I Want to Go to Pecs, Not Paich!

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
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Trip End Jul 09, 2008


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Flag of Hungary  ,
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Prior to this trip I did a lot of research into the countries that I would be traveling to; studying the languages, the histories, and the cultures of the lands I would be roaming through.  From this research I discovered how truly out of place and odd the country of Hungary is.  Hungary is a landlocked nation surrounded by Slavic, Romance, and Germanic speaking peoples, but having absolutely no relationship to any of them.  Distantly related to the Finns and Estonians the Hungarians speak a Finno-Ugric language and apparently descend from a tribe originally located somewhere in the Volga region of Russia.  How they came to be located in Central Europe and at the same time formed one of the greatest empires in Europe is beyond me.   But because of this I was looking forward to this leg of my trip the most; here I would be out of my zone while exploring a culture and people unique to Europe. 
 
Johnny and I knew that we had to end our trip in Budapest because that is where I flights were departing from, however we wanted to spend some time in another city as well.  We had the choice of either going into Eger or Pecs, and had a tough time deciding.  Both cities seemed to be offering up some unique experiences and we would have liked to travel to both; however time constraints forced us to decide on one.  We noticed that Pecs is located closer to Vienna and figured we might as well go there as to avoid any further public transportation disasters that may occur on a longer train trip.
 
But as always, traveling problems soon reared their ugly heads.  Unknown to me at the time was the correct pronunciation of the city of Pecs, which contrary to its spelling is pronounced "Paich."  However, I was pronouncing the city as the body part, "Pecs," and this lead to complications during the ticket buying process.  The lady at the ticket counter in Vienna couldn't find any city named "Pecs" in the computer, and when I wrote the name down on a piece of paper for her she said "Paich."  I responded with a, "No, Pecs;" she swiftly responded with a louder "Paich."  This went on back and forth for a while until someone else also traveling to Pecs and buying a ticket next to me explained to me how to properly pronounce the city name.  I felt like quite the fool.
 
The ticket we bought required a layover stop in Budapest, and I should have seen the trouble brewing ahead.  However, we hopped onto the train and found a little compartment for ourselves where we attempted to sleep for the approximately four hour train ride.  But trying to sleep in a train that lacks any air conditioning and in which the windows refuse to open leads one lie awake dripping in sweat from the near sauna like conditions.  Four hours later we got off the train soaking wet from the sweat, and in a semi-delirious state we began stumbling through the Budapest train station trying to find our connecting train. 
 
I soon fell behind Johnny in the crowd and just saw his backpack and attached bags bouncing up and down as he walked.  When the crowd cleared a little bit I saw that Johnny had gotten stuck behind a couple fairly large men who blocked his way; while he attempted to make his way through the men a half dozen little Gypsy children ran up behind him and tore away at his packs taking all the attached bags that contained random souvenirs picked up along the trip.  By the time he and I noticed what happened it was too late, the children and the men who blocked his way were gone and he was left there in the Budapest train station a few trinkets lighter. 
 
After he overcame the initial shock of the pickpocketing we continued our search for the connecting train to find that it had left... fifteen minutes before we arrived.  Brilliant! 
 
We finally arrived in Pecs and walked into the hostel where we would be staying for the next few days.  The owner saw that we were sweating and quite tired so he came out with sliced up cantaloupe and beer for us before even asking who we were.  We never even left the hostel that night and instead sat on the balcony with the owner and other guests just drinking some delicious Hungarian beer.   The hostel owner was quite interesting in that he described himself as being Transylvanian, but when I stated that he was then Romanian he said "No, I am Transylvanian.  Hungarian."  I was confused about this because I knew for a fact that the region of Transylvania was located in Romania.  He proceeded to explain that there are some 1.5 million Hungarians living in Romania with the majority located in the Transylvanian region.  And he also stated that he felt like a person without a country because to Romanians he is Hungarian but to fellow Hungarians he is Transylvanian or Romanian.
 
The hostel owner's ethnic dilemma made me look back on my Lemko (Rusyn/Ruthenian) heritage, an ethnic group that struggles to define exactly what they are.  Some say we are unique East Slavic ethnicity that has suffered from years of forced assimilation into the Polish and Ukrainian ethos, while others state that we are merely a sub group of Ukrainians whom enemy nations try to separate from the Ukrainian nation in a "divide and conquer" scenario.  Despite being quite drunk I began to realize that the problems faced by Lemkos isn't unique and that there are other minority nation-less peoples that face the same problems such as discrimination and assimilation.
 
See, being drunk does result in some good.
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