You will know when it exists -- Obscure journalism direct from our man on the ground.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hungary and Slovenia know how to deal with snow - Skiing for the first time

The Earth is mostly white but odd fields remain as insolent patches of bland pastel green, showing the Earths simultaneous tolerance and resilience to her brothers the seasons.
The roads are cleared by human hands born from a similar temperament, little piles of snow shoveled to the edge of the road mark every households unquestioned responsibility. A drainage ditch runs along the side of the road a sort of moat to the houses beyond each with its own bridge of earth formed on top of short plastic piping allowing the melted snow to run alongside the road eventually parting to course onto the flat plains beyond. Each small village works in the same way told apart only by their unique Hungarian and German names, some of them link together but you know it is a new village when another chunky wooden sign recites “God Welcomes You” in hand carved blackletter. Along the path above the ditch a teen drives a miniature tractor as his little brother and farther chase after him. A serious man on a pushbike is going in the opposite direction. Inquisitive old eyes watch from the inside of the local bakery.
The road leaves the villages behind and is soon cutting through the flat landscape of enormity that makes the remaining snowfall look frail. Trees that look like the tips of thin paintbrushes that an artist would use for fine detail point up at the bottom of the canvas sky. The bristles remain brown and unused; the artist has not yet begun his work. Deer fill a field forming a circle as if enclosed by an invisible pen. The motorway gradually rises and on the fence-posts at regular intervals birds of prey perch as if on guard duty. A thin veneer of grey cloud quells the suns brightness that it appears at midday to be a dull full moon, looming like a prophecy but easy to stare at.
The trees turn into evergreen army issue toilet brushes, the trunks rising higher than two houses before any branches appear. We pass across the border into Slovenia without any passport check. Soon the Pohorje mountain range comes into view, I’m almost certain that I can sense a timeworn fear from within the collective memory, a fading warning. No doubt there are still some old locals that would not go onto the mountains at night for superstition tells it is the home of dwarfs.

We drive the spiral road to our lodgings at 1000m up, the boarding house Martin a slightly self-debasing name for what I would consider a nice hotel. The trees have changed again now, clutching as many snowflakes as possible they are pure white corals that look brittle but enamored and protected by their mountain home.

It is my first time skiing, and within my short stay I learn the basics and then start to feel the skis under my feet like they are part of my body, feel the connection and ownership of a new and liberating form of transport. Using nature for fun unites a mountain of people in seeking enjoyment in the moment. Sliding smoothly and controlled takes me back to my youth and doing ‘skids’ on my bike by leaning into a turn and sharply applying the back brake. It is the first time I have seen sausages cooked over a fire using a device that may well have been the inspiration for the game Kerplunk. It is my first time hearing the bastardized folk music Slovenian, German, Austrian, traditional songs
played by modern bands with a dance beat over the top. Although the insistence of this type of music is slightly infuriating it adds a regular gaiety throughout the day on the slopes and I enjoy stopping at the bars that play it to drink a hot fruit tea. It is the first time I have tried Pohorske Borovnicke an alcoholic mountain berry beverage. I have never seen a rainbow form a complete circle before this trip or the tiny snow particles sparkle like silver glitter as they blow through the suns sharp beams. It is the first time I have worn thermal tights and a roll necked jumper!
But it is not the last time I hope to undertake these activities that are abundant in this snow-scape that makes the scene up here a world apart from normal life back bellow the foot-hills.
Hungary can handle snow, Slovenia can handle snow and even if the UK can’t, with my new-found appreciation for the mentality the winter season in all its glory can inspire – I can handle snow.

Rainbow Ring.


Gotta get me that look.

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