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Mátranovák Wellding Factory, Hungary

You spent a month in Hungary learning how to weld. Time in the country was very relaxing, surrounded by hay bails and sunflowers.

Mátranovák Factory

As part of your welding training, it was decided you'd spend some time in Hungary. Your company produces welded frames in a tiny villages there called Mátranovák. It has one road in, a big factory and a bus stop - that's about it. The factory comprises 1/3 of the village area and it's really in the middle of nowhere. Lots of open fields and hay bails.

Hungarian hay people
Hungarian hay people

For a month your pottered about in the factory. First you spent some time with a bloke called Thomas from the welding inspection department. He was a smiley guy who learnt English from US sitcoms; surprisingly, his English was amongst the best.

A frame in a jig, Swiss project of yours
A frame in a jig, Swiss project of yours

Each day you visited the welding school to do some practical training. The school was decked out with shiny new machines and ventilation system, which made it bearable for a few hours. The welding instructors spoke only Hungarian, so communication was done with hands and feet. It was highly amusing learning from a welder the correct distance and angle to hold the torch: his exaggerated gestures and facial expressions said a lot more than his dopey-looking boss, who was convinced you understood what he was saying. It was all fun and games until your auto-dimming welding visor ran out of batteries and bam! You were blind for a few minutes.

Welding school. Teaching tools: hands and feet
Welding school. Teaching tools: hands and feet

Every morning and every afternoon everyone shook hands with everyone. This process, while very friendly, took aaaaages to run through. Considering about six hundred people work there they'd spend most of their time greeting each other. Some took the handshake seriously, firmly grasping for a good five seconds or so, while others just wimply touched each others fingers.

Trapezoidal screws holding plates
Trapezoidal screws holding plates

The was some actual work too. For example, you we involved in an optimisation program for a French project. It made you proud that your previous project was so frequently sighted for good examples. Let's conveniently ignore how much that other wonderful project cost :)

Parad Hotel

While in Hungary you stayed in the Erzebet Park Hotel, twelve kilometers drive from the factory. It was the region's family friendly spa hotel, nestled behind a hill neighboring a national park. The rooms were quite nice, and wifi plus use of the spa and saunas was included. Its outdoor pool would have been great after work in the evening, had it no been for the damn horse-flys and wasps. Luckily, there were usually lots of kids there to distract them while you swam mini-laps.

View from your room over the pool
View from your room over the pool

Garlic featured heavily with every meal. Even at breakfast a certain waft of garlic seemed to hang in the dining hall. The dinner buffet made every excuse possible to sneak some garlic into the mass-servings, and twice a week included garlic soup. Garlic and hot pickled peppers seemed to be the Hungarian thing.

The hill behind the hotel had lots of mini mines
The hill behind the hotel had lots of mini mines

You spent your lonely afternoons jogging through the woods and playing Civ V. Damn, that game is addictive! The abundance of mosquitoes and flies were a natural motivation to never stop moving while out for a run. The area was rough as guts along it unkept dirt-bike frequented trails but it had a charm to it. The area is sparsely populated, letting you enjoy the serenity and sight the occational deer.

Kékés Hill

There is a mountain in Hungary where skiing is possible. Kékés is 1014m high and has a number of short rusty ski lifts near the top. You drove up there one afternoon and went for a stroll. If felt a bit like a post-fallout world where people had been wiped out and only derelict buildings were left to weather. The hiking trails were hard to follow. Markings appeared on some trees but the path was often very overgrown.

Derelict ski jump in the woods
Derelict ski jump in the woods

Along one trail you came across an old ski jumping ramp. Its rusty frame stood firmly entangled into the forest, but its wooden boards had all but fallen away. Looking from the top, the ramp shot down and away into thick woods. It was hard to imagine someone ever legitimatly using it, or snow ever falling anywhere near it. Was a rather odd find.

Definitely not safe
Definitely not safe

Countryside Driving

The drive between Budapest airport and Mátranovák was perhaps the nicest part of the whole experience. Once out of the city the highways turned to roads, and then became a patchwork or villages connected by lanes. You passed beautiful rolling fields of rapsol, sunflowers and hay bails. The traffic was rarely an issue; you often drove between towns without seeing another car. The potholes where, however, a large issue.

Field of sunflowers
Field of sunflowers

Overall it was a fun time in the countryside. It was good to get to know you fellow workers from afar.