Day 19 – Language, some rain and Szekesfehervat

We had rain mid-morning after breakfast, the children enjoying a ropes course and Tilly’s first ride, so we went to the nearby town of Szekesfehervat. If you ever get the chance, please go there. It’s the well-off regional capital, and the beautifully preserved buildings of the city centre are cocooned within a large pedestrianised area. A couple of years ago, we visited the Hungarian town of Sopron. It was similarly beautiful and reminds you of the very rich history and wealth that Hungary had before the First World War. We found a book shop that had an English section that would have been the envy of many a Waterstones in the UK, and Tilly was able to get another book.

We’ve continued to struggle to learn the language. Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language entirely unrelated to the Indo-European languages we are used to. This means that there is no (traditional) vocabulary or grammar that one can take from other languages one may know (..unless you speak Finnish, Estonian, or rare Russian languages). This will probably explain why no waiter who has served us in Hungary has heard a thank you from us. By the time we have recalled the Hungarian for thank you (phonetically, cussing ’em), the waiter is serving the next customer. Hungarians are also very unused to foreigners speaking their language.

Challenges with the language makes many parts of Hungary surprisingly difficult to travel in. I was at the railway station yesterday, and it was like deciphering hieroglyphics pre-Rosetta stone. If it weren’t for us both using arabic numerals, I’d have come away with nothing. Of course, this also works the other way round too and it must be difficult for Hungarians to learn other nearby languages. The first second language of choice is, of course, German. Even then, it’s pretty common for older people here to speak no language other than their own. Post soviet world, the youngsters seem to have learnt multiple languages.

After her struggles in Croatia (a country she had clearly never visited), Sat Nav Susie seems to know everywhere in Hungary. She does really struggle with pronouncing the road names however. I have to admit that I’ve gone down a few minor roads just to hear her struggle to inform us which road should be taken. In an earlier blog, I accused Croatian of using very few vowels (the town of Trieste is known as Trst in Croatia). Hungarians clearly believe that the Croats are far too generous with their use of the vowel.

We’ve driven 1,700 miles so far and listened to a lot of podcasts and music. The podcast of choice has definitely been Danny Baker, and the most played music the latest albums by Muse, Scouting for Girls and Katy Perry. There’s something fantastic listening to Tilly and Nancy singing along to the Squeeze-like lyrics of S4Gs.

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