The Chechen girl

Tanburi Cemil Bey It will turn exactly 100 in this year, but it is just as fresh and vivid as when its author Tanburi Cemil Bey first recorded it on wax cylinder. In the reality its author was not Cemil Bey, and it was not Chechen by birth, but Greek from the nearby island of Midilli, or Lesbos by its Greek name. From there it was brought by those wandering Greek baglama players making music in the cafés of fin-de-siècle Istanbul who, after the collapse – the Katastrophê – of the Minor Asian Greek world in the 1920s fled to Athens to create there the music of rebetiko exactly from such half Oriental and half Greek melodies.

Fin-de-siècle Istanbul, however, was still the capital of an empire, with multicolored population and musical life. The true richness of this music can be estimated only in recent years, with Kalan Müzik publishing in row the music of the last decades of the Ottoman Empire from archive recordings and in the authentic performance of modern musicians. The cafés saw, apart from the Greeks also Armenian oud-players, Sepharadic female singers and Turkish male gazel-singers, Azeri kamanche-players, wandering Kurdish lutenist aşıks and the Slavic and Albanian bards described by Ismail Kadare in The palace of dreams, and still flourished the Ottoman court, dervish and military music which, melting with the Classical and entertaining music of the West, produced an infinite number of exotic local sports of this latter. Istanbul is even today imbued with spontaneous music, from the loudspeakers of the Muezzins calling to prayer again and again to the chanting of the sellers and to the music broadcasted by various Anatolian radio stations in every shop and café, and we can imagine how much richer this music was before the 1920s, that is Caucasian beauty, archive photo from the 19th centurybefore the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the extirpation, expulsion or oppression of the ethnic minorities, the disappearance of the court and of the traditional elite and the suppression of the dervish orders put an end to this richness.

Of this world was an estimated figure Tanburi Cemil Bey, the unrivalledly talented musician who with the same perfection played on the Turkish tanbur – this is where his name comes from –, the Azeri kamanche, the Greek lauta, the Persian kanoun and a number of other instruments, and he also melted the musical worlds belonging to these different instruments and ethnic groups in his compositions played all over Istanbul and the empire. The “Chechen girl”, just like the enchanting “Circassian women” of the Romantic novels or the Russian “кавказская красавица” is that rosy-cheeked, black-haired, large-eyed and unattainable Caucasian beauty who used to be remembered frequently and with desire by the poets and café musicians of the empire. The Greek song singing about her was to become famous all over Turkey in the version of Tanburi Cemil Bey and with his characteristic improvised introduction Hüseyni taksim. Unfortunately I don’t have exactly that volume of the archive phonograph recordings of Cemil Bey where he plays the Çeçen kızı, but in the traditional interpretation of the Kurdish Sufi musician Kudsi Erguner and his ensemble we can feel something from the force of the original song.








Kudsi Erguner, Çeçen kızı, from the CD “Tanburi Cemil Bey”

On YouTube one can find several versions of this song, a restrained Ottoman-style orchestral piece, the performance by Cihat Aşkin rewritten for Western orchestra, or other versions bearing testimony to its great popularity, like the jazz version by James Brown Funk and Emin Findikoglu, an anonymous kanoun piece introduced with Hüseyni taksim, another one apparently played in an interval of a musical evening, and an amateur recording performed, as its title says, “by a Turk from the neighborhood of Amherst”.

I especially like three versions. The first one is performed by Necati Çelik and his traditional ensemble in the TRT TV, introduced with the Hüseyni taksim.


The second one comes from a video series presenting the antique instruments of the estimated Istanbul musical instrument maker firm Veysel Music House (how much I’d like to have a lute of their production!). Here it is played by Alper Taş on an oud made in 1910 by Beşiktaşlı Vasil.


The third one is a fusion version by the Balkan Messengers, in the sign of the Balkan nostalgy flourishing in the last twenty years in Turkey. Perhaps this makes you feel the best the forceful impact that this song could have in its own bygone world.








Balkan Messengers, Çeçen kızı, from the CD “Balkan Messengers 2”

The real Trebitsch

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
“The former Jewish quarter is considered an urbanistically and historically unique monument in Europe, and is one of the most intactly preserved Jewish quarters in the continent.” – we read with Wang Wei in the encyclopedia 444 historických měst a městeček České Republiky (444 historical cities and towns in the Czech Republic, Prague, Kartografie 2004) and we immediately included Třebíč among the stations of our Southern Bohemian tour.

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
The Romanesque Benedictine monastery of the town and the Jewish quarter which, in the monastery’s protection and with its privileges has developed for centuries independently of the merchant town laying on the other side of the river, were included on the list of the World Heritage in 2003 (where the Jewish quarter is allegedly the only Jewish monument outside of Israel). The world heritage of the town is presented by a beautiful site made with characteristic Czech wit, which orders along the route of a walk the images of nine restored houses of the quarter. This site is ingenious also because it gives the impression as if the rest of the 123 surviving houses of the Jewish quarter looked like these nine ones, too.

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
But this is not the case. Anywhere we leave the tourist path that follows the two former main streets – the Lower and Upper Jewish Street – of the quarter, we see the traces of destruction everywhere. The destruction of the Nazi occupation when the last two hundred and eighty inhabitants of the quarter were deported (only ten out of them returned). The destruction of Communism, when the peasant and proletarian families that had settled in the houses practically weared them out. (It is interesting to see that the “style” of wearing out is so similar to how the same happened in Hungary, but definitely different in appearance how it happens in Romania or in the Italian South.)

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
But we probably also see the results of a third, much slower destruction. This one had started a century earlier, in the 1850s when, following their legal emancipation, the Jews began to flow to the dynamically evolving cities from the former “privileged towns” which by then had become too narrow and out-of-the-way. This is how the Jewish quarter of Třebíč, which in the Middle Ages with more than two thousand inhabitants was considered one of the four large Moravian Jewish centers, has lost most of its population by the beginning of the 20th century.

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
The Jewish cemetery is a fifteen minutes walk upwards from the highest point of the Jewish quarter. The path leads through a hillside covered with weeds and stunted robinia trees which is used by the masters of the neighborhood as a running place for their dogs, and then through a recently built small green belt housing estate. No sign indicates the way to the cementery until we arrive to the first houses. Whoever has not read about it in the guide will certainly not set out from the Jewish quarter to look for it.

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Nevertheless, if someone is curious of the Jewish Třebíč, he will find it here. In the cemetery which has been in continuous use since the 13th century, 11 thousand tombs have been preserved, the oldest inscribed stones from the 1500s. This is the largest Jewish cemetery of the region. It was spared by the destruction of the occupation, and apparently it has been also taken care in the thereafter following decades. The pebble-stones accumulating at the feet of the tombstones indicate that several tombs are visited even today. It is strange to see that this hillside, the quarter of the dead has remained the only living part of the former Jewish quarter, the real Trebitsch.

Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery
Třebič (Trebitsch), Jewish quarter and cemetery

Atlantis

Kutná Horá, légjárat
Prague, Dam of the Eternity, 24
Třebíč, Jewish quarter and cemetery
Lesko, Sephardic synagogue
Galicia, Gospel book of Malecz
Istanbul, fin-de-siècle music
Armenian monasteries in Iran
Julfa, Armenian cemetery
Armenia, the legend of Ara
Pontic Greeks, Waiting for the clouds
Rome, bells of the Trastevere
Transylvanian Jewish music
Bucharest between two wars
The last bear-leader
Budapest, Kőbánya, The Casino
Budapest, Kőbánya, Old pharmacies
Nubia’s lost civilization
Moscow, the house that there was not
Photos of M. Kipnis on Polish Jews
Lwów depolonized
Yiddish labels on the walls of Lwów
Radio Lwów, Radio Breslau
I’m reading the beautiful essay of Michael Chabon about the Yiddish phrasebook behind which the world in which anyone could have taken use of it has disappeared. And while reading, I recall how many similar floats I myself have from various sunken worlds. A leaf of the big military atlas of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy representing Southern Bohemia and indicating eight hundred villages there where now large continuous forests extend along the state borders. A history and a reader of the Transylvanian Saxon literature. A picture of a church tower standing out of the middle of the storage-lake created by Ceauşescu on the place of the Transylvanian Bözödújfalu, whose Hungarian inhabitants who had converted first to Unitarianism then to Sabbatarianism and finally to Judaism were deported by the Nazis. Records of the uniquely beautiful and forceful archaic music of the Pontus Greeks who, after three thousand years of heroic history, fled the southern shores of the Black Sea in 1920. Old newspaper cuttings about the island of Ada Kaleh on the lower Danube which, inhabited by Turks, enjoyed extraterritorial status for half century after the decomposition of the Turkish empire, until it was laid under water during the construction of the Iron Gate Dam. A map of the beautiful Art Nouveau downtown of Kőbánya where I used to go to library as a child, and where now, after the construction of the Socialist-style concrete housing estate in the 70s the only old building left is the wonderful synagogue that stands out like the church tower of Bözödújfalu. A series of monographs on the Armenian provinces of the now almost uninhabited Eastern Anatolia. Seventeen old dresses of the Miao ethnic minority that we have purchased from an old-clothes woman in Yangshou. A travelogue among the Christian Assyrian tribes that lived in the Anatolian mountains before the Kurds exterminated them together with the Armenians. An archive photo album of the Persian Jews, whose last representatives proudly told to us that they had been living in that country for three thousand years. An autobiography of a 17th-century Turkish officer who nostalgically confessed that “his roots are in Temesvár” in the Hungarian South. A medieval Syriac-Arabic dictionary scanned by us in the South Indian jungle that had been used by the last Hellenized Syriacs for translating Greek philosophy into Arabic before they gave up their language, one half of the dictionary. A Slovakian prayer book of our neighbor Uncle Jani, because in the village where I live, even ten years ago every old people spoke that archaic Slovakian dialect which is already extinct even in Slovakia, and by the time I have finally learned it there is nobody left to speak it with.

It is about these disappearing or already palimpsest worlds that we want to write from time to time as much as we have experienced of them in this Atlantis series of the Poems of the River Wang.

Kutná Horá, légjárat

A festive splash-guard

Traditional splash guard representing Romano Prodi at the occasion of Hungary’s accession to the European Union, 2004, by Zsófi Pittmann
I’m not sure whether all our foreign readers know what a splash-guard, in Hungarian falvédő is. The custom of these embroidered scenes with sentimental mottoes, the late offsprings of Renaissance emblems was especially widespread between the two wars in Northern – German, Dutch and Eastern European – kitchens, where they protected the walls from the bean soup spurting out as well as the souls of the members of the household from the rudeness of the outside world.

The above example, a very late representative of this genre erects a monument to the memory of Hungary’s accession to the European Union in 2004. The two verses above and under the picture on which the housewife (either surprised, or just preparing the dinner for the welcome guest) looks at the entering Romano Prodi accompanied by the nimbus of twelve stars, are taken from the official Hungarian translation of the hymn of the EU, the “Ode of Joy”, and re-translated they sing like:

Drop in to us, dear guest
shine on us, you flood of light.

Actually, the Hungarian translation is not quite exact. The original verses in Schiller’s poem indicate just the contrary motion:

Wir betreten feuertrunken
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.

We enter fire imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.

Inflamados alleguemos
Diosa, a tu celeste altar.

Well, even if it does not substantially change the result of that festive moment sub specie aeternitatis, nevertheless, from a philological point of view there is a difference whether it is a nation – the Germans, the English or the Spanish – that approaches the sanctuary of Joy and Freedom and Union, or, on the contrary, it is these latter ideas, embodied by the President of their institutionalized emanation, the European Union, to attend the sanctuary of one Hungarian housewife’s kitchen pro toto. Perhaps is this mistranslation the source of some fundamental conceptual differences between our country and the EU?

Pride

“We are told that, as he was crossing the Alps and passing by a barbarian village which had very few inhabitants and was a sorry sight, his companions asked with mirth and laughter, «Can it be that here too there are ambitious strifes for office, struggles for primacy, and mutual jealousies of powerful men?» Whereupon Caesar said to them in all seriousness, «I would rather be first here than second at Rome.»”
Plutarch, Parallel lives. Julius Caesar, 11.

Julio César, gobernador

The first blow

Russian-German wartime phrasebookHow is this station called?
Where is the telegraph?
Lead me there.
Give over every telegram to him.
Break the transmission or else I shoot.
Where is telephone?

Not long after I dedicated a post to the Russian-Estonian wartime phrasebook of 1940, another volume of the same series fell into my hands: a Russian-German wartime phrasebook which is hardly known even in Russia.

Russian-German wartime phrasebook
This booklet was published one year after its Russian-Estonian counterpart, in 1941, the year when, on June 22, the German army overrun the Soviet Union. In a couple of weeks all Ukraine got into German hands, Kiev and Smolensk fell, forty-four Soviet divisions were annihilated, one third of Soviet tanks were lost, one and half million of Soviet soldiers were taken prisoners. The Red Army could recover only by the beginning of 1943 so that they would turn the fate of the war at Stalingrad and start a counterattack.

Russian-German wartime phrasebookWhere is the power station?
Where is the factory?
What is it like?
How many workers?
Where is the market place?
Where are the shops?
When did the German soldiers go away?
Where did they go? (direction, place name)

In this context it is very strange that this phrasebook gives instructions only for speech situations that are proper to a victorious Soviet advance on German soil. It is remarkable that while in the Estonian phrasebook a special chapter was dedicated to partisans, in this German one no mention is made about such a possibility, only about the German units fleeing from the Red Army. And even the captured soldiers and officers are not interrogated about the direction of the German attack, but of the German retreat. Considering the situation of the Soviet army in 1941, this booklet reveals extraordinary self-confidence and optimism.

Russian-German wartime phrasebook
And with all reason. Because, according to the colophon, the printing of the book was approved on May 29, 1941, when there was not even the slightest suspect of a German attack. Germany and the Soviet Union were allies, and stood in the most friendly relations. They were over the distribution of Poland and the other border states, and were supplying row materials and military technology to each other. In these circumstances what was the reason of establishing such a phrasebook for all the staff – для бойца и младшего командира, for the privates and corporals – of which they could have taken use only in case of an invasion of Germany?

Russian-German wartime phrasebookDoes someone speak Russian? Ukrainian?
Tell him to come here!
Lead me to him!
How many houses?
How many inhabitants?
How many wells?
Where is water?

The most obvious answer would be that perhaps the Red Army was really about to invade Germany. But we learned that this was out of the question, and what is more, the German attack found the Soviet Union absolutely unprepared. “Stalin chose to ignore the warnings of his own intelligence services, and he did not want to provoke Hitler. His generals were likely to tell him only what he wanted to hear, so that he believed that the position of the Soviet Union in early 1941 was much stronger than it actually was. Besides, he also had an ill-founded confidence in the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact which had been signed just two years before. He also suspected the British of trying to spread false rumours in order to trigger a war between Germany and the USSR.” In lack of my old schoolbooks I am quoting the Wikipedia, but I would be curious to see what modern schoolbooks write about this.

Russian-German wartime phrasebookWhere does this road (street) lead to?
Where is another road?
How can one get to …?
Show me on the map, please.

However, in recent years several historians – Mikhail Meltyukov (2000), Valeriy Danilov (1993), Vladimir Nevezhin (1999) and others – consider it probable that both empires were preparing to attack the other, but Stalin – as he himself expounded it in a public speech on May 5, 1941 – wanted to gain time for adequate preparations until 1942. As the Hungarian historian Krisztián Ungváry writes it in his study “Stalin and the war”:

The mechanized and blinded troops were grouped directly at the border, at its most exposed and salient angles. The rear defense positions were reduced. The air forces and the divisions of the first strategic echelon were installed right at the Western border, while the troops of the second echelon immediately behind the border, together with all the depositories and logistics. In a hurry they built new roads, bridges and barracks, and all this in a period when the deployment of the Germans to the border had not even started. All this reveals that (also) the Soviet Union had offensive plans. This deployment was only useful in case of an immediate attack. It was absolutely useless for defense. This is also understandable, for the military regulations of the Soviet army explicitly renounced of any defense, asserting that the Soviet army “is the most offensive army of the world”.

Russian-German wartime phrasebookRiver-crossing.
Which road leads to the river?
Can one cross the bridge with a van?
The depth of the river?
The width of the river?
Where are other crossings?

Among the historians emphasizing the offensive intentions of the Soviet Union there is Viktor Suvorov or in his civil name Vladimir Rezun, the Soviet intelligence agent who in 1978 emigrated to Britain. In his works the Soviet preparations for the invasion assume gigantic measures. In his view, Stalin had been prepared to attack Germany since as soon as the early 30s. On August 19, 1939 he issued a secret general mobilization order, and in the following two years he converted the country’s complete industry to military production. And Hitler not simply overrun the Soviet Union, but this policy effectively “constrained him to a preventive war” just two weeks before the planned date of the Soviet attack, the “M-day” on July 6, 1941. The works of Suvorov written in a sensation-hunting style, where he puts even the smallest data in the service of his theory, deservedly triggered the assault fire of the critics both in Russia and abroad. A large number of books and forums have been specialized to refute him in details, and thanks to the author’s rather free and high-handed usage of his data, it is not a hard job to do so. However, we can find plenty of wheat among the refuse. So for example in chapter 15.6. of the Последняя республика (The Last Republic) where he writes exactly about this Russian-German wartime phrasebook:

The phrasebook was composed by Major General N. N. Bijazi, and edited by A. V. Lyubarski. It was printed in a number of copies to be envied even by the most successful bestseller. And nevertheless this booklet disappeared within a short time after its publishing. I only found a copy at the military academy of diplomacy of the Soviet army. … Its content roused my interest. It contained not a single word about defense. Everything was connected with attack. … This booklet was written for German circumstances, and it was usable only in German territory. Why would anyone ask in German in Propoysk, where is the town hall and where is the mayor hiding? … If they really planned to overrun Europe in 1942, Major General Bijazi would not have dared to make obvious the plans of Stalin already a year before that to its several millions of executioners. … But if they planned to attack on July 6, 1941, then the booklet was sent to print in the right time: one month before that, not earlier and not later.

Russian-German wartime phrasebookIs it drinkable?
Drink first you!
Give me a bucket!
Where is the drinking place?
Where is hay?
Where is straw?
Where is firewood?
How many cows?
How many horses?
How many charts?

It is not known how the things would have developed if Stalin managed to attack first. If the Red Army managed to turn the fate of the war at Stalingrad even after such losses, they would have been surely a tough nut to crack for Hitler if they attacked first. We cannot say what would have been the ultimate target of such a successful attack. In November 1940 Molotov required of Germany, at that time at the top of its power, the Soviet control above the whole Balkan (including Hungary), the Dardanellas and the Persian Bay. What would have they required (or simply taken) of the loser? In the course of the 1941 attack of Hitler and of the man-wasting strategy of Stalin in the thereafter following years, the best part of the Red Army was lost. Nevertheless, even the rest of it was enough to occupy the complete Eastern Europe before the allies. To which borders would have arrived a victorious Soviet army, prepared for attack? The ways of God are unfathomable.

A Russian priest and a German officer at the beginning of the BlitzkriegA Russian priest and a German officer at the beginning of the Blitzkrieg. Source: englishrussia.com.

Continuation: In a different way

Russian for export

Olga Grushin: The Dream Life of Sukhanov, Penguin 2007 (Hungarian translation: Szuhanov álomélete, translated by Katalin Ladányi, Budapest, Geopen 2008)

Olga Grushin, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, 2007Sukhanov had been a talented painter, the follower of Surrealism and of Dalí. During the Khruschevian “thaw” his paintings were even exhibited in the Manezh, at the famous exposition of 1962 where Kruschev personally called “pederasts” the representatives of the “New Reality”. This well-known story is dramatized in the version of Grushin so that the secretary-general busts the bourgeois dive in the early morning, well before the opening of the exhibition, casting out all the images from the Manezh and the artists from their jobs. An alarm bell starts ringing in the head of the reader. This version is too bold to be Realist, but too timid to be Surrealist. In this latter key much better is the grotesque report in the Absurdopedia that will make your diaphragm ache for sure.

As a consequence of this experience, Sukhanov stands over to the Old Reality. He receives a brilliant career in change, after twenty years we see him as the chief redactor of The Art of the World having power over life and dead in the Soviet art scene, and writing his editorials framed with quotations of Lenin against Western art, especially Surrealism, principally Dalí. (In the eighties! Another alarm bell.)

And then follows the death of Ivan Iljich expanded for a week, Sukhanov’s becoming aware of his life’s falsity and valuelessness. The abandoned painter friends and masters pop up, the one just as unsuccessful and poverty-stricken and the other just as wise and forgiving as they should be. The past begins to haunt, suppressed memories of the father that died under Stalin break forth, a remote cousin drops in – with the name Fedor Mikhailovich Dalevich composed of that of Dostoievski and that of Dalí (a-ha!) – who brings back real art to Sukhanov’s life. Finally abandoned even by his own family, Sukhanov is left nothing else to do than to go crazy and begin to paint icons with bare hands on the wall of the ruined village church.

The faultless symmetry of the thesis and antithesis is matched by the structure arranged in such a way that nobody can miss the right path by any chance. The author marks clearly the points where we step over from reality to memories and back in the plot that runs on a double level (a-ha!). You are always exactly instructed about the symbolic importance of the mercifully few cultural icons that pop up in the course of the novel (only three, Dalí, Chagall, Rublev – nothing more during fifty years of artistic career). You always know who is the good and who is the bad. The bad is very black and the good is very angelic. The regime is absolutely inhuman and the victims are absolutely clean. The enthusiasm for Surrealism of the artists coming together regularly in Jastrebov’s flat during the “thaw” is just as bloodless and ungenuine, as pulsating and heart-stirring is, even after forty years, Hrabal’s description in the Tender barbarian about their enthusiasm for Surrealism. Bells and more bells. And the synthesis that follows with a necessary logic is just as theatrically cathartic as the arrested last picture of a Hollywood film. A Russian author, a master of the complex and absurd connections how can write, and Russian people, readers of Erofeev, Pelevin and Sorokin, of Babel, Bulgakov and Pasternak how can take in the hand such a didactic, such a schematic, such a bombastic book?

The solution can be read on the last page, where the author says thanks to her American husband and to her American editor. This is a book written for American order and for the American taste, with exactly those stereotypes, with that “Surrealism” (this buzzword popping up on every second page is basically used as a synonym for “coincidence”) juiced with a pinch of Russian savour, and with those magic words that prickle pleasantly the Western reader who is hungry of this exotism but is only able to moderately consume it. As Yakov Borohovich appropriately notes it in his criticism published in the Русский журнал: This book has not been translated into Russian, and whoever read it can clearly see that it has nothing to do with Russia apart from the fact that one of its characters bears a Russian name. We are witnesses to the birth of a new genre, the russerie, a light export version of Russian literature. Its great success among its own target group is well attested in the glowing reviews of both the New York Times (1, 2), the Washington Post (1, 2) and Amazon’s reader comments like documents of reception aesthetics repeating all those buzzwords with a deeply felt pleasure.

„»Steeped in the tradition of Gogol, Bulgakov and Nabokov...« James Lasdun, author” advertises the publisher’s recommendation on the cover of the book. Well, the first three ones are authors as well, and it is surely not by mistake that the adjective is not added to their name. No, not only for that. Also because they do not feature here as authors, but as cultural icons, like Dalí, Chagall and Rublev in the novel, as the signboards of russerie like the images of the four great authors of the Spanish Golden Age painted on the shop-window of the Siglo de Oro Pub in Madrid. For in the novel we find nothing of the absurd of the real Gogol, of the mysticism of the real Bulgakov and of the insolence of the real Nabokov. The Russian feeling, however, is evoked even without these, or even without a real lecture of the book. As Borohovich writes about the star interview of the Известия with Grushin: True, the correspondant has not read the book. But, sincerely, who needs this book?

Nevertheless, the novel does reveal something authentic, albeit involuntarily. Something that could have not been written by an American, because it is only known intimately to a Russian. That typically Russian relation between men and women, that monadic being maintained even in living together and basical strangeness that is also reflected in the novels of Ulickaya and Tolstaya and that I have also experienced among my Russian colleagues and students. And as Zhivago inefficiently lets Lena go, like a tree lets its leaf to fall, so becomes Nina detached of the fallen Sukhanov “so that she might stay alone for a while, as a participant of a more majestic, more realistic creation”.

Český Krumlov, for the third time

Czech mirror with Archangel Michael
The first time when last summer, being about to visit Český Krumlov with Wang Wei, we included here the three-dimensional map of monuments of the town.

The second time when Gergő and his company went there to have some extra New Year’s Eve fun, and we prepared for them a map of inns as well as a seductive album of the photos of our own journey.

And the third time now, when we could finally take time to include the pubs explored by Gergő & Co. in the map.

Nevertheless, it is not too late either. Český Krumlov shows her most beautiful face in the autumn.

Český Krumlov, map of inns, pubs & restaurants, 2008
a) Krčma V Šatlavské ulici (Horní 157) Menu: 160 CZK soup, main course, abundant venison with knedlík (bread dumpling) and dessert. Beer index: Budvar lager 12° pint 25 CZK, there is also dark beer on tap. A cellar with a nice athmosphere, with several separate rooms, decorated medieval objects, the waiters are in period dress. A spectacle kitchen (open until 22-23), grilled meats. We were able to reserve table for 24 people in advance. Recommended.

b) Švejk Restaurant (Latrán 12 or Zámecké schody 12, because it stands at the forking of the two, M-Sun 10.30-22) The Favorit of Gergő. Two large rooms on the upper story, strip floor, heavy wooden tables, also two smaller separate rooms. Good kitchen, abundant portions. Beer index: Pilsner pint 29 CZK. Dark beer on tap. We were able to reserve tables in e-mail from Hungary for 22 persons with
à la carte dinner. Extremely gentle and patient waitresses. We were permitted to completely rearrange the furniture (and we did so). Open until 22, we remained almost until 23. Recommended ??? or ??? because:

Update: Alma writes: It was exactly Švejk where we have been screwed. A cute girl, smiling. A raised number of beers on the invoice… extra service fee included
retrospectively
Sic transit gloria mundi.

c) Hospoda Na louži (Kájovská 66, M-Sun 10-23) A completely preserved furnishing from 1932, porcelain beer supports. Beer index: Eggenberg pint 25 CZK. Beer snack: toast with a blue cheese-like cream. Speciality: venison with knedlik (Svičková na smetaně). Note: when we were there the waiter was rude, but the place is so attractive that we hope very much that they have substituted him.
Recommended.

d) Hospoda U Báby (“The Witch’s Inn”, Rooseveltova 66, M-Sat 16-23, Sun closed) One large Renaissance room with “long tables” and fireplace. Speciality: smoked hand of pork with fresh horseradish, allegedly the best in all Bohemia, just like their draught Pilsner Urquell is the best in all Krumlov. Local people come here.
Recommended.

e) Barbakán (Kaplická 26, M-Sun 11-24) With a great view from its terrace, and with dishes prepared on open fire. Speciality: “hermelín” (grilled camambert). Special menu for dogs. Beer: dark Kozel. The owner is a Hungarian from Slovakia, and most waiters also speak Hungarian (well, if you read the English version of this blog instead of the Hungarian one then this probably will not help you too much – but they speak fair English as well).
Recommended.

f) Hospoda 99 (Vezní 99, M-Sun 10-22) One room with two fireplaces, with evocative old yellow walls, beam-covered roof, wooden tables and benches. Beer index: Pilsner pint 32 CZK. On tap also Gambrinus and Eggenberg. Large terrace in summer, with great view on the town. Very kind waitress.
Recommended.

g) Hotel Barbora (Široká 89) Large terrace in summer. Beer index: Budvar pint 30 CZK. Intimate lighting, an amiable old waiter. They advertise themselves with traditional Czech kitchen, but we have not tried it.
Recommended.

h) Krumlovský mlýn (Mill of Krumlov, Široká 80, almost vis-a-vis of Barbora) The former water mill of the town, built in the 14th century, rebuilt in 1850. Fish food! Almost all local Eggenbergs are on tap. On the lower storey there is a museum of historical motorbikes (the collection of the two owners) and a small antique shop. Large terrace on the riverside. Recommended.

i) Pivovar Eggenberg (Eggenberg Brewery, Latrán 27) Restaurant and beer display room in the former cold-storage. In the brewery founded in 1560 they make seven kinds of beer: Eggenberg Kristian 8º, Egg. Světlé Výčepní 10º, Egg. Světlý Ležák 12º, Egg. Tmavý Ležák 12º (dark), Egg. Petr Vok 12º (bottled only), Egg. Svetlý Kvasnicový Ležák 12,5º (unfiltered). Speciality: tripe soup (dršťková polévka). Draught beer takeaway in the cellar, visited by the locals, the most traditional one in the town. Recommended.

j) Hotel Zlatý Anděl, Restauráce Don Julius (Námĕstí Svornosti 10-11, that is the main square) Three very well arranged rooms. A fireplace in the first one, a railway model runs around above our head, the chairs of the bar counter are made of motorbike seats, good pictures on the walls, the leaves of the painted tree are various banknotes. The second room is the continuation of the first one, a tasty combination of an old style small restaurant and a wine cellar. The separate room has the medieval houses of the main square painted on its wall around. Beer index: Budvar pint 35 CZK, there is also Eggenberger on tap. BUT they draught the beer under the line, and when we complained, the waiter (who even otherwise was not very kind) was upset. That’s a pity; this was the only reason why our company of 24 people did not have their dinner there, because, apart from this, the place is very good. We hope that the waiter has left in the meantime, so it is conditionally recommended
.

Update: According to Lyelena Koópturisztova’s comment to the Hungarian version of this post the waiter has already left, and now some cool guys draw off the beer, exactly as it gotta be. If this is really so, then the Julius has become one of the best places in Krumau. Great news! To celebrate it, we include here the picture of the main square where Julius is seen more or less behind the column from where you’re sitting now.

Český Krumlov, main square
k) Pension Kristinka (Dlouhá 94, M-Sun 10-22) A vaulted cellar-like room on the ground floor. You can enter either from the street or from the riverside; on this side it is like entering through a crack of a rock. Beer index: Budvar lager/dark pint 40 CZK. Thick cabbage soup served in large hollow breads, the knedlik was the best in the town, good potato dumpling (best for a beer snack). Pretzel on the tables (attention, they charge for it!) BUT the owner (?) was not really kind, and you have to take care of the bill. They wanted us to pay the equivalent of our total weekend beer consumption, but we were on the alert.
Conditionally recommended.

l) U Malého Vítka (Radiční 27, M-Sat 9-23, Sun 9-22) A nice hotel and restaurand furnished with inventive Czech taste. Speciality: hand of pork as Cyprian likes it (uzené koleno pavlouka Cypriána) and grilled flank of pork with mais (grilovaná krkovice). Dark Eggenberg. To be discovered.

m) Restaurace U hroznu (Námĕstí Svornosti 2, that is the main square, M-Sun 11-22) Here we only drank beer, but we saw that their speciality is Wiener schnitzel (fried veal cutlet) covering all the plate, with tomato, for 99 CZK.
To be discovered.

n) Restaurace Maštal (Námĕstí Svornosti 2, that is the main square) In a Renaissance house, with an intimate cellar, terraces in the courtyard. We only had a look at it, did not take anything, but it looked promising.
To be discovered.

o) Restaurace Bohemia (Kájovská 64) Formerly it was the Hospúdka U Josefa, a good local beer pub with a small, but good kitchen, beerk snacks, draught Plzeň. Now, after its transformation it is
to be discovered.

We ask everyone who took good use of this pub guide to inform us about any changes and about any news discovered by them. We will gratefully thank for it in the name of all the lovers of Český Krumlov.

Manhole cover in Český Krumlov with the arms of the town

The best Chinese restaurant

The best Chinese restaurant in town is in Kőbányai street, in front of that gate of the Four Tigers Chinese Market which is the nearest to Orczy tér, one door to the left of the café to the left of the casino, in that enormous block of building of the former Ganz Machine Factory stretching from Fiumei street to Hungária boulevard whose innumerable internal passages, labyrinths and wormholes (how much I wished to saunter through these as a child!) are now inhabited by an infinity of tiny Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Syrian, Georgian and who knows which other stores, warehouses and offices in the spirit of the best bazaar traditions. For a better orientation as well as for a better mood, it would be good to include here a photo of the gate of the market, but I have unfortunately forgot to take a picture of it. Within a few days I’ll be back there, and then I’ll make up for it. Until then I leave room here for a picture.

Opening hours of the Chinese fast food in Kőbányai street, Budapest
I’m often questioned about where are some really good Chinese restaurants in the city. It is difficult to tell, because the majority of Chinese restaurants within a short time mold themselves to the predominant tastes of the given country, and then it’s all up. In Italy they pour tomato juice over everything, in Germany some strange brownish Generalsoß, in Hungary cabbage pickled in starch. My friend, the master cook and gourmand Zhen, who carefully scans the Chinese restaurants of the city, jealously takes note of those few places where they still do it properly, where they do not forget to sprinkle the golden top of the sheep soup with fresh coriander leaves, where the cook roasts the hand-cleaned membrane of chicken gizzard on real Sichuan ginger, and where they go out to the early dawn Chinese flight for that special crab which is so necessary in the Mongolian hot pot and whose name I always forget. According to our common experiences good restaurants are the little Lanzhou in Luther street and the big Lanzhou in Fő street, the Mimóza on Hungária boulevard, the Taiwan in Nádor street (but this has closed now) and the Hongkong in Béke street. At least in case one goes there in the company of Chinese people, although they say they are the same good if the Hungarian guest explicitly orders ‘what the Chinese eat’, even if it will cost somewhat more because of the original materials. But the best restaurant is in Kőbányai street, in front of the gate of the Four Tigers Chinese Market.

Entrance of the Chinese fast food in Kőbányai street, Budapest
The family running the restaurant and the chef who is usually also the head of the family change from time to time, thus the recurrent guests can get acquainted with a number of Chinese regional kitchens. Now for a year and a half it has been in the hands of a family from the Fujian region. When they took over the shop, they only spoke their own dialect, but the boy at the counter has by now learned a fair Chinese from the guests. He even knows the name of some basic materials in Hungarian. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, before venturing to order you’d better study the following version of the Chinese-Vietnamese menu where you can also read the names of the dishes in English and see their pictures catched together from various Chinese cooking sites (which are not necessarily identical with their local equivalents) by moving the mouse above the Chinese names. The script displaying the inscriptions, just like every other script used on our site, do not work in Google Reader, so the users of Reader are invited to come over directly to the blog.

Menu of the Chinese fast food in Kőbányai street, Budapest
You should better go around noon or not much later, when the kitchen already works, but there are only a few guests yet. At this time there are even free seats, namely two to the left of the door. Latecomers eat standing. Soon the market sellers arrive. They are the target public of the restaurant who are looking for really good Chinese kitchen instead of a Magyarized one. This is why the dishes are so tasty here and this is why they have the same genuinely Chinese taste like in any small restaurant in Beijing or Shenzhen. This makes it the best Chinese restaurant in town.

If you managed to take the seat at the door, then while you are waiting for your dish you should observe how the serious clients order. They care nothing of the menu, but only shout the ingredients they wish, like “soup with noodles, beef, two eggs, vegetables”. Kata immediately pounced on this possibility, and by now she also composes the dishes for herself, at the great delight of the staff. And for an individual taste everyone orders some addition from under the counter.

The right meat counter of the Chinese fast food in Kőbányai street
The left meat counter of the Chinese fast food in Kőbányai street
In the right (above) and left (below) sections of the meat counter there is a plethora of raw or prepared meats, mostly those sinewy or cartilaginous parts and giblets that the Chinese estimate the most: feet, neck and head of poultry, tongue of pork, bowels, ears and so on: the mouse here too helps to identify the current offer. The guests pick out one or two of these to cook in the soup or roast with the noodles or rice for a really authentic homely taste. Because – attention! – in this restaurant there are no ready-to-eat foods. Everything is prepared right on the spot, like in the best Hongkong spectacle kitchens.

You should dedicate special attention to the freshly steamed baozi, Chinese dumpling with meat on the top of the right counter, of which you should indispensably have two or three warmed up with the soup. You can also take home of it (just like from the meats, people take them like hot cakes), we usually have ourselves packed sixty or eighty at one time. For drinking the well-informed ask soya milk which is of course not indicated anywhere. It is very tasty, a bit like that of the oeufs à la neige. And it is extremely healthy.

Apart from the really tasty food, you should also come here because in this neighborhood you can encounter a small piece of real China. Above the restaurant there is a Chinese food shop with a relatively good supply. Here you should by all means buy a little glass of Hongkong 海鲜酱 hăixiānjiàng that is hoisin sauce to eat with the baozi. And in front of the entrance of the restaurant, in the car park some Chinese farmers from Hungary – they say from the region of Baja – sell fresh Chinese vegetable every day from around noon from the plateau of a lorry. Most of them have no Hungarian names, but if you want to play safe, take a packet of large-leaved youcai now only for an euro. It is good to roast in the wok with chopped meat or tofu, and good to cook in the soup. We will give recipes on request.