Published on : 06/11/2015

Meeting Hungarian Cowboys in the Puszta

Every day, I feel like my life gets more ridiculous.

Today I found myself in front of a massive crowd, with a whip in my hand and a Hungarian cowboy by my side.

Audience participation is a funny thing, even more so when it’s completely unexpected and forced. I learned this the hard way today during our excursion out to the Hungarian countryside, where I was spontaneously thrown into the middle of an equestrian show with a whip and a zero idea how to use it. I’m still puzzled by how I got myself into this situation, but to me the events unfolded like this: one second, I was snapping photos of the show, innocently minding my own business, and then seconds later, I looked up, and a smiling cowboy was standing inches away from me. With a smirk, he plucked me out of my seat in the audience, and brought me out to a chuckling crowd. Apparently I had been chosen for a mini-game, and had three chances to knock over a bottle of wine with my whip. My prize if I was successful? I would get to keep the bottle of wine, and of course, gain access to life-long bragging rights.

Well, did I succeed?

Nope! I failed miserably… and it was horrifically embarrassing. Whips are not easy to use, and stage fright is a real thing. One look at these photos, and you’ll see how I had no idea what I was doing:

This crazy moment was only one part of a long day trip out to the Hungarian region of the Puszta (plains), known for its flat landscapes, ever-stretching horizon and extensive farm life. We left by coach early this morning to the heart of these plains, first to the city of Kecskemét and then to Tanyacsárda, a farm, restaurant and guesthouse all in one.

Coming into Tanyacsárda, we were thrown into the action immediately! Seconds within arriving, we were greeted by a Hungarian cowboy dressed in traditional garb, who led us to a welcome drink of pálinka, an Eastern European fruit brandy. Well, it’s safe to say there’s nothing like a shot of strong Hungarian liquor to start your day!

After galloping around the farm on a horse carriage ride, we sat down to an equestrian show put on by the cowboys (called csikós in Hungarian). From cracking whips in synchronization, to making the horses sit like dogs, these cowboys really knew how to excite their crowd. Some of their moves seemed straight out of a movie and it was really incredible to see (even though I was forced to be part of it!).

Our visit concluded with a delicious lunch, where we ate outside in a beautiful undercover seating area. With misty fans cooling the air and musicians hamming out classic hits, the ambiance was perfect for a lazy afternoon of hearty Hungarian eats. We were first served a savoury soup with juicy cubes of pork and vegetables, then a giant platter of meat and potatoes. I was absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal, and I definitely wasn’t alone. The bus back to the MS Vivaldi was eerily quiet, but mostly because everyone was napping off their lunches!

Sometime during our one hour drive back to Budapest, Mother Nature decided to swap our blue skies for a thunder storm. I couldn’t believe our luck that the awful weather hit just as we were leaving the city! Tucked away safe from the storm in the comfort of our boat, I spent the evening doing two things I love: laughing and eating cake. It seems my quest for cake from yesterday has a happy ending after all… I came back to the boat to learn that Laura and Franklin had found the cake place we were searching for, and brought back not only goodies for themselves, but a slice for me too! I’m so thankful for the people I’ve met on these cruises… and it’s just hitting me that there’s only a few days left for me on the Danube. Ah, someone please make time slow down!

Talk to you soon from tomorrow’s stop: Bratislava!

- Christina

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