Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zalaba, Slovakia: The Best Mayor in the World.

Although the last post about Prague was the opening gig of the recent band tour, this post is about the last concert we did at a small village festival in Slovakia on July 4th. Zalaba is a tiny village just nborth of the Hungarian border in Slovakia, about 7 km north of the town of Parkány (Sturovo in Slovakian.)It is only about an hour's drive north of Budapest but as soon as you leave the border town of Parkany and enter the hilly countryside you could be in Transylvania. The villages are small and unspoiled, with well kept old peasant houses, working farms, vineyards, twisting country roads. Eventually, we reached the small village of Zalaba - population 170, of which 85% are Hungarian, 15 % Slovak. Everybody speaks Hungarian as well as Slovak here, and the festival we played at was named after the brook which runs through the village: the Szikince. As soon as we arrived the Mayor of Zalaba, Michlianová Etelka, introduced herself by making sure we were fed. First we got a basket of home made pogacsa (biscuits - seen above) made by Mayor Michlianová herself, as well as sandwiches made from goat cheese from Mayor Michlianová own goats. The Mayor poured us a round of excellent quality palinka and then laid out her specialty: Zalaba retes ('strudel'.)
This was a mixture of meat, sour cream, and curd cheese rolled and baked into a kind of über-burek, a savory strudel the likes of which you would never see in Budapest a mere hour's drive to the south. The fresh, meaty strudel was just what we needed after the long day's drive in from the Romanian border. This was the kind of old fashioned strudel that you can't find in many modern Hungarian homes - not only was the pastry hand stretched, it was hand stretched by the Mayor! How many Mayors bake strudel for their festival guests? Does NY Mayor Bloomberg bake cookies when a klezmer band comes to NY? No. He does not. Zalaba thus beats New York by a strudel length. Etelke, you win the award, you are the Best Mayor in the World.
We played our set, and got everybody up and dancing a basic freylakhs led by Sue Foy. As soon as we were finished, Mayor Etelke met us at the side of the stage with another bottle of palinka. Now that's hospitality. And just before we left she gave Fumie a couple of liters of excellent local wine - grown around these parts only for local consumption, and unavailable in bottles. Given that it is releatively easy to get to Esztergom by train from Budapest, cross the bridge to Parkány, and bike up to Zalaba... I have a feeling there may be a few bicycle trips to Zalaba in the future.

No comments: