So, our first blog post is coming from the UK, not Hungary as we expected, but I am sure that plans have changed for many of us. We completed on the campsite on April Fools’ Day, we laugh now at how apt that is.
I shall start with an introduction. We are your standard 50-something couple with a yearning to be free from the reins of conformity. I wouldn’t say it was a need to escape in the immediate moment, but there was a definite hope that in our twilight years we would have some kind of adventure to look back on. We have both worked hard all our lives, have grown children, but no grandchildren yet! We settled on a five-year travel plan coinciding with the final mortgage payment which gave us a three-year savings plan – believe me, I am all about the planning. We started saving and building our van, ‘The Roadtripper’, but two years in we abandoned all plans – so what happened!?
As the date drew nearer, I think we both felt too young; not for travelling, but where this plan would leave us once we returned from our travels. We felt we’d be too old to start new careers and the thought of doing nothing didn’t appeal either. We didn’t really verbalise it to each other, but we did keep throwing ideas into the mix. Then we saw an advert for a campsite in Hungary on my Facebook news-feed.
We had discounted buying a campsite in the UK, we felt that was replacing one job with another. A small campsite, in a country we knew nothing about, a language we would have to learn (well hopefully, who knew there were 46 letters in their alphabet) now that screamed ADVENTURE! Ok, I will admit that since then, it has been described in other words by family and friends.
We booked our plane tickets (£20 return on Wizz Air) with no expectations and a ‘let’s just see what it’s like’ to each other. Arriving in Budapest, we collected the hire car and drove to the site which is situated in the Koppany Valley Nature Park. I’d like to quote a comment I saw online from a fellow expat who described exactly how we felt as we drove through Hungary.
“Driving along the road out of the village, it occurred to me that we actually live in a Van Gogh painting. Swathes of brilliant yellow, splotches of light green, khaki green, dark green, brown fields furrowed with deeper browns, luminous blue skies speckled with small white clouds with the sound of the Angelus ringing in the background.”
Koppanyszanto is small and reminiscent of a rural village in England. The younger generation have flown but there is a traditionalism about it that makes it stand proud. We are avid campers and run small group camps that offer the more relaxed camping experience with the campfire, the easy-going chatter and a feeling of connecting with nature. For us this presented an ideal rural location.
I wouldn’t say we were immediately drawn to this campsite, but we could see its potential. We stood at the top of the site and looked out over the valley, the old winehouse behind us and the deer running through the grass in front.
Ideas were falling out of us at an alarming rate: from providing glamping, self-catering units and special interest escapes utilising the rich local resources such as the unpolluted skies for stargazing, expanding the outdoor cooking for classes using the local produce, birdwatching, wine-tasting, hiking the Koppany Valley tracks and fishing. Currently, we felt the campsite was a great overnight stop, but we wanted to expand on this. Later we sat in the orchard and listened to nature’s sounds, appreciating the tranquillity, then we looked at each other and knew; campers or not we would love to live here.
Early the next morning we paid a visit to the local kocsma (pub) as we heard Paul, the Landlord, is from Nottingham not far from us and we wanted another perspective on life in Hungary. Whilst Mark and Paul took their chatter outside, I stayed with my two new local drinking companions at the bar and a palinka – the local hooch/plum liquor. As these two tanned faces looked at me expectantly before they hit the fields, my body seared with a million emotions. I am not known as a wallflower, but in rural villages English is not spoken, so as they continued to stare at me, I downed my palinka for dutch courage even though it was 9am and reached for Google translate (our new best friend). It’s funny when under pressure your mind goes blank, quickly I typed the first question that came to mind, even as I handed over my phone I thought ‘why!?’. I winced as they read out in Hungarian ‘Do you like palinka for breakfast?’ Thankfully, they smiled and nodded and returned to their drinks. The conversation then progressed to a more normal level as we passed the phone to and fro. The pub visit further concreted our decision as we felt we would be able cope despite the language barrier, it wasn’t like the old days of flicking through the pages of a phrase book trying to piece a sentence together, we had glorious technology. I will attach a warning at this point – always recheck a google translation, it might not quite say what you think!
We walked the main street with its mix of cars and horses and carts, looked out over the vineyards, wandered back to the campsite through the forest and decided this was our leap of faith!
We hope you will continue with us on our journey as we fight to get to the site and bring it back to life after covid-19. We will share ideas as we go; the good and the bad – and we welcome your input or suggestions. This is a path of discovery that will take us to our next chapter.
Stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you to our new home – once we get there!
Debs & Mark