‘Ouch’, she cried.
‘What’s happened?’, I asked the group in general, as a rather large hairy man was blocking my view.
‘He’s just dropped his penis on her head’, someone said.
‘And it was nearly the end of me,’ she moaned.
Not exactly your usual Sunday afternoon pub conversation but then again, it wasn’t just any Sunday afternoon. We were in Mohács for the annual Busójárás festival, one acknowledged by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. It’s been the locals’ way of saying ‘goodbye winter’ and ‘hello spring’ since the eighteenth century. Revellers parade through the town wearing hideous busós (masks), sporting wooden penises in all shapes and sizes. It’s not for the fainthearted.
Some 80 000 people had rocked up for Sunday’s festivities and the place was jammed. Add that to the fact that Wales and Ireland were playing their first Six Nations match of the year and finding free wifi to stream the game was a priority. We got the kick-off time wrong but did manage to catch the second half on instant feed and over the radio in bar of the Szent Janós hotel. The 16-16 draw was a nice bonus given that we had both countries represented around the table.
With the wine flowing and palinka making miraculous apparitions, it didn’t take long to get into the belly of it all.
Our bus of 23 split up into more manageable smaller groups when we parked up and wandered around the town. I wanted to see the coffin being thrown into the river at 4.30 and while the crowd standing on the banks was 3 and 4 deep in places, I did manage to get a view of sorts. I’d missed this when I was there in 2013 and have to admit to the whole thing being a little anti-climactic. I expected a little more fanfare. Still, the crowd seemed to be into it all so it was probably just me. And I was pleased to see the tip to neighbouring Croatia as one side of the coffin read Poklade (Croatian for Winter).
It was all little surreal, with the Busó popping up everywhere. And as the day wore on, they became even more amorous. And daring. As I said, not for the fainthearted. The town was bopping with folks dancers, folk singers, traditional bands, musicians of all sorts. And even the spectators did their part turning out in national costumes and weird and wonderful fancy dress.
I met a lot of interesting people this week – from all over the world. At a workshop in Malta we shared interesting facts about our respective countries and learned to appreciate our differences.
I’m grateful for the never-ending list of things to do in Hungary, for the diversity it serves up alongside the wealth of culture it offers. And I’m grateful, too, for the company I keep. The sing-song on the bus on the way home did Ireland proud. What’s not to love about life?
PS – Thanks to the irrepressible Mr Fulop for organising it all. And for counting so well.