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

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Singing the Reds – Walking to Blansko

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I received a message from Ralph a few days before the game against Třebíč, asking if I was up for walking the 20km from Brno to Blansko?  The weather forecast looked good so we decided on it and gave ourselves around 6 hours to get there – accounting for pub stops along the way. Setting off from Obřany at around 8 in the morning, we opened our first bottle of Policka half way to Bilovice. The sun was shining, the Klobasa were singing, and the trip via Bilovice and Babice, alongside the river was perfect. At some point we lost the tracks and found ourselves walking for miles along a busy country road, risking death at almost every turn. The things we do for Blansko! Anyway, needless to say (after a pub stop in Adamov) we arrived in one piece and met Wingy, who will now give us the low down on all things Blansko. (This trip has been videod and will be “vlogged” soon. So stay tuned for a white-knuckle ride including near-death experiences and roadside fishermen casting rods for porn stars…)

Here is Wingy:

The Klobasa are big fans of the team shirt, even to the extent of buying our own. So when we arrived at Udolni for the game with third-placed Třebíč, we saw to our horror that Blansko had a completely new kit – red with a black chevron. WHAT?? You can’t do that to us! As it turned out, it may have put the hex on Blansko too.

The Koruna bar near the Blansko město station (a.k.a. ‚Kugler’s pub, as the former Blansko boss, currently doing very well indeed at Rosice, is the owner) is becoming established as the pre-match pub of choice for the Klobasa, but unfortunately we didn‘t make it this time round, due to meeting up with a friend before the game. And maybe this also contributed to the eventual outcome of the game (I am not usually superstitious – except for football!) And when we arrived and saw the shirt-change we knew that something was going wrong that day.

The first half didn’t have much to commend it from Blansko’s point of view, apart from one effort that bounced off the bar, and a couple of other half chances. It was a good half for Třebíč though, as they hit us with almost identical sucker-punch breakaway goals on 10 and 34 minutes. The second half was very different as Blansko pretty much dominated, and it was no big surprise when Jajub Splíchal toe-poked one back from about three yards out. The rest of the game Blansko pressed hard, with impressive performances by sub Kutal and the welcome return oif TKB favourite Jan Koudelka, but we just couldn’t make that breakthrough and snatch an equaliser.

So this was actually a decent performance, and an entertaining game, with a lot of hope for improvement. Definitely needed though, as we’ve now lost all three of our home games, and we face Zlín’s B team next at home. Watch this space.

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Kroměříž – It’s hard to say

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A trip to the picturesque town of Kroměříž promised two firsts for the Blansko Klobasa: a debut away trip for new Klobasa Michal, and our first game with our own fully segregated away end. Words alone can not begin to describe the excitement.

 

We all met at Brno’s main station, and after some impressive steeplechase by the in-form Wingy, we were happily on our way, drying some essential laundry in the train window.

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A small incident between a lorry and a bridge threatened to derail our journey, but we made our way to Kojetin by bus (see our post about last time we survived Kojetin) and then finally caught our one-carriage shuttle to Kroměříž.

Kroměříž is simply beautiful, and the glaring sunlight of the day made the colourful buildings of the city’s main square seem almost iridescent. The city has much to offer the traveler, from its packed streets exiting the square to the UNESCO listed baroque castle and gardens. Importantly, the city is awash with interesting pubs, including the microbrewery Cerny Orel, which provided us with our first stop of the day, and a much sought after beer. The beer was very good, but after weighing up the prices of the food we thought it best left to the Austrian tourists. We tried Radniční sklípek for food, most of us opting for various kinds of schnitzels, and washed it down with a pint of Maximilian from the local brewery – both proving winners all round.

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It’s fair to say that the Klobasa love a bit of culture, and so of course the castle gardens were high on our list  of “must-sees”. We managed to make it a short way in before we saw a pub garden sitting nicely in the shade, with one free table left and enough space for about four people. Not choosing to contradict fate we sat down with another local beer, the “McHugo”, and watched an endless procession of weddings being tossed out of the castle quicker than Pavel the Blansko drummer turns out football songs.

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It wasn’t long before it was time to head to the ground. As we’ve already mentioned, we were looking forward to camping out in the away end of the SK Hanácká Slavia Kroměříž stadium, seeing as we have never had the opportunity of an away end before. However, Pavel the drummer had been pretty down on the idea from the start and now that the day had finally arrived he was firmly digging his heels in. Maybe the space wasn’t right for his drum, or maybe he just felt out of his comfort zone, but whatever the case we ended up capitulating and staying with him in the main stand.

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SK Hanácká Slavia Kroměříž have a great ground, and with a disappointing turn out from the home fans we had a lot of space to make ourselves heard. Maybe the heat had got to the players but the game had 0-0 written all over it early on, with barely any chances from either team in the first half aside from a free header for David Muller. This was due in part to some good defensive displays, with new centre back Pisek, arriving in the summer from Ivancice, putting in a particularly strong performance. Blansko were also missing Pospisil, who was injured, and Koudelka who was busy winning a bronze medal with The Czech Republic in the Soccer Sixes European Championships. The second half played out much the same with Honza Minx(y) failing to convert a one on one with the keeper before the game finished goalless. Not the best of games, but a point away from home is worth having at any rate, and that means two away games without conceding a goal, which is great.

We finished the day with a swift beer in a pub close to the stadium, before making our way back to the train and on through the darkening Moravian countryside towards our respective homes.

Man of the Match goes to Standa Pisek for his super display at the back.

Man of the Day goes to Michal for is superman display, saving babies’ hats and carrying luggage for ladies of all ages. (Although he’s not coming again if he’s going to make the rest of us look bad)

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Toppled By Tisnov

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There is not much that can bring you back early from a holiday in East Slovakia and a cup game at Tisnov is also not one of them, but I was back late on Saturday evening after a few days away across the border and as Tisnov is a hop, skip and a beer away from Brno, it was an easy decision to stroll down for a midday train to a town , nicely situated at the foot of the Czech-Moravian highlands.

A host for the day was our good friend and proud Tisnovak, Michal who had promised us good beer and good company..

To give you a bit of  background to the homeside, AFK Tisnov were promoted from 6th tier of Czech football and the newboys of the South Moravian Regional League have big ambitions. In 2015/16 they were FK Blansko’s farm team and we shared the talents (and beer belly) of Petr Svancara, Franta Kuldan and Mohomed Traore, all contributing to our success on the field. The club have  plans for a new stadium and to turn their current ground into a training centre. For the coming season they have signed Franta Schneider (another ex Blansko player)  and a few former Brno youngsters. Leading the good ship of Tisnov is Jiri Hajsky, who, as I am sure you’ve probably already guessed …. is a former Blansko manager and played in Zbrojovka’s title winning side of 1978. He’s assembled a very useful team which walked away with the league title last season.

To calm the nerves (okay to kill time), Michal took us to a pub serving the locally brewed Kvetnice beer (we have since been told there are two breweries in the town). If you are ever in area, we highly recommend you visit Restaurace Sklep to sample a beer or two and when you are there we advise you to look up… just look up.

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As with every trip, we try and fit in a visit to a brewery and this was no different, after a swift pint, we were back on the train and travelling 20 minutes up the track to the small town of Doubravnik (not to be confused with Dubrovnik), home to a beer of the same name and a pint with a great reputation in our region, and possibly the rest of the country too. Now, usually with these places, we wait for Craggy’s seal of apporoval and it wasn’t long in coming. “You know what? I could live here”. Once you hear those words, you know you are in a place of beauty or he’s seen a pub.

It was indeed a lovely town, situated in a valley with wooded hills surrounding, it was also deadly quiet..so quiet in fact that there were very few people about and this included the owner of the local brewery, it was closed up and there was nobody home. Who closes a brewery on a Sunday?  Who?

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There was a back-up plan, well not exactly a plan, but we’d noticed three things in the town – a statue, a fire station and a pub, so in true Blansko Klobasa style we headed straight to U Sedlacka for a slightly different gulas and finally a pint of the local brew. And even the barman seemed to be pretending the brewery didn’t actually exist….

The gulas was the perfect pre-match meal and the was everything we dreamed of and although Doubravnik had hosted us well (we’ll forget about the brewery incident), it was time to catch the train back to Tisnov for the game.

It’s a crying shame that the cup isn’t taken so seriously, but for teams like Blansko and Tisnov it’s a chance to test their skills against better teams, so it was lovely to see that there was a healthy crowd gathering.  For us it was an opportunity to see some of our new signings and to have a closer look at how our new squad was shaping up for the coming season in the MSFL.

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We very rarely describe the match in detail, but with this being Tisnov’s debut in the Czech Cup, we’ll try and recall as much as we can.

In the 2nd minute, Blansko showed their attacking intentions, Kratochvil put new signing Jan Minx through on goal, but he pushed the ball just past the post. In the 11th minute, the home side attacked for the first time and with it brought the first goal of the game. Some shenanigans in the box forced the referee to point the penalty spot.  We believe it was captain Kolacek who fouled former Blansko striker Ladislav Hansl, but we are not quite sure. Anyhow, Hansl stepped up and calmly slotted home and put Tisnov one goal up.

Jan “Minxy” Minx (add a “y” to the surname to create nickname) was beginning to take a hold of the game and created a chance for himself in 21st minute, but couldn’t quite find the finish to match the run. In 29th minute, he again was at the centre of things and created a chance which Kratochvil gobbled up to bring Blansko level and this was the score at half-time.

At the beginning of the second half, Tisnov sent on their ace, Mohammed Traore. We’d seen him turn out once for Blansko (a match winning performance away at Rosice) and knew immediately that we had a game on our hands. In the 48th minute, he created a chance for himself which thankfully our 16yr old keeper equal to…….After a rather dominant display in the first half, Blansko were looking on the ropes and it was Traore again who was in the thick of the action. In the 52nd minute he tricked his way to the byline before pulling the ball back for Tomas Zdrazil to put the home team in front for the second time.

Cometh the 57th minute, cometh the man.. which basically means Honza, Honza time.. Kratochvil setting up local hero Honza Trtilek to smash home an equaliser from the edge of the box. We love that guy.

Blansko then created three very good chances, new signings Kutal and Motycka going close before Honza again had a chance to put Blansko in front, but shot just past the post.

In the 77th minute, we had a great chance to win the game and I am not too sure why we didn’t take the lead, we suddenly found ourselves with four attackers  bearing down on the Tisnov goal. – but somehow overran the ball when it seemed earlier to score.

Extra-time saw Tisnov gain the upper hand with the impressive Traore pulling the strings all over the park , creating some great chances to win the game, but found Zdenek Vesely in fine form in the Blansko goal. 2-2 it ended.

The penalty shoot out brought joy for Tisnov, with both Minx and Splichal missing in a 9-8 shoot out and although disappointed not to be progressing to the next round, we headed back to pub convinced there were better things to come from this new-look Blansko team.

M.O.M – Jan Minx

Attendance : 330

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