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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 96: Pig Killing Festival in Túrkeve

treehugger dan and harris hawkThe Minister of Agriculture Sandor Fazékas is from Karcag, and always attends the local pig killing festivals around the time of winter carnival. The national parks system comes under his jurisdiction, and therefore we are compelled to set up information stands at such events. We departed on Friday night for Karcag where the Ministry had reserved lodging for us at the Akác Liget Thermal Baths. While the accommodation did not come with breakfast or even a cup of coffee, we did get free entry to the thermal baths which just happened to be open until midnight on Fridays. Zsolt came prepared with three numbers for pizza delivery so that we could make the most of the baths. First we called SOS Pizza, but they said there would be a 3 hour wait. The Galeria Restaurant promised a 2 hour wait, and the something Grill was closed. We called the Forum Pizzeria but again there would be a 1.5-2 hour wait. Incredibly, all the people of Karcag seem to order pizza on Friday nights and even 3 pizzerias are not enough to keep up with the business. We headed to the city centre, desperate for food and to get back in time for a good soak. We finally spotted a pizza sign which turned out to be the Forum and took a chance of walk-in business. There was plenty of space in the restaurant, so the problem seems to be delivery capacity. Even so, we still ended up waiting a good hour for the food. The toilet at the restaurant has one of the most dangerous and idiotic designs I have ever encountered - the urinal is placed in a small space between 2 doors that both open inwards towards the urinal. When it arrived, the four cheese pizza was very good. Even better, this Friday they had a special buy 2 pizzas and get a third for free - breakfast was sorted.akacliget furdo

It was below zero, but we strode out in our bathing suits and a towel for the 2 minute walk across the icy courtyard to the baths. The indoor complex includes two warm bubble baths, a swimming pool and a teaching pool. This was nearly empty and we were able to relax a bit before venturing outdoors. Between the fog and the steam we could barely see a thing, but the water - oooooh, 38C. Some idiot was telling his friend the whole story of the Game of Thrones from the beginning and I was praying he would stop because I had not read the last book yet. But besides that, it was bliss soaking outside under the full moon with your head enveloped in a cloud of steam and fog.

We headed out at dawn to set up our table at the Túrkeve Pig Killing Festival before the Minister appeared. Aggtelek National Park's caves are one of Hungary's 60+ Hungarikum products, and we shared space in the tent with other Hungarikums such as traditional archery bow makers László and Judit from the Hungarian Bow Association (Gödöllő), black locust honey, lace makers, Mohács monsters and falconers from the Hungarian Falconers Association. The Minister wandered by for a meet and greet - and once again something happened. I do not know what it is, but he always brings out the worst in me. The first time I met him I knocked over my glass and a bunch of brochures reaching to shake his hand. The second time I had a knife in my hand cutting cheese which for some reason put his security detail on protective alert. Now not only did I knock over my glass of hot apple juice over myself, but also split my trousers up the front.

Trying to avoid the bloodbath happening around me, and to warm up my toes, I took a walk around and did some shopping. I bought a kilogram of famous Parajdi rock salt from Transylvania and some tasty 8-month old hard Trappista cheese from AnimSajtja (4800 HUF/kg). Later in the day I ran into nature filmmaker Sándor Karácsony of Xmas Film for whom I translated 2 films about the Kiskunság National Park but I had never met in person. Also one of the women from the Mezőgazdasági Bolt in Edelény just happened to drop by while on a Valentine Day spa weekend.

The highlight of the weekend was holding a Harris Hawk on my arm for a few moments. It was only a minute, but it was a unique experience full of positive energy.

On the way to Túlkeve the dawn greeted us with a rising red sun. On the way home, a huge orange harvest moon rose before us. We set up a stand next at the National Travel Exhibition and the Abádszalók Pig Killing Festival in mid-March.