Today was meant to be the first competition day of JWGC2019 – but the weather wouldn’t have it. We woke to mostly clear skies, but with clouds approaching from the south. At the morning pilot briefing, the optimistic outlook was presented: air is unstable, so all that’s needed is limited sun, producing enough heating to make short tasks possible.
The clouds had other ideas: they thickened steadily through the morning to the point that absolutely no sun was reaching the ground within 50 km of Szeged; temperatures thus remained well below what would be needed for usable lift. Around noon, the Club Class task was scrubbed. The Standard Class – apparently assumed to be made of tougher stuff – was held on the launch grid. But neither these gliders nor any others can be kept in the air without some source of lift, and by 13:20 none was evident nor in prospect, so their task also was cancelled.
After a week here, we feel adapted to life in Hungary. Driving seems normal, though with more traffic circles than are typical in the US. Roads are well signed and maintained. Hungarians tend to drive fast and mostly well – though I’ve seen the aftermath of one crash on the nearby M5 motorway. That might have been related to speed: the limit there is 140 kph (87 mph) and it’s not rare to find cars traveling well above that. Although the M5 is a fast route between the airfield and our house, we’ve learned to avoid it when returning home: the Serbian border (less than a kilometer south of our exit) often causes serious backups that could mean a long delay – and the route home using local roads is almost as quick.
We find many minor differences: Traffic lights have a feature whereby when red is about to change to green, the yellow briefly illuminates (if you are first in line, drivers behind you will expect you to start moving on the yellow). Most exterior doors open inward. Smoking is much more common. Despite summer temperatures that routinely reach the mid-90s and non-trivial humidity, air conditioning is far from universal. Most telephone poles are made of concrete. In a supermarket, you can choose a cart, a small hand-held basket, or a larger basket with small wheels that you drag behind you.
Hungary is in the European Union, but the Euro isn’t current here – almost all prices are quoted in Hungarian Forints, of which about 290 equate to one US dollar. The abbreviation is “Ft”, and US citizens find it initially strange to see prices quoted in what look like units of distance. With the exception of gasoline and diesel fuel, almost everything is attractively priced – the typical cost of a good meal in a pleasant mid-range restaurant might be 2700 Ft.
The Hungarian language is formidable to foreigners. Linguists claim to discern similarities with Finnish – though native speakers of the two languages don’t. The alphabet contains an impressive total of 44 letters, including four variants of both ‘O’ and ‘U’. If you apply English pronunciation rules to Hungarian words and placenames, you’ll produce something recognizable – though often amusing – to a native speaker perhaps 80% of the time (which is much better than, say, Polish, where the corresponding figure is around 20%). You can be confident that any word you recognize (e.g. “pizza”) is a borrowed word.
For an exercise in Hungarian pronunciation, try your luck on the name of a town about 25 km NE of Szeged: Hódmezővásárhely.