Monday, 8 April 2013

No Cheese, Sherlock!

Some people have a difficult start in life. Take US goalkeeper Tim Howard for example. He was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome as a young boy. But I think, like Sherlock Holmes on a pushbike - Bicyclelock Holmes if you like - I've deduced that little Tim was the victim of a terrible misdiagnosis. Let me explain, by which I mean let me waffle nonsensically for a bit and then come back to it right at the end.

Country number one this year is Hungary. It's where I'm sat right now, in a forgettable little town, drinking beer at 1980s prices. Before leaving Austria yesterday with good mate Pete, I'd given him a little cribsheet of important Hungarian words, written phonetically for ease of pronunciation. My cribsheet is very useful for this bizarre language but having done my extensive research there are some words in Hungarian that I will remember until the day Alzheimer's sets in. It's hard to forget that the Hungarian word for 'cheese' sounds exactly like 'shite'. Or that one version of their word for 'no' is 'minge'. Oh, and 'trees' sounds like just like 'faaaak'. I could be wrong about all this. I got my information from Google Translate's virtual speaker. Maybe it had been hacked.

Anyway, we set off yesterday on what was possibly a stupidly long distance for a first day - 134 km (90 miles). I hadn't cycled so much this winter and it turned out that Pete had never cycled so far in his entire life. By the time we hit the Hungarian border, still with 60 km to go, we were tired and extremely Hungary. Luckily, just over the border was the sort of transit cafe/bar you see in lots of places over here. There appears to be a rule that they are only allowed one party of customers at a time. And - lucky us! - we were that party.

The staff, of which there were many, spoke a little German but we tried our Hungarian phonetic cribsheet. Something that sounds like 'kate scher' got us the two beers we desired. Yeah, Google Translate! Scanning the food menu, my eye was drawn to their burger options, particularly their 'shiteburger'. Fearing that they might know enough German to fulfil our order a little too accurately, we went for the 'extraburger' without really knowing what the extra was. It turns out to have been cabbage. Nice cabbage though.

We struggled on to Szombathely, our destination, with a fierce headwind and collapsed into the cheapest hotel we could find, which was also the only hotel we could find. This saving allowed us to eat in the only restaurant open on a Sunday evening (apart from McDonald's) and go a bit mental. The highlight was a bottle of wine that was made from a bizarre Hungarian grape that could only be enjoyed if it was blended with a more popular grape, a bit like the way that people can only stomach Piers Morgan if he's interviewing someone much less of a twat. The wine tasted alright though. And then there was the main course. I ordered a mountain of meat offering allsorts but also, and this was the reason I choose it, pigs' trotters. It was another first for me. Mmm, they're, er, gelatinous.

What the 'trees' has all this got to do with Tourette's Tim Howard and his effing and blindingly good goalkeeping. Well, Tim Howard was born in the USA - wait for it! - of Hungarian parents. Have you put the picture together yet? Tim wasn't swearing uncontrollably. He was just talking to his dad in his native tongue. Tim's doctor clearly didn't have my phonetic cribsheet. Or am I talking 'cheese'?

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