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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 109: 50th Birthday

zsory bathsI went up to Budapest for the night, catching a ride with Jeroen and Lennard, to have my regular birthday dinner with Chris. First I met my old friend Gergő who makes his own beer. Our neighbour Simon recognised that we had lots of wild hops growing along our back fence, so I bagged these up to give to Gergő to try. Hops reek like marijuana, and I was afraid the cops would stop me on the 4-6 tram but nothing unwarranted happened. After enjoying a beer with Gergő at the Kiadó, I wandered around for awhile waiting for my friends Jackie and Csaba to get home from Balaton so I could give Jackie her birthday present. Nothing appealed to me for lunch along Teréz or István Krt., so I ended up at an old haunt - the Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő, which we all affectionately called "The Deli" when a group of friends and I used to frequent once a week for a lunch. I was lucky to get a seat even at pozsonyi kisvendeglo2:30, and that was out on the terrace in the rain. The terrace was covered but my seat was unfortunately very close to where the trolley buses pulled in and splashed through a big puddle. The staff I used to know are all long gone. I do not even know if it is a family concern anymore. But, the matzo ball soup is still huge and delicious, second only to my own.

After catching up with Jackie and Csaba, and eating a birthday apple strudel with them, I met Chris to try a Vietnamese pho restaurant. Just as we were leaving Budapest 5 years ago, these places were popping up all across the city. According to some friends, the Dangmuoi is the best and has the most authentic food. It is a hole in the wall place between Moszkva tér and Déli. I had already had a soup for lunch, so I still have not tried a pho. Chris and I tried to order summer rolls and spring rolls, but they were all out. I had a coconut curry chicken. The waiter was friendly, but the tables could have used a wipe down. The place had a bit of a dirty aura. The food was not fantastic, but it was good, and worth a visit if you like Vietnamese.

zsory bathsBack home, Kata had baked mini blue cheese puffs, made a huge salad with the last of our fresh tomatoes and cukes, and a huge birthday cake with mascarpone, banana, pineapple, peanuts...Jeroen and Lennard gave us tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Miskolc Arena in October, directed by Robert Alföldi. Kata surprised me with a trip to the Zsóry Thermal Baths in Mezőkövesd. We have been planning on going for years, but somehow never made it. We took the old Rt. 3 through Miskolc and made it in good time. Our first stop was at the local Tourinform office in the centre where the friendly staff answered all our questions and loaded us up with useful brochures. We entered the bath complex at what we took for the main entrance across from the big parking lot. However, after once getting our tickets, it took us a good half an hour before finding the other ticket office at another entrance where we could buy the supplementary tickets for the sauna and adventure pools. The signage is abysmal - mostly non-existent, and when there is any, just plain counterproductive. Another wander and we found where to get our changing room keys, both changing rooms conveniently marked with a big "C" with no reference to gender. By this time I was frustrated and very much not in the relaxed state the whole trip was meant to inspire. The complex is huge, but without rhyme or reason. The planner should have been shot. The indoor pools of course include several medical thermal baths of temperatures ranging between 36 and 40 degrees. Kata also sprung for the adventure pools which include a wave pool, Jacuzzi in a teacup suspended above a swimming pool, water slides, and a small sauna. The main swimming pool is very nice and was surprisingly empty. It could be more separated from the screaming kids on the water slides. The outdoor pools were mostly closed for the season, but there were still 3 open. Enormous water slides are also open in the summer.  In the final analysis, Zsoly has a lot to work with, but the planners screwed it up, and what could have been a lovely autumn day in the thermal baths was overshadowed for me by confusion and frustration.

By this time we were hungry, and Zoli Fehér, one of the chefs at the Tengerszem Hotel Restaurant in Jósvafő is from Mezőkövesd and recommended a couple places we could try. Sadly the Rózsa Étterem recently lost its roof in a fire and it is still under repair. The other recommendation was in a blue house somewhere near the baths, but no one knew what we were talking about and Zoli could not remember the name. We ended up at the Turul Étterem back near the Tourinform Office. I had the fried fresh ewe cheese and Kata had fried chicken breasts with potato crockets in cream sauce. The cream sauce was meat gravy and everything tasted like it had been fried in pork fat.hadas

Then we had to make a decision, visit the Mátyó Museum, or the Hadas living history museum? While the weather was windy, we opted to stay outside. Hadas is only a 5 minute walk from the centre. On the way, we bought ice creams at Fantasy Fagylalt which turned out to be the worst we had ever tasted - like pure semi-hard whipped cream with flavouring, and also ridiculously expensive at 200 HUF a scoop. We dumped these in the nearest trash can.

We had better experiences in the afternoon. The Hadas area was created when the municipality bought a bunch of traditional houses, many with reed roofs, in order to preserve at least a few from development. The houses were offered to artisans for free or minimal rent. A few craftspeople accepted the offer, all local. Eventually some, like the furniture maker, bought the houses from the government. Many years ago I asked what the equivalent of my grandmother's expression, "What am I, chopped liver?" would be in Hungarian. My friends answered, "Nem vagyok Mátyó himzés." Not that I have ever heard anyone else ever use this phrase, I adopted it. I have never admired Mátyó embroidery motifs, but they have taken Hungary by storm in the past couple years, showing up on everything, including the Hungarian Olympic team's track and swim suits. The first workshop we visited was the furniture maker. Szabolcs Kovács welcomed us and told us interesting stories and hadaslocal history for at least a half an hour before he was called away to be a handicrafts jury member. We did not even have a chance to look around his workshop much! He said he would return in half an hour. However, I did learn what a Mária szekrény is, violin-backed chairs, and how and why dowry trunks were designed. The ginger bread house and enamel jewellery workshop were closed by this time, but the potter Tibor Fehér was still open. I especially liked the greyish, partly unglazed pieces at the pottery, and we had a good chat with his wife. On the way out, Kata spotted a chicken of the woods mushroom growing on a tree which we wanted to tell the furniture maker about (we have plenty in the freezer), but he was not back yet. Other workshops in Hadas include a weaver, painter, embroiderer, playhouse, agricultural machine museum... This place is well worth a kedves pottyosvisit, and we will certainly return sometime, and earlier in the day.

Just on the corner by the entrance to the Hadas we admired a small shop which turned out to be a café as well. Kedves Pöttyös is filled with very nice and creative items mostly made by the owner, all at reasonable prices. Kata and I could have bought quite a few things, but we settled for a cup of coffee, a browse and a chat. The upstairs wooden floor has a newspaper design covering it, and the wc has a bike parked in it. The extra toilet paper is kept in the bike basket. We were constantly pointing this or that out to each other, items, or quite often just details on certain items that caught our attention. The coffee was pretty good, too.kedves pottyos