Farewell to the Winter Olympics on the Normafa Trail

It was completely and totally obvious that given the warm winter we’ve been having a cold snap would arrive, and it would arrive late, right about the time you consider checking out the state of your spring wardrobe, just in case. Well, at least it’s not here for Easter, and we hope it won’t return either, tough early April has always been the cruelest and ficklest of times, as poetry rightly taught us. Another common place is that poets themselves take the weather personally, and seemingly the British are turned poetic by extreme weather (what counts as extreme weather for them is of course highly intriguing), so they have dubbed whatever is happening to the entirety of the continent right now as the ’beast from the East’. In Siberian context, of course, -8 at 8 AM is a pleasant winter’s morning, so, while trudging through pristine snow I kept repeating my cold weather mantra of ’think of Oymyakon’.

The high drama described above was however not yet fully applicable to the Saturday morning when we decided to embark on the compulsory ’snowy Normafa+Jánoshegy’ trek. (Last year’s edition conveniently to be found here.) The temperatures were still politely a couple of degrees over zero, and there was sun too, which thus incited a very Olympic winter sport frenzy on the slopes overseeing the city. The backdrops were splendid, as usual, but the one Alpine skier whose descent we witnessed convinced us that no Hungarian will pull an Ester Ledecka any time soon, better focus on other sports then.

Speed skating would be anyone’s first thought these days, but we very usefully came up with further suggestions of sports hitherto criminally not included in the programme of the Olympics. First up, popsi-tepsi, freely translated from the Hungarian as bum pan or perhaps butt skillet. A no-brainer, really: as opposed to the awkwardly uncomfortable choice of luge, and the outright suicidal option of skeleton, bum pan allows you to sit upright and control your descent with your feet, while possibly steering with the pan’s handle, located between your legs, because of course no winter sport is a real winter sport if it does not include a certain degree of inconvenience and embarrassment. It would also allow all those nations uselessly taking up space on the medal table with armies of big fat zeroes to perhaps score historical firsts: butt skillet can be practiced in summer as well, on grassy slopes, with homemade implement alternatives such as plastic bags, toilet seats or actual frying pans.

To max out chaos (and probably gift Canada about a dozen more medals), dog sledding should be considered too, alongside dog assisted orienteering, in which, judging by the overall skills exhibited by humans and canines on the trails of Normafa, the official competitor should the dog, as they’re the safer bet of making it to the finish. From Ireland, Skippy, currently running alongside Patrick III, who is yet to make it out from the thicket. Both sports would also produce those amazing moments when the human breaks down, stares at the dog randomly doing something forbidden, like chewing on boots, running in the wrong direction, peeing on tires or viciously attacking dogs thrice its size and screams out: WHY are you doing that? Because IT’S A DOG, and as such, it will do dog things, and those are things we do not, will not, cannot understand.

Finally, as the extremest of winter sports, a local gem: descending the stairs leading down from the Elizabeth lookout without dying in the process. Not the running track or the car road, put there on purpose to provide grip and save lives, but the meandering rock and earth stair system, which in winter becomes a death trap of ice, snow, suffering and general utter discomfort. And while you do all that driven by an unquenchable thirst for glory, I will sooth my own thirst with a Czech beer in the lookout’s café and perhaps practice the one winter sport I might even moderately master. Yep, it’s knitting.

PS: I have now discovered that winter photography is an exhausting sport too. Though given my poor circulation, something tells me I should stick with the knitting.


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