5. A Day in the Forest
This morning we caught a bus to the Lover Hills (rhymes with “Over hills”) and went for our first walk in a European forest. The first thing that struck me was the strange smell, then I realized it was the forest smell. Different species - different leaf decay smells. Of course this forest is also very old. Not the individual trees, but as a forest it has been allowed to survive to this day, here in the middle of Europe.
Here are pinus species, oaks, chestnuts and lots of different sized edge plants most of which I don’t recognize. We recognize the blackberries, but here in a cold climate the bushes are very small and spindly, and the fruit is very small. The few ripe looking berries are sour. No wonder people took them innocently to Australia where they went berserk in a warmer climate, making edges inaccessible.
We used to pick them in the creeks at Myrtleford by dropping wide planks over the top then picking buckets full, in areas where they hadn’t been sprayed as a pest. The forest here is thin and thinned. The cut off stumps are from about 250 mls to a dinner plate in size. They are the older ones. The younger ones await their turn. But it’s done selectively, it’s not clear felled, it’s not pulped, and it’s still here!

Left: toboggan run

We were lost but headed up, finally getting to the top, where we paid to climb the lookout. The man in the booth deserves a mention, because he smiled. The first person in a job like that who wasn’t grim or resentful. He actually looked happy and nice, and reminded me of Lisa’s father, whose trail we were loosely on. I wondered if Vili had crossed this region, so near the Lake, when he escaped his country from the Russian occupiers at nineteen.

Two of the many forest fungi
The Romans invaded towns
here two thousand years ago,
not two hundred like the
English in Australia,
But still the forest remains.

After an hour and a bit we had reached the top, and the great view – over Sopron, across to Lake Ferto, west towards the snow topped Austrian Alps, and high above forest tops. Very scenic.
There is a child having a lovely time with her grandmother – Nagy mama – on a swing. A large blonde man rides imperiously by on a horse, ignoring us all.
As we look at the maps and picture boards, Lisa’s few words of Hungarian enable her to realize this was the
area where the Jews and“partisans” had been murdered during W.W.II.
Then after the war they were occupied by Russia, who surrounded the entire country with electric fencing, imprisoning the population in their own country. Why? How could such bastardry have possibly helped the Russians? The Hungarians had to have an uprising in 1956 to free themselves, but they didn’t get free of the Soviets until 1991. 1956 was only the beginning of the inevitable. Why on earth didn’t they get their country back when they got rid of the Germans in 1945?
No wonder there’s a grimness around the mouths of many older people, and their children. A smile is a risk, and I’m just another foreigner. I must love them and not resent them in return.
Finding a path back to the bottom of the hills was easy. We just headed straight down! A short wander around the neighbourhood revealed another viewing tower, and the Szieszta Hotel– a huge concrete monolith, probably built in Stalinist times, and truly awful! No amount of redecorating could make it appealing.

This afternoon I walked down to the other end of the street where we’re staying. It is old and poor looking, and most of the buildings on the west side have big arched coach-sized double doorways, with a small pedestrian door in each. One big door is open, and I glimpse another world – a huge area of courtyard, more like a village green size, with houses backing onto it right around, and long overgrown grass, and sunshine, and the sounds of children playing.
The windows of the houses are double glazed because of the winters, and the walls are really thick stone. They have the remains of heavy metal brackets next to the windows, indicating where heavy wooden shutters used to be, in those centuries where everything was dangerous and each building was a fortress with all open space occurring as courtyards within. Of course the newer suburbs are nothing like this, and have gardens and fruit trees and ornamentals and space, and reek of the same sort of affluence as our newer suburbs. ................ Our refuge: menedekunk. ....... Haven: kikotonk.

on to 6. Budapest and The Castle District
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