Day 6: Three Capitals: Budapest, Zagreb & Ljubjana
By Folk Combo, Jan 16 2015 03:01PM
On how Folk Combo hopped between countries and capitals, swapping between coins and currencies and busked in extreme conditions.
Our first official concert of the Balkan Adventures was planned on the 27th of December in Budapest. We arrived to the capital of Hungary two days beforehand and had some time to explore the city, do some busking and prepare our performance. We got a whole dormitory for ourselves in the Goat hostel and made ourselves comfortable. We busked on several spots in Buda and in Pest and especially the spot next to the Citadella was great, allthough we didn't earn much up there. We enjoyed the view of the city and the smiles of the tourists while we slowly turned into two popsicles. Down in Pest, the commercial shopping streets turned out to be more profitable and we earned thousands of Hungarian florints. Unfortunately, when conversing them back to euros, the amount of money we were left with was much less impressive but it was sufficient to cover our expenses of hot chocolates and lunch between busking sessions, and to pay for the accomodation of the hostel. So... we couldn't complain.
We played a show in the Lampas bar, a cool music café/basement, ran by Daniel Nieland. Our folky tunes were (again) an island in the usual programme of jazz and blues but it went smoothly and we got a nice response from the audience. Afterwards, we slept one more night at the Goat Hostel and the next day we rewarded ourselves to a whole day of jacuzzi's and sauna's in the Széchenyi, one of the famous thermal bath houses of the city. We immersed ourselves into the hot water and bubbled for hours on end. After the baths we continued this standard of luxury and went out for dinner to try the traditional gastronomy: 'gulyás, ratatouille and nokedli' (nomnom!) Unfortunately, this extravagant lifestyle had to stop at one point and after spending our last florints, we were back in our beloved Villa. Fresh, fullfilled and happy after the the relaxing day at the pools and the excellent dinner.
The next day we went to Zagreb and for the first time after more than a month of travelling we were in the Balkans. The city was covered in snow and ice, a couple degrees minus zero and not very suited for playing music outdoors. But we put on a number of layers and went out with our instruments. We were kept warm with the hot wines of Maja Stanisic while playing our music and we earned some Croatian kunas. We slept in the Villa and the next day went to the music library to work on our folk research. We introduced ourselves as musicologists from Spain and the Netherlands and inquired if we could have a look at their collection of music and transcriptions. We found a beautiful compilation of music with eloborate descriptions, linking the music to the specific regions in the country. While David was scanning and ripping as much scores and CD's as he could in the University of Zagreb, Gijs was held as a bond for the borrowed materials by the librarians of the music department, since they were still a bit conspicuous of our intentions. That night we went out for busking again and got an enthousastic audience of youngsters who together form the Celtic Fantasy Dance Studio. Seeing them enjoy and dance the steps to the celtic tunes warmed our hearts and bodies and for a moment we didn't feel the cold biting our hands and faces. Their manager, the young and visionary Dominik, invited us for a drink and offered us to be our PR-agent in Croatia (We'll keep that in mind Dominik!).
On the 31st of December, we drove from Zagreb to Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia. For one day, we were back in euroland, where we could understand the prices without doing mental recalculations with the conversion rates of queer currencies (such a relief!). We went to play on the street and exchanged our bag of coins for paper notes, which would come in handy in the exchange offices of the countries yet to visit. Allthough we were blessed with a sunny day, the temperature was surpassing minus 10 degrees and we were really freezing out there; losing the feeling of our hands and fingers completely. After that first arctic busking session, we had a stroll around the beautiful city and Gijs ran into Laurine, a friend from the Netherlands who he hadn't seen for many years and who was visiting Ljubjana with her family and it was a very nice and coincidental rendez-vous. Such a small world! Later we went to find another spot to play and stumbled upon a very grumpy Slovenian accordeonist, who was playing traditional Slovenian music, which is very similar to Austrian folk music except they don't do the yodelling. David tried to take some photographs but the man became angry and turned his back towards us. We thought he didn't do a good job at promoting the Slovenian folklore with an attitude like that and we guess he must felt threatened by us, fellow musicians, also with a cool outfit, competing with his business. We played for a little while in another place but when the sun was going down it really became too cold and impossible to keep playing (minus 15!). We went for some hot wines to warm up and afterwards returned to the Villa. We left Slovenia and zigzagged up into the mountains back onto Croatian territory, looking forward to see the Adriatic sea, where we would conclude the year 2014. On the New Year's Eve. David made an exquisite dinner with a pumpkin that we had been carrying around since Romania, we had some beers and at 12 o'clock a lemonless gin tonic while we watched a beautiful show of fireworks from the boulevard of Opatije.