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The new 19th?

Golfers everywhere refer to the clubhouse as the 19th hole. The last place of refuge. A place to celebrate their victories or drown their sorrows. Back in the day, when I was no stranger to fairways and bunkers and talked animatedly about birdies and eagles, I, too, enjoyed a tipple and the accompanying reflection at the 19th.

On a roadtrip recently through northwestern Hungary, we’d booked ourselves in for a night at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club. While the English translation of the website leaves a lot to be desired, I caught the essence of what was on offer and for once didn’t cross it off my list of options because no one took the trouble to check the grammar [and you know how difficult that was for me….]. That it was a reasonable €65 pn B&B wasn’t the deciding factor either. What swayed me  was the fact that it had its own chapel  in the grounds. This I had to see.

I had visions of golfers invoking the protection of St Andrew, the patron saint of golf, before teeing off, perhaps even asking him to favour them over their matchplay opponent or praying that their mixed partner would be on form. The idea of providing a pit-stop for prayer before the first tee or after the last green had me completely intrigued.

The history of the place (or what I could glean from the website) dates back to the post-war years when the owner moved from Budapest to the nearby village of Bakonyjákó. Building a golf course was a dream project… one he made come true. Kudos due for that alone.

 The chapel itself is tiny – but does the business. It was built to commemorate the birth of his son and stands in the grounds near the clubhouse. I’d had visions of a restored ruin so although it wasn’t quite what I’d expected, I’m glad we made the choice we did. The staff were lovely – I felt completely at home and would happily have stayed a week. They’ve managed – one and all – to hit on just the right amount of attention and are very much on the ball. The food was excellent. It even inspired me to add gnocchi to my culinary repertoire.

 

 

 

 

I counted six others at breakfast; it wasn’t a packed weekend. But apparently the weekend before had been booked solid. Were I asked to make a suggestion or two or two for improvement – I’d add some English-language books to the library and do something to improve the WiFi connection.  Minor really. There’s plenty to do and it’s a great base for seeing the likes of Zirc and Pannonhalma. If you’re in the neighbourhood, drop by.

Grateful 8

I’ve managed to get myself into trouble on occasion but never anything so serious that I couldn’t be extricated, more or less intact. I still have all the organs with which I was born and have never, to my knowledge, undergone an operation. I did break my sacrum in a snowmachine accident in 1998 and memories of life at that time are coated in a morphine haze. Apart from the odd pain when I stand too long on concrete or sit too long anywhere  or lie down for too long … in fact, as long as I keep moving, I’m grand. Had the break been a couple of centimeters higher, though, I might be telling a different story.

I was reminded of my mortality recently when driving the winding roads between Zirc and Pannonhalma (aka Highway 82), in Veszprém country in northwestern Hungary.  I passed underneath Csesznek castle and was suitably awed. Built around 1263 AD  soon after the Mongol invasion, it changed hands many times, housing the Habsburg troops in the early eighteenth century. The Turks captured it at one stage and then it was won back by Hungary. It managed to get through hundreds of years of conflict to be damaged by a force majeure – an earthquake – in 1810. Some time later, a fire caused by a lightning strike completely destroyed it. In 1635,  Dániel Eszterházy bought the castle and village (nice to be able to think in such terms) and it remained part of the Ezsterházy estate until 1945. It’s been under excavation and restoration since 1967.

One this sunny Sunday in November, I navigated the bends of Route 82 at speed, doing my best impression of Rosemary Smith (I was late for mass…)  I  love to drive and I love to drive on deserted, winding, country roads in a real car with a manual gearbox. It was an unseasonable 17 degrees and the radio station was playing hits from the 1980s. I was in heaven. Late or not, I had to stop to take a quick photo of the imposing castle. It was then that I noticed that someone else hadn’t been so lucky.  Losing a life, any life, to the roads, is a sad thing, especially when nine times of out ten, it could have been avoided.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the twelfth-century castle on the hilltop, testifying to the durability of medieval architecture and construction and the modern-day monument on the roadside testifying to the fragility of life and twenty-first century living. I started to think of legacies and what we leave behind and was reminded of something I read somewhere about legacies, deeds, and monuments. I tracked it down:

If I have done any deed worthy of remembrance, that deed will be my monument. If not, no monument can preserve my memory.

I wonder how right Agesilaus II was. I think of how statues are torn down, destroyed or relocated on the whim of political or national fervour. I see neglected graves in cemeteries everywhere, no-one left to remember or to care. And I wonder.

This week, I’m inclined to be grateful that I made it to mass on time… and in one piece. While I doubt that given such a road again I’d drive more sedately, at least I might be a little more aware of the possible consequences. And I’ll certainly be giving more thought to legacies and good deeds.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52