Photo: Mary Murphy

The capital with the eye of an expat

In search of colour

Standing 22.4 metres (73 ft) underground on the platform for the M4 metro in Kálvin tér in the nation’s capital recently, a strange feeling came over me.

I had time.

I looked around, trying to figure out what was bothering me.

I watched people disembark on the other side of the platform and head for the escalator. I watched as more rose from the pedestrian tunnel, filing out to take their place.

I watched and wondered.

Then it dawned on me.

What was missing was colour.

Nine in ten people were wearing black. And it was March. Not November. What conversation there was, was subdued. There was no laughter. No giddiness. Instead, I felt the palpable weight that comes with a marked lack of colour.

It was still cold outside.

The unseasonably warm weather we’re enjoying hadn’t yet made an appearance. And yes, winter clothes always seem more drab than summer colours. But the lack of colour was more than a literal lack of pigment; it was also figurative.

A few days later, in early April, a Facebook post caught my eye – the tulips at Kőröshegy were out and bursting with colour.

Since 2012, the folks at Kőröshegyi Levendula Gazdaságunkat have been opening their gates to visitors to enjoy the lavender fields. For the last few years, their tulips have been the warm-up act for the summer lavender season.

Eager to embrace some colour, I set off, full of anticipation. The tulip season this year runs until the 21st of April. And, as usual, I didn’t read the fine print. Why I ever thought that tulips would grow wild I don’t know.

An entrance fee of 1000 ft (a little shy of €3/$3) gives you access to the farm where you can put down a refundable deposit to rent a basket and a pair of scissors to cut your stems. For 300 ft apiece you can take your tulips home.

I’ve never been a massive tulip fan. I mean, I like them, as flowers, but until now, a tulip was a tulip was a tulip. No longer. I now have a favourite – the Lambada.

Had we gone a week earlier, it would have been more impressive as many of the rows had already been picked clean. But for someone in search of colour, it did the job.

Photo: Mary Murphy

Driving home, I figured I wasn’t the audience they were planting for.

The lavender and tulip experience is for those who want to bring something home. And fair enough. There’s a market for everything. They’ve done a great job down there, with plenty of photo ops and seats set up for selfies. Hats off to them.

But I’m not their target audience.

I’ve been rather spoiled by natural shows of colour like the Gétye margarétás.

A regular April/May occurrence, the hillsides at Gétye erupt in a mass of white and yellow as the wild daisies take over. It’s nature at its best. There are no neat rows of flowers. There’s no entrance fee. There’s no deposit needed for baskets and scissors. The last thing I was tempted to do was to pick a flower. Instead, I lay down in a clearing and looked at the sky. Surrounded by daisies, I could have been in a washing powder commercial. Me. The daisies. And the bees.

The village of Gétye is about 2 hours from Budapest heading in the general direction of Zalaegerszeg in Zala county and the daisies already making an appearance.

Too far, I hear you say, to go see a bunch of daisies?

You’ll never know what you’re missing.

If you time it right, you could also take in the spectacular colours of Azáleás-völgy (Azalea Valley) on the outskirts of the county’s capital. Formerly known as Doboskúti völgy (Drummer Valley) and also known as Róka völgy (Fox Valley) and Kígyó völgy (Snake Valley), the valley has been included in the Seven Natural Wonders of Zala since 2010. The azalea bushes were planted from 1973 onwards, and when they’re in full bloom, the colours are nothing short of amazing.

And again, it’s free.

Add these to the sun-yellow fields of oilseed rape that are in full bloom right now and the fields of clover and poppies that are getting ready to unfurl their beauty, this is the time to step outside the city and visit the Hungarian countryside.

Go soon, before the tourists start jamming up the roads and crowding into the Balaton.

Go soon, before the flowers die off and the colours fade.

Go soon.

You won’t be sorry.

And if you know of any stunning wildflower spots, please share. I promise I won’t tell anyone. Well, I won’t tell anyone you told me.

Mary Murphy is a freelance writer, copyeditor, blogger, and communications trainer. Read more at | |

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