picture: Daniel and the group of international volunteers cheering after a hard days work!

For more information on Hungary and our partner click here.

Click here for a country profile on Hungary

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