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At the horse show in Bugacs.
Ness says hello to a friendly horse.
The pièce de resistance, the "five-in-hand", with the rider stands with a leg on each of the two rear horses. Hatásos!
Wrapping up the show with some gypsy music.

Had a great night’s sleep and a great shower, the latter in contrast to the bad one at Hortobágy Club, and a relaxed morning breakfast on the patio, with the obligatory Hungarian paprika shaker, although not as ubiquitous as I had expected to find. We drove the short ride to Bugacs, leaving the town centre via the one-way system and roundabouts (we have navigated many of these over the past few weeks/months!), past some “blocks” – which here in Hungary tend to look less austere, less grey, and rather better built than their equivalents in the Baltics, Poland and Slovakia.

Out of town, into the countryside, at first plain agricultural and then, as we neared Bugacs, it changed back to the typical open puszta. We were very early for the horse show at 1.15pm, but if we hurried up we could catch the additional one at 11am laid on for a tour group. We mentally translated the Hungarian price list and went for tickets with horse-show but without carriage ride, and walked the kilometre or two along the sandy path across the plains towards the trees and stables and museum and showground. As we neared it we could see the Bugacs horsemen warming up for their act, cracking whips and cantering their horses, including the famous five-in-hand (more on this later).

By the time we reached the wooden benches which provided seating facing the performance, the show was already well underway. I started clicking and snapping, with the occasional mutter or grumble when the camera didn’t do what I wanted. The show took place on a very suitably prepared “set” of real puszta landscape, complete with well and reed windshield/field kitchen. It consisted of various displays of horsemanship, whip-cracking and games. For example, one of the games consisted of a race to the centre of the field on command of the central whip-cracker. Another required the riders to trot at speed with full glasses of red liquid. The piece de resistance was the five-in-hand. It was impressive but also over rather quickly and we felt a little, well, short-changed.

We (I) had a quick coffee at the small stand and then sauntered around, all but the only remaining visitors by now. We took a look inside the stables and then went for a walk along one of the trails listed on a panel. We walked into the woods, which were green and pleasant except for the many thin spider-webs strung across the path. Informative panels were placed in many spots, with info about the various flora and fauna, and there were many different kinds of birds nests. We were supposed to reach a wooden viewing platform but the path seemed to come to an end on a low sandy hillock or rise, and we turned back from here. We found out we had actually followed a different trail from the one we though we were on, but never mind.

By now the “park” was slowly beginning to a get a little busier, with visitors arriving for the 1.15pm show. We briefly visited the small shepherds museum with its collection of clothes, tools and displays. The most unusual items were the two tobacco pouches made from sheeps scrotums, euargh. Then we sauntered back, had another coffee and an ice cream, and took seats for the horse show, to get better pictures as much as anything. It was more of the same, a display of … see earlier! The musical accompaniment consisted of the Hungarian classics, including Dvořak’s (or Brahms’?) Hungarian Dance No. 5, and others. Between the shows the bar girl had substituted these for thump-thump rapid-beat chart stuff which was totally out of keeping with the surroundings. We walked back, overtaken by one carriage, but not by the next, and we were “German” enough to bagsy a decent table on the terrace of the csarda, by the entrance and had some nosh (cake, strudel) and applauded the gypsy musicians. The fiddler player at our table, a sample 2,000 forint note stuck in his violin, indicating where you could stick your contribution, in a way the same manner as a lap-dancer makes her money. Of course we had to buy the CD. The we drove back to Kecskemét and chilled out on the patio, had a beer and used the laptop, and I wrote my diary.

A group of grey-haired Russians were conversing at the table next to us. In the evening we were in the mood just for a quick bite, a simple pizza or something, but we ended up at the smart gourmet silver-service restaurant on the main square. The main square was really more a grouping of pedestrianised tree-lined walkways. We had haute cuisine, with everything presented to impress. Even the square plates were a fancy variety with curves. [“square plates” has become our signal for pretentious places – “uh oh, square plates!”] But it was certainly worth it. The other diners seemed to consist mainly of business people, like the three Dutchmen at the table next to us, who weren’t very posh and asked for bread rolls with their meal. We waddled back feeling very satisfied after having wrapped up our meal with a glass of tasty apricot schnapps, a Hungarian speciality.