Travels

20,000 Leagues Under the Danube

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In early June 2006 a Gateway Festival happened again in Budapest’s multipurpose Millenáris Park. Before the festival started, amazingly we discovered thanks to a bathysphere that global warming is causing tropical fish and anemones to live in the Danube. Usually Budapest is better known for its baths, of the Turkish sort.

What’s more, by modifying the bathysphere, I was able to take a pre-conception photo of The Prize-Winning Sperm That Became Roberto Quaglia.

At the Festival I talked about A Mesterséges Értelem és történetmesélés (Artificial Intelligence and Story Telling, to the rest of you); Imperial Stormtroopers demonstrated how hard it is for them to eat lunch in their white armour; and Iñigo Montoya in full wig and false moustache presented the Virgil Award 2006 for Best Misdirector to Peter Michaleczky. That was because, in order to borrow boots for Iñigo, Peter ingeniously drove Roberto and me – while listening to Spanish language lessons on CD – along traffic-jammed heatwave roads for an hour or two (and the same to return) to the rural studios of Mafilm, whose costume department closed 5 minutes before we arrived — but it was beautifully bizarre to explore the grassy back lots and find parts of buildings from Dinotopia, as well as Eger Castle mutating into Nottingham Castle for a Robin Hood epic. It’s a bit unfair to Peter that I gave him the Virgil – I ought to have presented it to myself, because due to amnesia I left the award at home. Consequently Peter had to make do with a comic cow key-ring instead of a Delft china cow milk-jug, into which wine should have been poured ceremonially. Peter consoled himself by pouring Moldovan brandy, another day.
Mira Furlan (of Babylon-5 and Lost) and her family are lovely people; and we all went to a Mongolian Barbecue to eat Moufflon and Horse and Goat. Which one is this?

Another important food item was The Cake of My Beloved, a marvellous surprise at Peter’s house in Monor:

Quite near Monor is Attila’s Hill, allegedly with great therapeutic powers. In all directions the landscape is completely flat, except for the “hill,” which is a slight bump, next to which is a hole of approximately the same size. Perish the thought that the hole became the hill! The clever owner has transmuted the years of money for admittance to the health-giving hill into stables for white Lipizzaners and other classy horses, and a big restaurant, and a garden of Magyar totem poles. The most famous Hungarian racehorse of all time, called Kincsem, was born there about 100 years ago, so maybe the stories about Attila’s hill are true.
Due to Moldovan brandy, it took us an extra day to revisit the town of Eger to see its castle in reality, instead of on a film set, and to drink again the finest red wine in the universe. Sándor (who got lost driving to Eger; Virgil Award point!) gave me a very wide book he wrote the text for, Hungary 360°, full of photos that seem hallucinatory, being from the perspective of a multi-eyed alien, or certain fish. Ideally I should bend each photo all the way round my head, then whirl like a dervish.
Who wants to see a photo of a castle, when historic Eger contains such haunting underpasses as this?

Oh all right, then. The famous Battle of Eger (1552), Hungarian women and men versus Turks. “They fight so hard,” said the Turks, “they must drink the blood of bulls!” Hence Bull’s Blood, the wine.

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