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March 3rd 2014
Published: March 18th 2014
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Búsojárás is sort of the Hungarian Carnival. It happens on the first weekend of March every year down in Mohacs, which is on the Danube close to the southern border of Hungary. Men dress up in sheep skin everything and scary wooden masks to chase away the winter demons. Let's go!


When I was little I had a sheepskin that I LOVED. I called it a "mysaw" for reasons that still perplex my family. My brothers followed suit and we all had "mysaws" that we ripped apart as we grew older (except for Duncan). I assumed this festival would be a slightly traumatic experience for me with terrifying men dressed in mysaws walking around everywhere.

It was traumatic, but in other ways.

I met Darcy, Alicia, and Kenzie at the bus station at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday. We got on the bus and promptly took naps. Uneventful. We were staying with a couchsurfer's dad, but the girl who was going to take us to the house didn't get off work until 4, so we were okay carrying our backpacks around. Also, I had lost my memory card earlier in the week, so no camera 😞. All pictures had to be taken with my phone. Those are some serious first-world problems right there. There were people EVERYWHERE. Booths lined the streets, which were cut off from cars. First we stopped at a Cukrászda (a kind of sweet pastry/coffee shop) and got some cappucinos. Then we walked around to look at the booths. We found a beautiful jewelry stand and all fawned over the gorgeous necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The woman was super sweet, and we told her we'd be back.

We found the main square, which had a GIANT pile of sticks in the middle. Huge pyre that was lit on Sunday night (we missed it. Too bad). Because I guess it's normal in Hungary to have giant bonfires in the middle of a square with no fencing or anything around it. Cool. Then we got lunch. Alicia and I split a sandwich thing that was about the size of a large plate and impossible to eat. But so delicious. Also the guy who sold it to us told us he loved us, so that was good. We met some new CETP people in the main square and hung out with them
Us with a Búso!Us with a Búso!Us with a Búso!

Me, Kenzie, Darcy, Alicia
for a bit. Then we saw a mini parade. And the Búsoj. They were EVERYWHERE. And they kept...molesting everyone. Like hitting us with sticks and grabbing us from behind. It was one of the craziest things ever. We walked around a little more, saw the Danube, and got attacked by more Búsoj.

Finally we met the girl who was going to take us to the house. Her name was Julia, and she was really sweet. We put her bags in her house and walked around with her only to get molested by way more Búsoj (they're friskier at night). We stumbled on what looked like a block party. In the middle of a street was a fire where a bunch of pots of (what looked like) gulyás were cooking. Turns out it was similar to gulyás but with beans instead of beef. There were búsoj and floats everywhere. We saw piles of hay, soup cooking, people eating around giant tables, and masks being made. As we were inspecting the masks, a man with soot on his face came up and offered us some palinka. Julia took a sip and then I followed. It was the spiciest thing I have ever tasted in my entire life. There was nothing to wash it down with so my mouth just burned for a solid 20 minutes. We walked around a bit more, got molested a bit more, ate some delicious kebabs for dinner, and finally found the guy to drive us to our couchsurfer's house.

There was a Norwegian who was staying with this Hungarian man as well. He found himself on the wrong side of the river with no bridge. so we waited until he caught the ferry. The 5 of us piled into his car on laps and drove to a house. This Hungarian man was the most wonderful person ever in this world. He and his wife often host people for Búsojárás, and we just happened to be this year's crew. His wife was in Debrecen, and this man spoke no English. The first thing he did was offer us Palinka. It was the best homemade palinka I've ever had. He kept offering us more but we politely declined. Then he noticed that I was walking around in my socks, freaked out, and brought out slippers for all of us (Hungarians have a thing about catching a cold if you walk around your house without slippers). Then he got his son on Skype who is studying in Germany and speaks English. We Skyped with him for about an hour, and then we all went to bed.

When we woke up the next morning, our couchsurfer had the most unbelievable breakfast laid out for us. Coffee, fresh milk (straight from the cow), croissants, pastries, scrambled eggs, jam, butter, salami, and cheese. We gorged and he wouldn't let us clean. We left the house around 9:00 to go downtown with Einar (the Norweigan). We ate food, watched Búsoj dance, got molested some more, and went to the crossing of the Danube.

Búsojárás, as it turns out, has a couple of different meanings. First is the carnival thing where they have scary masks to chase away the winter demons. The hitting us in the crotches and butts with sticks thing is to make us fertile. I guess.

The second reason is that way back in the day a long long time ago there was a huge battle at Mohacs where basically the Turks came in and just slaughtered everyone. Hungarians have a saying (as their pessimism goes), where whenever someone is complaining they say, "well, at least it's not Mohacs." Hungarians are weird. So this festival is to also scare away the Turks if they ever try to come and mess things up again.

So they had a big fire on the other side of the Danube and we all sat on the bank and watched them cross it in boats. Then cannons went off. Some sort of significance was involved.

We went back downtown and stumbled into Claire, Althea, Chaz, Niamh, and Joe! We parted ways with Claire and Al after lunch but continued to hang out with Chaz, Niamh, and Joe. We pushed our way through the crowd to see the parade and got separated from Darcy and Joe. No one could contact them because there were just thousands of people so all the phones were jammed. We watched the parade.

Here's the parade:

A bunch of búsoj walk, parade style. Every so often there are some women with veils covering their faces. Or witches. And floats. And randomly a Búso would walk down the parade route carrying a woman who was clearly an innocent bystander. This was apparently completely normal. OH. AND PENISES. EVERYWHERE. I only put it in caps because I was under the impression that this was a family event. But I guess it goes with the fertilization thing?

After the parade we pushed our way through the crowd to the main square where we FINALLY found Darcy and Joe. We all walked to the bus station together and Chaz, Joe, and Niamh managed to get tickets onto our bus.

All in all, a very successful weekend. I can't wait to go again next year!

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