Őrség – Drugs or Sand? A strange question, but read on…
Őrség is a lovely area of Hungary and is filled with a beautiful National Park, which my house is on the edge of! I have a fantastic 75m2 barn that needs re-pointing and the challenge was to find some sand and cement to get the job done. The area is full of small farm and fishing shops offering a choice of tools and other hardware, a large village can support both and they don’t seem to compete against each other, choosing to sell complementary products. Great so far, but no sand or cement.
My wife and I were staying with a friend in Őriszentpéter and asked where we could buy sand and cement. “Not sure about cement, but you could try the local bar for the sand”, was the reply. My Hungarian is improving but this still seemed like I was in the wrong conversation!
First thing in the morning we went to the local farm shop and, yes, we could buy a bag of cement but, no, they didn’t sell sand, “Have you tried the local bar across the street?”, they suggested.
So… now we had 2 recommendations to try the local bar for sand and my wife (a professor of languages) was as confused as I was. A sense of anticipation followed us into the alcohol establishment and I cast a suspicious eye over the few hardened drinkers, preparing themselves for the day long pursuit of philosophy and repeat story telling to any unwary visitors. Best foot forwards, and with a sense of mystery and adventure, we approached the bar tender.
“Ummm, do you have any sand?”, we asked quietly.
“Did you bring a bag?”, was the polite reply.
Confused, we looked at each other for support and then my wife replied, “Do we need a bag?”
“I can sell you sand, but you need a bag”, he smiled.
A simple conversation that somehow felt wrong… It felt to both of us that the conversation was somehow sordid and very slightly illegal, as if the dialogue had been worthy of a Hollywood production and ‘sand’ was an invented word for some strange drug that comes from a pink and blue mushroom that gets you high and helps you renovate old barns at the same time.
We still had a big problem – NO BAGS!
Our “dealer” explained in more detail and also pointed out that our little farm shop across the road didn’t sell bags. We would have to find another (non-competing) shop that did sell bags and come back. He would sell us the sand and we could go and collect it from somewhere else. At this point my head was saying, “Welcome to the countryside” but, to my wife’s relief, my mouth remained firmly shut.
After a lovely day of exploration, I can safely explain that the bar does not sell drugs but does indeed sell sand that they purchased in bulk. They sell it because no one else in the village does. I now also know that tucked away in other villages are regular builder’s merchants that also supply sand (weigh your car before and after and pay for the difference), bricks and anything else that you need. As for where we can buy pink and blue mushrooms that will renovate your barn for you… I will keep on looking…