Transcarpathia Part #2: Reaching absolute zero

Today we would be going to Mukachevo – Or Munkács as Bernie defiantly calls it. Located about one hour away, we were going to wait for a bus until it was distilled that a cab ride would only cost a paltry 35 hryvnia. Mukachevo’s main attraction is a 14thCentury Hungarian castle perched atop the only hill in the town and the Ukrainian flag at the top had Bernie complaining loudly. Getting out of the cab I was delighted to feel that the temperature had dropped another 10 degrees or so and that the Castle was in fact, just another castle. It also appeared that we were the only people there. It had a bit of charm to it but the sheer cold only had me envisioning which inside exhibit areas would offer the most solace. The exhibits were very sparsely set out and not very interesting, mostly implements to do with Hungarian folk life from 100 years ago – but that didn’t stop Bernie from enthusiastically explaining it all to me, something which I found rather endearing.  For me the most interesting exhibit was a small grill heater on the floor which I feebly attempted to extract warmth from.

Mukachevo castle

An hour was more than enough to see everything, after which we walked down the hills to catch a bus back into downtown Mukachevo. There were people peddling mulled wine everywhere and even a few local drunks swilling Vodka bottles peddling hugs to strangers. We hurried past these ones in particular. Still freezing and another decrepit bus ride later we were in the centre. There wasn’t anything amazing to see in here other than Orthodox churches number #176 and #177 respectively since I had first arrived in Ukraine. Though Bernie did take me to a café called she knew of called Edushco which did hands-down the greatest cakes on earth. They all looked so mind-blowingly intricate and delicious that I ordered us 6 different slices and drinks for the standard embarrassingly small cost, only to discover that they actually over-delivered on taste. Proper internal heating also left me with warm memories of the place.

Mukachevo Church

Given the rapidly approaching dusk (at 3:30pm) we decided to catch a bus back to Bernie’s home village of Bene as I’d be staying at her family home with her parents tonight. We would’ve taken a cab but apparently none go through there as it is far out of the way and I use the term village literally – the population is less than 1,000. However, having missed the bus by nothing more than the cruelty of the asshole driving it taking off prematurely, we had to wait another hour at the bus station. It’s enclosed, but Mukachevo bus station gives you an idea of what it must have been like staying in the barracks of a Siberian Gulag. Somehow it had been designed to be colder on the inside than on the out – and this was with a snowstorm brewing outside. There were just some frigid steel seats for us to sit on so Bernie and I basically spent an hour there just shivering and hugging each other for the actual purpose of retaining body heat. When the bus finally did show up it felt like stepping onto a Fijian beach, even though I still couldn’t feel my feet.

The 70 minute bus ride to Bene was an adventure of the unpleasant kind. The driver – about 60 years old – was playing the most awful pop music I’d ever heard through a loudspeaker and appeared drunk, speeding over road bumps at 120 kph despite a raging snowstorm outside. It must have been pretty intimidating even by local standards since Bernie was really concerned. That being said, the cold was so intense upon exiting that I almost wished I wasn’t getting off. For me this was absolute zero, I have never been so cold in my life. It was starting to have a Dementor effect on me – as if my soul was being extracted. Suddenly I was finding sympathies for the Nazis and Napoleonic army – cunts though they were – who were all but extinguished by this kind of hell – and they had much less winter protection than I did. I never totally confirmed what the temperature was, but in Lviv it had been -15 and I hadn’t even noticed it.

On the plus side, Bernie’s place was only a ten minutes walk away and the snow storm had stalled to a soft fall so that the village looked very picturesque. It was 5pm, though it looked and felt like 2am. Bene itself really is a village – basically just a long street with houses, stores and 1 or 2 bars lining it. Bernie later suggested that we could go to one of local bars later but the thought of venturing out into this cold again having found sanctuary seemed insane. Finally we got to Bernie’s place and the wave of central heating that hit me as her parents opened the door felt better than sex. Bernie’s parents were really cool; they didn’t speak any English but excitedly asked me an infinitesimal amount of questions about myself and NZ through Bernie who quickly became exhausted. They’d also prepared a delicious traditional Hungarian feast of soup, Goulash, stuffed cabbages, home-made wine and most intensely – home made schnapps. My face almost melted off after that one.

After dinner I was pretty tired, me and Bernie just watched a movie then went to bed. Early the next morning, the whole family drove me all the way back to Mukachevo to drop me off at the train station to say bye. Her parents had packed me a lunch and everything. I just seem to meet awesome people everywhere I go 🙂

 

Dinner with the Szilágyi's

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