My trip to Mosonmagyaróvár by Tomáš Buš
“So you just wake up one day and randomly decide to go to Hungary or Austria the next day?” someone asked me the other day. Well, it’s always the spontaneous adventures that spice up our lives, so why not. Most of us would take the Bratislava bus to Hainburg, or a train to Vienna or Brno. Instead, I decided to take a trip off the beaten path and opted for Mosonmagyaróvár, a small, historical Hungarian town just 40km from Bratislava. I was interested in the town’s Christmas market but what piqued my interest the most was the fact that the town featured an outdoor ice-skating rink in its historical center. The idea of ice-skating in the heart of a medieval town just sounded so appealing to me. It was a long cold day, but I’ll never forget it.
It was a cold Friday morning, but I went through with my plan anyway. I got on bus #801 and headed to Rajka, from where I would get on the Hungarian bus to Mosonmagyaróvár. When I got off the bus and looked at the timetable, I found out that the bus to “Móvár”, as the Hungarians call it, would arrive in two hours. I asked the bus driver for directions to the village train station, as I thought that maybe I could hop on an earlier train. I definitely did not want to wait two hours in that frigid cold. I walked along the road to the train station and was quite surprised that I was looking at a billboard in Slovak. The Slovak presence in the village was quite strong, as I passed several cars on the way with the letters “BA” on their license plates. Then I finally got to the Rajka train station only to see that trains stop by the train station only four times a day and that the next train would come at 4 o’clock. I was then approached by a station clerk of affable disposition, who asked me if she could help me out in any way. How strange that she could tell right away that I was a foreigner without even hearing me speak, I thought to myself. I told her about my itinerary and she said that there is a bus stop a few minutes from the train station. I complimented her command of English and she told me that she had always loved the English language and that she used to study it in Györ a long time ago. I couldn’t believe I was talking to someone in English in such a remote train station. I had problems finding English-speaking people in Budapest when I needed directions somewhere, but in Rajka it went pretty smoothly. Then, after waiting at the bus stop for some time, I got on the Hungarian bus from the Rajka train station to Móvar. You would not call the bus comfortable. It looked quite old and not in a very good condition at all. Nevertheless, after waiting such a long time on a bus stop in subzero temperatures, I wasn’t very picky; but honestly, I wished I had rather stayed home.
After arriving in the town, I was quite surprised. Such a small town but dental clinics were strikingly ubiquitous with German signs, obviously catering for Austrian customers who come to Hungary to take advantage of cheap dental care. The city abounded with German-speaking people and while I was strolling about, I also overheard English and Slovak. After walking for two minutes I got to the Magyar Utca where the Móvár Christmas market took place. I saw an ice rink and approached the lady selling the tickets and struck up a conversation with her with the usual “Beszél angolul ?” She answered “Ném” but when I asked her in English how much it costs to rent some skates, she took out a sheet of paper and in a creole of three languages (mostly German, Hungarian, and a trifle of English) she attempted to convey to me that first I had to pay an amount of forints as collateral for the skates and another sum to be able to skate in the rink, but that until 4:00 P.M. only children were allowed to skate. I found it quite entertaining that although both of us knew only basic German, we were able to communicate in the language just fine. I guess it is true that for the most part, communication consists of non-verbal signs and words are just a concomitant of body language. I was quite pleased with the fact that I could understand her completely, especially the German words. I’ve only studied German for two months over the past summer, and as school started, I had put German on hold. Thus, I was quite surprised that I still retained all that. I’ve met some people that studied a language throughout high school and elementary school, but are completely clueless when they come across the language in the real world outside of textbooks. In addition, I was quite surprised by the Hungarian word for skates “Korcsolyak“, which is obviously of the same origin as the Slovak word “korčule“. As Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language, one doesn’t stumble upon cognates on an everyday basis. That is also one of the reasons why I like visiting Hungary: out of all our neighbors, the language is the most exotic and thus one truly feels like he or she has stepped onto foreign soil.
Then, I walked past all the stands and quickly got bored. Due to the frigid temperatures, not many people were out, thus the place exuded a vapid atmosphere. On the bright side though, at least the locale lacked the annoying inebriate beggars that pester tourists and locals alike in the Christmas market back home in Bratislava. I decided to go somewhere to eat as restaurants were abundant by the Magyar utca. I thought to myself that there’s nothing like a warm bowl of Halászle on a cold winter day and I ordered it with my broken Hungarian. The restaurant was empty except for two other people and the reason why, in my opinion, is a no-brainer. In a small town in country with a purchasing power even less than that of Slovakia, an establishment serving soup at the price of six euros (when converted from forints) is not bound to attract much local clientele. When the dish arrived, I was ecstatic. After a light breakfast and being outside in the cold for a couple of hours, I was in need of something appetizing to assuage my hunger. The dish was very palatable indeed and I savored each and every spoon of the renowned fish soup that lay before me in a nice and warm kettle. It certainly couldn’t compare with the canned Halászlé that I had bought a few months before in the Billa by the Mlynska Dolina dormitories. After that, I decided to go back to Bratislava as it was way too cold to stroll along the town’s streets and explore its historical alleys.
As I got back to Rajka, a girl approached me and asked me something. My mind completely failed to register what language she was speaking. I remembered that someone had once said to me that sometimes when I start talking to them, they’re not sure if I’m speaking English or Slovak to them. This probably stems from the fact that there’s not a fixed language that they associate me with, as sometimes I start a conversation with them in English and sometimes in Slovak, depending on my mood. The same thing happened to me that day in Rajka, for some reason, on the spur of the moment, I just couldn’t tell what the girl’s language was. After being in a German-Hungarian-Slovak speaking environment for two hours, I guess my brain was linguistically confused. I automatically replied in Hungarian “Elnézést, ném beszélek magyarul. Angolul ?“ as I noticed a Hungarian sign reading “eladó“ by one of the nearby houses. It turned out the girl spoke amazingly fluent English and was looking for the local train station. English is truly a wonderful language, one can get by using it even in a Finno—Ugric country like Hungary! After waiting at the bus stop for ten minutes, I got on the red city bus and headed back to Bratislava.
My trip to Mosonmagyaróvár, both impetuous and unplanned, was short due to the weather, yet worth it at the same time. The delicious Halászlé and the three-language creole conversation were the highlights of my day and definitely outweighed the uncomfortable fact that it was so cold that it was almost painful to be outside. I guess life is about the small things and being elated over such, at first glance, insipid experiences is what makes life worth living. An impetuous and spontaneous adventure is always more fun than the daily routines of the quotidian life.