‘When you first get down here [the village], you’re grumpy as hell. But when you’ve been here a day you’re in much better humour. Remarkable really.’ I’ve noticed that myself but having himself point it out made it all the more real. Our village wouldn’t make the cover of a chocolate box. It doesn’t have cute cottages, a running stream, or a village green. There are no quaint shops or cafés, no restaurants of any sort (although rumour has it we might have one next year). We have a small grocery shop that opens daily till 4 pm and may or may not have onions. We have a post office, a church, and a presszó (sells coffee, beer, wine, and pálinka) that also has a Nemzeti dohánybolt (National Tobacco shop). Some villagers sell honey, others sell eggs, and one man occasionally clears out his stuff and sells interesting bottles.
Like many Hungarian villages, ours runs along one main road. From end to end, the village probably stretches 2.5 km. There’s a perpendicular street that runs about 850 m. All told, there might be 300 houses, no more.
Unlike the next village over, people don’t congregate on the street. Yes, a lot of houses have a bench outside and occasionally, in the summer, some might sit and watch the world go by, but it’s not a mix-and-mingle sort of place. On Sundays, before and after mass, the men stand in one group outside the church, while the women move between their factions. Events in the village hall are well attended; the annual baking competition is particularly popular as is the Village Fun Day. The Postie knows everyone. There’s little by way of bureaucracy. Everything is quite informal. And I love it.
I mightn’t speak to anyone other than himself from one day to the next. And that’s fine in my book. I mightn’t see anyone other than himself from one day to the next. And that’s fine in my book, too. My days are there are unstructured. The labours of the last two have resulted in 18 jars of delicious quince jelly. But that’s the end of the harvesting. From here on in, it’s time to prepare for the winter. The garden furniture needs to be oiled. The windows need a last good clean. And the summer/winter clothes swap has to happen.
This is my favourite time of year. Autumn. When the geese are flying and the leaves are turning. When the sun shines and the air is crisp. Everything seems so clean. We talked about going away for a few days, to Croatia perhaps, or to Solvenia. But I’m travelled out. I’m planned out. If I go somewhere, I want it to be a last-minute decision and preferably in-country. I quite fancy the idea of booking a hotel in one of the bigger towns locally and exploring it like a tourist. But I might just stay home, too. So much to be grateful for.