Day 10: 27 July 2004
Tuesday. When we wake around 7:30, it is still raining – a continual patter patter on roof and out in the yard. Stepping out, refreshed and rejuvenated onto the verandah, at first I find not a single soul in evidence. Most of the gang have woken earlier and gone down to Csabi’s Place at 6 o’clock for the killing of Wendy. Presently the stay at home’s – that’ll be Jessica and Louise, Ewan and myself are up and ready for breakfast.
Helen is the first of the slaughter crew to arrive back, dripping water from her raincoat. It turns out that her stomach is turned somewhat and not just from the watching the kill, but has been sick during most of the night and is still not perfect.
We breakfast again in the hall; it still feels wrong but perhaps a little less wrong with the presence of rain. For some it is there second breakfast, for Martin and Claire have already tried eating a pig’s ear – more precisely Wendy’s ear – blow torched in the cooking and a bit chewy and cartilagey to the taste.
Following breakfast we board the three vehicles and drive to the cave system which we will be visiting today. No one has explained exactly what the plan is today, except for drip caves, Hungarian dancing and the intriguing ‘meat in fur’ for lunch. Arriving at a gravely, muddy car park with half an hour till the tour at 10 o’clock, some opt to stay in the rapidly steaming up van and play cards, whilst others decide to brave the rain and walk down towards a lake. Martin, Leonie, Louise and I take a different decision and climb the many, many steps to a restaurant where a grumpy old man serves us coffee grudgingly. What we actually get ends up being expresso, which whilst nice, isn’t quite what we had in mind to fill the half hour that our large cups were intended for.
Louise and I are given, over coffee, the full run-down of the events of this morning, the selection, the slaughter, the flambéeing, and the butchering of poor Wendy. As if our imagination was not sufficient (we are both writers after all) the commentary is accompanying by pictures from Leonie’s camera.
After the half hour we decamp to a larger minibus, and Tamas joins us as we go and collect our guide – a college student – leaving the green monster at the corner of a road, collecting it on the return. And so finally we arrive at the mine entrance; half way up the hill, a railway line disappears down a mine shaft.
Onwards into the dark. Concreted walls, with industrial lighting fixed to the walls at intervals down the side, we take a turn off to the left, passing a Guardian Gnome in an alcolve, shortly after which the tunnel changes to bare rock with low sections that most of us have to duck for – Louise and Jessica are possibly alone in not having have to stoop.
A cavern opens out, with steps and ladders descending off to one side into a black void. Tamas makes a request that w should not, under any account, touch any of the rock, for the oil in our fingers can kill the organisms in the rock and stop the dripstones from forming.
It’s beautifulu, eery – almost cathedral-like, or living in some large crature; there are faces in the rocks; dragons and mythical creatures. A lake a the bottom, with clear waters, shimming in the translucent green under the artificial light. Down again, we make our way to the lowest platforms, suspended in the plunging cave; the lake is 43 metres deep, and we are allowed down in fours on to a lower plaform, and at each time the lights are switched off – complete, utter blackness; the creatures who live down here are understandably blind.
Up to the surface again – Helen is still not a hundred percent and both Louise and I felt a bit queezy a the back of the bus on the way up so all three of us dive for the front seats. Back to the car park, which is by now filling with tourists, and to our three vehicles, we drive back down to the village for lunch.
Meat slice in fur proves to be a schnitzel served with rice and cabbage that follows a light noodle soup with paprika (and I wager some undescribed meat). I sit with Martin, Louise and Jessica (she of her fried cheese on a bed of rice) in a somewhat seedy, Diner-like restaurant with the minging toilets. The food is good but the ambience can only be described as an “experience”.
Over lunch the rain eases somewhat, as we return to our car park and wait for our tour guide again. Donning waterproofs we start our guided walk of the old mining village – a man-made lake dammed to provide water for the old blacksmiths is the most wonderful shade of green.
Taking the path of an old railway line we cut through a woodland beneath the cemetery into the heart of the old village that is now a heritage site. At the village museum we see inside traditional houses, and then upon seeing the new village we can see how traditional styles are still imposed into modern buildings. On route to an art gallery, Imre takes Jessica aside to point out Tamas’ house that he is helping to build, and a few of us tag along to be shown around.
Last stop is a church with two painted galleries opposing each other from each end, and finely decorated painted ceilings; the alter in the centre of the church is a simple round table draped with an embroidered tablecloth to patch the decorative paintwork. The village it seems has population of nearly a 1000 but they can only muster a weekly congregation of 15. The talk is interesting and extremely detailed, but it has been a long day, the weather is gloomy and we are all tired. From my vantage point by the steps to the pulpit, I can see the whole gang, and the expressions on our faces are priceless to observe.
Outside is the knarled stump of an old lime tree that once served as the pulpit to the church. Years ago it got struck by lighting, and now a new limetree, a sapling from the original, grows.
Walking back round the far side of the lake and back to the vans, we each have a yearning for a coffee; or for some of us, a hot chocolate. We are driven back to the lunch restarurant where there is a bar out the front. Smokey and somewhat grim, there are men dancing together to thumping rock music. We move outside where the air is clean and the noise is dissipated to a level where we can talk.
Dinner is served an hour later in the same restaurant as lunch, and again the table occupants are petty much the same, except that on mine we swap Martin for Claire. The discussion ranges from what we miss most whilst being away; but is interrupted by Helen appearing alongside us to gauge opinion as to the open air Ghanain concert this evening. Attila has said that we don’t have to go, but if we do then it would be difficult to leave halfway through. From our table it is 50/50 from all of us; we would like to go but we don’t mind if we don’t. In the end the consensus is to go and head for home.
Back in Gömörszőlős I shed wet clothes and shower before heading out to the verandah to write my journal. A table has now appeared amongst our growing mass of chairs.
We gather again – they diary writers writing; Helen with her colouring book. Teas is brought but we have limited access to the kitchen as there is a party in the reception room tonight and we are scheduled to be out. Before long a convoy of Transylvanian tour buses trundle into the yard invading our village. Imre comes and join us and we crack open another 2 litre bottle of wine. We pass the three Fuji cameras of Thomas, Imre and Leonie amongst ourselves to see the cave pictures.
A second table is brought out from another bedroom, and diary writing gives way to a couple of games of shithead; surprisingly I come out winning the games. The hardened gamers move onto cheat with the arrival of Attila; the diary writers in the guise of Louise and I are pushed sown the table, but in the end we are pushed out, and I finish off writing these pages in bed with the sound of Ewan outside asking the Transylvanians about vampires. I set my alarm, and I go to bed.
Day Eleven: The eating of Wendy…