Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Satu Mare in the dog days

The TV says it will be 38º Celsius in the shade in Bucharest today, which is 100º - and 50º in the sun, which is 122º. The Maramures where I'm off is equally hot. And I left my panama under a tree in Africa.

But a panama would not do for the Maramures, though it would save me from sunburn or sunstroke. I remember gratefully my hat from the last old-fashioned shop in Strada Lipscani which still sells useful cheap things. 

The traditional hat of the Maramures is the clop, which balances on the head and looks much too small. 

It's supposed to be highs 30s Celsius but it doesn't seem so hot to me which proves I have not become a Romanian because every summer hits them like an unlooked for calamity. Every winter ditto.

As i left the office on my way to the airport I asked the woman in the lift if my hat made me look like a shepherd.
'No, an agriculturist [peasant-farmer].'
Mission accomplished.

My plan had been to take the train from Bucharest to Sighet and then be met by someone who would take me to the Maramuresan village of Sapanta and Peter Hurley's festival 'The Long Road to the Merry Cemetery', but I changed my plan for a better one and flew for the same money to Satu Mare. Instead of sleeping on the hot train I hugely enjoyed Satu Mare in the evening and in the immense heat. 

A man wIth a shard-like metal leg is wearing shorts in the cruel heat. Dog days in a small, poor, once grand town. All these handsome German- Jewish- Hungarian towns that got handed out to new countries in 1919 and given new names in the languages of the local peasants. I have visited them from Grodno in Belarus to Subotica in  the Voivodina and Ljubljana in Slovenia.

I strolled around the lovely, badly dilapidated  Hapsburg streets and finally found an appetite and ate good Hungarian food: veal paprikas in a good restaurant with a jazz singer called sternly No Pardon. The intense heat starts to abate as the sun sets. 

Gundel pancakes, Tokay, jazz classics.

I feel wonderfully happy

The proof is that I feel positively benign to the three year old girl at the next table in the restaurant. She is noisy but a mid-Victorian angel.

Satu Mare is exactly my kind of town, romantically decrepit. John Betjeman would have called it dim.

It should be in Hungary of course but if it were how dull it would be, though well painted and cared for.

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