Budapest – The Musical

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Many of us have been to Budapest before, it is a stunningly beautiful city famous for its Turkish baths, incredible architecture and my favourite river… At this point I should ask if anybody else has a favourite stretch of water? Friends often laugh when I list off my 5 favourite rivers…Ralph stop…

The purpose of our visit to the Hungarian capital was not to enjoy the baths, but to watch one of Hungary’s most famous football teams while exploring the city in search of good food (klobasa) and of course the local beer.

6.22am and we were off, comfortably positioned in a Czech Railway dining car, where we would stay for the entire 4hr 23mins of the journey south-east. One of the finest (I am keen to avoid using favourite too much) qualities of Czech Railways is the dining car – the service is good and the prices are excellent – highly recommended if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself travelling in the Czech Republic.

Roughly half an hour into the journey and not even in Slovakia we had already ordered our first beer of to go with our equally unhealthy breakfast of ham and eggs. We were also using the time to refresh our knowledge of Hungarian,  very much like the scene in Monty Python with the very same phrasebook. It’s a difficult language to grasp, but we were both determined to refresh our knowledge of the pleasantries.

The train journey from the Czech Republic is one of the nicest is Central Europe, especially when you cross the border into Hungary from Slovakia. While, the Hungarians may be blessed with stunning countryside, they haven’t been so lucky with ticket inspectors, as a couple of young ladies sat behind us in the buffet car found out when the most miserable inspector told them that a mobile phone was not a train ticket (I suppose he’s right there) and charged them an extra 80 euros for not taking the time to read the small print. No matter how much they pleaded with him, he was not going to let them off, unless they promised to give him back Dunajska Streda. I made that last bit up. However, they did leave the train lighter.

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As we approached Budapest Keleti, two things of note happened – First of all, with us keen to settle the bill, we went in search of a buffet car member of staff. It had been a while since we had seen them, but before you call the police, we did find them, all of them, fast asleep in the first class department and I felt awful having to wake them up. Welcome to Ceske Drahy.

The second, and this might give you an insight into life on the road with The Blansko Klobasa, was that Craggy turned to me right as we pulled into Keleti station and said, “maybe, we should turn this trip into a musical”. Now before you laugh, and we’d only had a couple of beers, honest – I thought this was a brilliant idea. Yes, you are all welcome to join us on a trip. We’ll list the bizarre songs that come into our heads later.

At Keleti train station, I made my first mistake of the day by heading over to change some Czech crowns into Hungarian forint. In untypical fashion, I went to the first place I saw.

“Excuse me, could I change some Czech crowns into Hungarian forints, please?”

I handed over the equivalent of about 35 GBP.

The woman behind the counter smiled and took the money and asked a question that took me by surprise.

“How long are you staying in Budapest for?”

Now, I took that as her asking me out on a date, but before we could finalise a night out on the tiles and possibly a life together in the Hungarian capital, I realised that she was encouraging me to change more money, so that she could rip me off a little bit more…The lesson learned here is – don’t change any money at the train station and although they a being extremely friendly, they are not inviting you out for ghoulash.

So, about 5 beers down in commission, we walked out of the terminal and into the bustling centre of Budapest, where we encountered another, and we must final, attempt to get more forint from us. Craggy will have to watch his back while withdrawing money at Budapest cash machines.

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After that final attempt at the cashpoint, we found a cafe happy enough to provide us with our first Hungarian beer of the day, for probably the only time during the trip we were not there for food or alcohol, but to use modern technology called WIFI to locate our hotel, somewhere over the river. Years ago, we’d have picked up a map from tourist information, now we have smartphones to ruin the fun..

“It’s about a 25 minute walk that way” said Craggy, while confidently pointing in the direction of the Danube, my favourite river if I hadn’t mentioned it all. What my travel partner hadn’t mentioned was that the entire journey was uphill.

So across the Chain Bridge we went, and then up and up and up. It was a challenge. While on that journey, we noticed piles of rubbish on the streets, I can’t really explain it, some people were selling junk, some of the residents had left whatever they didn’t need anymore. There was old furniture, pool tables, computers, old televisions, not in organised piles, but it looked like they had just been thrown from the nearest balcony… Could anyone from Budapest tell us why?

We finally got into the hotel Bi&Bi Panzio, and to my relief without needing climbing equipment, about 3 hrs before kick off. Even though it was a bit of a walk from the Keleti station, it was in a great location and we’d also heard wonderful things about the breakfast. It was also close to the metro line and we had a game to get to. Of course, not before we tried a restaurant recommended to us by the incredibly friendly lady at our hotel reception.

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Trombitás Gösserező was a gem, not the kind of place you would perhaps enter from unwelcoming facade, but a paradise of Hungarian cuisine and beer on the inside. The food did not disappoint and with a belly full, we paid and took various modes of transport before arriving at Budapest Honved’s magnificent stadium.

Arriving 30 minutes before the game might be enough time to get a ticket and find your place in the stadium, but not at Honved. Fans patiently queued well into the first half (apart from two annoying Australian tourists), and the only reason I can think of for waiting in silence without complaint was they knew something we didn’t… That Hungarian football would wait until everybody was safely in the stadium before scoring a goal.

We finally secured our tickets in 32nd minute, after providing I.D and speaking more Hungarian than we’d done in any of our previous visits. The only thing we didn’t understand was probably “Don’t worry about the score, we have asked both teams to pass the ball around in the centre circle until all fans are in the ground”, okay maybe the ticket lady didn’t utter those words, but there were still a healthy number of Honved fans queuing without a care in the world – so we knew the action would wait.

The Hondved stadium should be under UNESCO. It’s sadly been ruined by the plastic seats, but the floodlights are just glorious. For anybody who knows me well, they know that floodlights, rivers and Central European train journeys are up there as my most favourite things ever…

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Beers bought, we positioned ourselves behind the goals and as close to the ultras as possible – I still don’t know how MattLostBoyo finds his way in home end, there must be a talent to obtaining those tickets. Matt?

The game was as you would expect, a bit dull with moments of magic from both teams…The first half went by without much action, but that might have been because we missed the first 35 minutes….aaaahhh. Half-time was spent making sure Honved knew who the Blansko Klobasa were by plastering as many stickers as we could in and around the stadium, while trying to take the perfect photo of the floodlights with our crappy smartphones… The football tourist, hey? Can’t live with them … can’t live without them.

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The second half (a full 45 minutes of action) was entertaining. I actually thought Debrecen were the better team for much of the game and had several chances to score with former QPR and Watford midfielder Daniel Tozser pulling the strings in midfield and second half sub Hyun-Jun Suk running intelligently in attack, they probably should have won the game..but what do we know about football with 85 minutes on the clock scored the only goal we have seen in 360 minutes of Hungarian football, Marton Eppel latching on to a through ball from Kabangu. Against the run of play, but for us it didn’t matter, we just wanted a goal.

With Hungarian football not keen to give us much more, Craggy suggested finding some trendy bars in Pest. By this he meant hipster, where beers are served in bicycle repair shops. Admittedly, it was good place to start, but with none of us in possession of a Raleigh Racer we knew we had to leave after our our only beer and headed for more local climates.

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Those “climates” were a local dive where a local man took an instant shine to our Craggy, offering a leather belt and some perfume for something we are still unsure of. While, we were not in need of something to keep our trousers up or a fragrance that may have been to our advantage, we were in need of beer and the more Hungarian the better. With every sip of beer, came more questions from our new friend.”You like the belt, special price for you my friend”. Sometimes it helps to be the ugly one.

With both of us declining the option of a second beer and bidding farewell to our new friends (which included one who had possibly been sleeping in the same position since our previous visit to Budapest), we made our best decision of the night to find as many local pubs on our way back to the hotel, but not before we had popped next door to Kobe Sausage for what can only be described as a few small sausages in a cone, with lots of sauce. As we were trying to get a photo of this very unique snack, two men approached us..

“Mmmm..klobasa? Is it good?”

“Er…we don’t know, it’s difficult to eat” ( and it was)

“Do you want some cocaine?”

“Er..no thank you” we both replied.

“Grass?”

Well, we declined both, but what impressed us most was that he started on a Class A drug and moved down to something less classy.

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A lot of sauce in an awkward bread cone

Beer stops were made, photos were taken until we arrived in one of our final stops of the evening after being waved away from a tiny bar that had been so welcoming the year or so before. With midnight fast approaching we walked into an empty cafe across the river and a km from our home for the night.

“Are you still open?” I enquired

“Well, we would like to close, but you can have a small beer if you promise to drink it in 25 minutes” The barmaid responded.

She had obviously no idea of who we were, or maybe just thought we had already had one too many.

Then something strange happened, the music changed to mixture of late 80s classics and her colleague came in from the cold. Now, they no longer wanted us to leave, they were locking us in and asking us  if we wanted a shot… this all to a Simple Minds soundtrack. We accepted their offer of a palinka, but we weren’t too sure about them locking us in…It was a bit of a turnaround and one we were not expecting. Suspecting they now wanted a bit more than to dance to Tiffany’s “I think we’re alone now”, we downed the shots, thanked them politely for their hospitality and asked them to unlock the door and let us out. It was a very bizarre moment and one that completely took us by surprise.

We tried other bars on the way up to the hill, finding a Croatian pub open to provide us with one final beer and a nightcap. Budapest we love you.

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Our second day started with the most incredible breakfast we’ve had on our travels, service with a smile and a meal that was worth hotel fee on its own. Follow the link to Bi&Bi Panzio here, it’s worth every single forint.

The Sunday was spent in typical Klobasa style, taking in the sights of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, while finding watering holes to quench our thirst.  In our opinion there’s nothing better than seeing the sights of such a spectacular city, while tasting the local beverages and cuisine.

As we were on the Buda side, we made the short walk up to the castle, past the Matthias church, where like every other tourist in Budapest we stopped for photos – before slowly walking down the hill to the Chain Bridge, to the cities second most popular place for selfies. One too many selfie stick for us and we headed straight to our first beer stop. The rest of the day was pretty much the same, sightseeing and Soproni drinking.

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Around 3.00pm we found ourselves, quite by chance, just outside Keleti Train Station and with two hours to kill and feeling a tad peckish, we found another great Hungarian restaurant, Huszár étterem, on one of the side streets.

“Welcome, Welcome to Budapest”

And I suppose , even though we on our way out of Budapest, the people, the food, the palinka, the beer had made it such a great trip that we knew we’d be back for more.

As Craggy so often says when he likes a place…

“I could live here”

Viva Budapest. Viva Soproni. Viva Palinki.

Craggy: and what about the setlist for the musical, I can hear you asking? Well, this is the rather inexplicable, and somewhat embarrassing setlist that we sang all weekend:

Driftwood by Travis (You’re driftwood floating down the Danube. Can also be artistically applied to suit the names of Blansko players flying down the left wing)

Summer Son by Texas (Really painful one, this one)

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds (sounds even better after about 15 beers)

I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany (don’t ask…)

Cocaine Blues by Johnny Cash

Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode

Don’t You Want Me by The Human League (Sang by the guy in the bar offering himself to Craggy)

Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi (Which Craggy was doing)

Freelove on the Freelove Freeway by Ricky Gervais

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Ralph and his favourite river

The Hunt for Pav the Drummer

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“Right, I will show you round Blansko during the winter break. It would be nice if there was a bit of snow.. it will make the place a bit more picturesque” Those were the words of Wingy, a resident of town for the last 23 years after deciding to swap a cushy job in a London office for life as an English teacher in South Moravia. Blansko needs snow to make a trip worthwhile.

Chris (Wingy) is probably the main reason, why we started following the local football team. A few years ago, we started going and such was the welcome from everybody at the club, we found ourselves spending more time at Udolni and beyond.. Now, one of the friendliest of friendly faces was Pavel the Drummer, the only regular Blansko Ultra at the time. You could guarantee that at every game, home or away, Pavel would be there, with his drum. Then back in November, after a few matches on tannoy duty, he disappeared. We know that sounds dramatic,  but we were genuinely concerned and nobody at the club knew of his whereabouts.

So, we decided, while on a tour of Blansko, to print off a picture of our drummer and ask the locals if they had seen this man…

A few days before the trip, Wingy pulled out with a serious bout of manflu, leaving the rest of us to wander round the town, taking in the sights and of course enjoying a few beers. First stop was the new allweather football pitch (needed to confirm our place in MSFL) and 90 minutes of football. Blansko were hosting Bohunice, a team from Brno playing a couple of tiers down from us. For us, it was a chance to see our two new signings and to be quite honest to watch a live game of football.. something we’d been missing.

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It was cold, very, very cold, definitely the coldest game we had ever been to (colder than Boundary Park)..we lasted 80 minutes before heading for the warmth of a local pub. Not even a hip flask full of homemade slivovice could keep us there for the entire game and we left the moment our new striker, Jindra Stehlik, scored our 6th goal.

Now,for the first time in the short life of the Blansko Klobasa, we vlogged our trip with a Polaroid Cube and the story of our trip is below.. With none of us being at all good on camera, we ask you to go a bit easy on us…

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Half-season round up

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Wingy modelling the new Blansko shirt

Following the storming success of the 2015 – 2016 season, which ended with FK Blansko as league champions, adjustment to the competitive MSFL has inevitably not been easy. Blansko have shown some moments of on the field brilliance, but the step up has been a steep one to climb. Off the field too there have been some highs (new shirts for the fans) and lows (where’s Pavel?) around the club. As for the Klobasa? Well, we sat down to discuss all things Klobasa, and here is our assessment of this year so far…

What is your assessment of the season so far…?

Ralph: Well, we knew it was going to be hard this season as there are some excellent teams in the MSFL. As we are playing against teams like Unicov, Vyskov and Hlucin who may have greater ambition, I think we have equipped ourselves well..Many of our defeats have been by the odd goal, which means we are competing at this level.
Craggy: It’s been pretty tough at times but it was always going to be. The question at the beginning of the season was really whether we could compete at this level, and the tightness of the games have shown we can.
Wingy: Agreed. We’ve done about as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Haven’t been a whole lot of highs so far, but lets see what the second half of the season brings.

Favourite game?

Ralph: Either Zlin B at home or Mohelnice away, comprehensive wins and excellent performances. The 4-0 win over Zlin B definitely showed that we belong at this level.
Craggy: Kroměříž – it wasn’t really the best game but it was my first away game of the MSFL season. We showed that we could compete, and it was exciting to see us travel to Kromeriz, which is a great stadium in a lovely town.
Wingy: Wasn’t at Mohelnice, so will also go for Zlin B. Very convincing win against a team whose ‘A’ team was top of the Czech league at that point.

Player of the season?

Ralph: Anybody who keeps David Juran out of the team has to be a good player, so I am going for Jirka Floder. I though he was excellent throughout the season and I am sure he will make the grade at Zbrojovka Brno. All of our players have given their all in the first half of the season, but Jirka gets my vote.
Craggy: Gromsky – at the beginning of the season he obviously needed to step up his game in order to keep his place, which he has managed to do well.
Wingy: Again, would have to agree with Jirka Floder. For a player so young, he shows huge potential, and bigger clubs will surely come calling soon

Best trip

Ralph: I enjoyed the Kroměříž trip, but Mohelnice wins it for me.. Found a great bar with friendly locals and we won 3-0.
Craggy: Kroměříž. Beautiful city for which we had fantastic weather.
Wingy: Was only on two, so Kroměříž. Terrific day, good beer, lovely place etc

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Best side we have played against.

Ralph: There’s a reason why Sigma Olomouc keep producing good players and they were outstanding against us away. We were lucky to get nil that day. Also enjoyed watching Unicov, they played some great football.
Craggy: Yep, the Olomouc B side. Thrashed us a good 4-0 and their fans have the best mullets in the league.
Wingy: again easy – Olomouc B were way above us. Everything about them spoke professionalism. Vyškov second

Season low

Ralph: The disappearance of Pavel the drummer..He’s a big part of FK Blansko and it is always good when we see him at games.. Hopefully, our “Hunt for Pavel the Drummer” in the pubs of Blansko will help us track in down. Also I didn’t really enjoy the meeting with Michal Kugler and the way he talked about the club…I was disappointed to lose him last year, but now I believe it might be for the best.
Craggy: Not playing the game against Olomouc B in the stadium. We were very much looking forward to being lost in the away end. Also, as Ralph said, where is Pavel the Drummer?
Wingy: Too many single goal defeats, sometimes after taking the lead. Honza T’s continuing injury problems (ironically, his best game was probably at Olomouc when he played CD), Koudelka’s erratic form. That Blansko fan having a pop at us for singing in English. Not playing in Olomouc’s stadium. Everything Ralph said in his comments (not everything Ralph said)

Season Surprise

Ralph: The players buying us the shirts and just the general love between the fans and the players.. Whatever happens during the rest of the season, we know that the players love Blansko as much as we do.
Craggy: The American that never arrived?
Wingy: Agreed. The club and fans seem to genuinely appreciate us, and the gesture of buying us the shirts was excellent. Although suddenly changing the shirts was a big surprise too. How Michal has become a Klobasa. That ‘Mullet Porn’ is actually a thing!

Best Away Ground

Ralph: It has to be Slavia Kroměříž as they have floodlights, but my favourite trip has been to Slovan Podebrady, I know it’s not Blansko related, but their wooden stand is so beautiful, it should be under UNESCO.
Craggy: I’d say Olomouc but we only got the training ground, so it has to go to Kroměříž.
Wingy: Easy, as only Kroměříž and Olomouc training ground apply. The former obviously

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Best Away Pub

Ralph: The beer in Cerny Orel in Kromeriz was very, very good, but I am going to give it to the pub by the Vel Mez ground… I know it’s a bit of a ‘pajzl’, but it’s has a bit of character and for it’s always open at 9.30 on a Sunday morning…
Craggy: It has to be Restaurace Sklep in Tisnov. Although disappointed with losing to Tisnov in the cup, we found solace under an octopus-like lamp in one of the best pubs in Tisnov with its own great beer.
Wingy: Again, as Ralph.

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Kvetnice beer in Restaurace Sklep, Tisnov

Hope for the spring season.

Ralph: Survival. We are just above relegation at the moment, but if we make a couple of signings, we could stay up. I wouldn’t mind seeing Floder,Kucera and Kouldelka return and in addition to those three, we need a defender and someone who can score goals.
Craggy: Climbing the table. On the evidence of some of the performances we’ve put in this year, it’s reasonable to hope that some of those narrow defeats can be turned in to points.
Wingy: Some decent signings, especially up front. (Ronaldo would be nice. Except we would get the fat Brazilian one.) At least a couple more good days out. Survival

Best goal

Ralph:  Honza’s header in the first game – not because of the quality, but just because our first goal back was in the USSR (MSFL) scored by a local boy.
Craggy: I really can’t remember.
Wingy: Koudelka v Lisen

Best own goal

Ralph, Craggy, Wingy:  – Standa’s header v Vyskov  ( It would have been goal of the season it was in the Vyskov goal.)

Funniest moment.

Ralph: Did anybody knock over a pint?
Craggy: Wingy’s favourite mullet…
Wingy: …the Olomouc mullet
Ralph: Yes – Wingy’s obsession with mullet porn was both funny and worrying.

So now we look forward to kicking off the second half of the season with optimism… and a new unhealthy search for 1980s hairstyles.

Olomouc and the Lipnik Beer Dog

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Pivni Pes

There’s nothing like a 10.15 kick-off on a Saturday morning to the blood racing. We didn’t mind though because we were going to be watching the game from the away end of Sigma Olomouc’s impressive Andruv Stadium… or not.

We had been carrying the hope that our league 3 game between FK Blansko and Olomouc B would be held in the main stadium, so that we could delight in being a full four fans stranded in the away end full of joy and song. Unfortunately, the game was actually being played on the training pitch which sits in the shadows of the stadium.

We arrived around 10.20 to a freezing field clouded in mist and threw our Blansko flag on to a bush. Luckily, the newest member of the Klobasa team, Michal, had brought some of Tisnov’s finest local brews with him and we were on our way to happiness before we had even arrived. It was hard to get the vocal chords warmed up that early in the morning, and although we managed a couple of fine songs the atmosphere was decidedly flat, not helped by Klobasa favourite Standa Pisek being relegated to the bench for the full 90 minutes. In the second half Olomouc B started to show their quality with a scoreline increasing in their favour. I was prompted to remark that Blansko had played well for the first 60 minutes, when Ralph said “Erm… they’ve only played 56”. It was going to be one of those days…

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We left the field with a 4-0 defeat and the revelation that Wingy has a fascination with mullets (Bundesliga to some, Jagr to others). It was true that we had just seen a fan with the most impressive mullet since Pat Sharp presented Fun House, and you could see the longing in Wingy’s eyes for a bygone era of hair.

Our next stop was Lipník nad Bečvou, a little way down the tracks from Olomouc. The train was leaving soon so we sprinted after a tram, a little like gazelles, and grabbed it just in time with Wingy clutching at his heart. Luckily for him, Ralph had the train times wrong by about an hour so we swung in to the station restaurant and had a beer to sooth him.

On these trips we always find someone who is mad enough to want to talk to us- someone who Ralph can give a Wales badge to. Today it was the waiter, who to be honest didn’t  seem to know what was going on but I guess he was happy. At this point we lost Wingy to a trip to Bauhaus and the rest of us rolled on to Lipník nad Bečvou.

Lipník is a small town of around 8,000 people and judging by the reactions of my Czech friends, not often visited. However, it turns out, it does have some real charm. And a brewery or two. If you can find them. After Ralph and Michael had a short war of map applications, we managed to walk around in circles and find ourselves at the Svatovar brewery where we just had to try the first thing we saw on the menu – pivni pes (beer dog). Despite its mad name, it was actually the commonly sought tvarusky cheese (a local speciality cheese) on bread, with some onion and a touch a praprika. It was bloody good though, as was all the food we had there. We washed it down with a fairly decent a beer or two and then moved on in search of more Lipník delights.

We didn’t make the ground in time for the football but the beer window was still open so we were in luck. The ground sits snugly in a green basin with a great old stand leaning over the side of it, complimented by a wonderful old clock. The ground was so pleasant that it felt a shame we had missed the game there. It was bloody cold though, and so after a swift beer sought the comfort of the warmth. Again, Lipník is a place with some charm, as a walk through the walled gardens of the renaissance palace demonstrated. The remains of old city walls are dotted around the old town, and the renaissance houses of the centre surround the picturesque fountains of the Masaryk Square. We jumped inside a pub to find a wedding reception was in full swing, and we only had room at the bar – our favourite spot in any pub.

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From there we made our way back to the train, and with a can of beer in hand, made the journey back to Brno for a nightcap before returning to our respective dwellings