September 1, 2008

CouchSurfing Feedback: Laszlo
Balmazújváros, Hungary

(The CouchSurfing feedback/review system only allows for a paltry 1000 characters, so I'm posting the unedited version of Laszlo's review here.)

Conversing with Laszlo was easily the repeated highlight of our time in Sárospatak. Outgoing, witty, and well spoken, the depth of Laszlo's hospitality was made very clear from the start when he took the time to prep/clean for our arrival, despite having the final exams of his university education looming over his head.

I was privileged enough to witness Laszlo's first time bowling (he did fantastic), his drunken cousin climb a city statue in the rain, wine tasting at one of his favorite cellars (in a neighboring town), a collection of attractive women, a cute town castle, and simply the best foosball players I've seen in the world.

No trip to Hungary should be called complete without having spent some time (or at least shared a liter of wine) with Laszlo.

The Home

For ten nights we stayed in the unoccupied childhood home of Laszlo's father. Used for little more than late-night drinking sessions over the past decade, the house—complete with vintage 1960s (USA, 1980s Hungary) décor—reminded me of a slightly neglected grandmother's home.

I suppose travelers should know ahead of time that there are no modern perks at this location (like a microwave, Internet, or refrigerator). For some reason the telephone stopped working half way through our visit, marring communication with Laszlo. The hot water heater truly has an unpredictable mind of its own, and only seemed to operate with any consistency between the hours of midnight and ten in the morning. Do not expect hot water in the afternoons, or the old communist dog on site to be friendly with you before your third day.

Tatiana made up her mind early on that the home was haunted, and continually used the word "creepy" to describe it, and the various rooms we were using. She wouldn't go into the rear of the home (to cook) after dark. Maybe it was her imagination, or maybe the ghost(s) didn't like her, but she seemed to have amassed a growing list of unusual sights, sounds, and behaviors from our seven-month-old son.

I, on the other hand, never found the home to be creepy. I think the vintage atmosphere and slightly eerie lighting made for an intriguing, comfortable time.

Workshop anvil

Save for the short driveway (lovely, with grapes and apples growing overhead), the remainder of the property has been converted into a homebrew ironworks. Laszlo's father is on site from dusk 'till dawn, clanking away on his anvil and smoking a cigarette. He speaks no English, and his daily gruff, disinterested attitude toward us usually generally kept us at arm's length. We would've loved to have gotten to know more about him and his trade, but we got the distinct impression that he either didn't want us there and/or didn't want to know us.

Wacky town architecture

If you're fortunate enough to stay in this interesting location and spend time with Laszlo, remember that the father is best kept "happy" by keeping the doors shut and locked, and the lights off.

As for the location, it's less than four minutes walk from the train station, and less than ten from the town center. Internet access can be found at the oddly designed local library (that's so hot you'll melt inside), or more comfortably at the town's new tourism information office (only 8 minutes from the house), which dishes up fast, free Wi-Fi for people with carrying laptops. Grab some ice cream while you're there to say thanks, and then go to the local DM and get some mosquito spray for walking around town towards the onset of dusk—the flying blood suckers are somethin' fierce in that city.

Overall, a highly recommend and memorable CouchSurfing experience.

View photos of the town and accommodations at
http://snapshots.travelvice.com/view/hungary/sarospatak/

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