Playing polo with Hungarian Counts

Jack of the wonderful bike show sent me the passage below the other day. I think it quite aptly captures the mood of polo today….

[The year is 1933 and Leigh Fermor is an eighteen year old, walking across Europe. He is staying with some Hungarian nobility in a big house near the border with Slovakia]
“Great wings formed a courtyard and, from a terrace leading to a ceremonial door, branching and balustraded steps descended in a sweep. As I was crossing this place d’armes, several people were coming down the steps, and one of them was Count Józsi. Forewarned by Lászlo, he spotted me at once. He waved a greeting and cried, “You are just what we need! Come along!” I followed him and the others across the yard to a shed. “Have you ever played bike-polo?” he asked, catching me by the elbow. I had played a version of it at school with walking sticks and a tennis-ball on the hard tennis-courts; it was thought rather disreputable. But here they had real polo-sticks cut down to the right size and a proper polo ball and the shed was full of battered but sturdy machines. Józsi was my captain, and a famous player of the real game called Bethlen had the rival team; two other guests and footmen and a groom were the rest of the players. The game was quick, reckless and full of collisions, but there was nothing to match the joy of hitting the ball properly: it made a loud smack and gave one a tempting glimmer of what the real thing might be like. I couldn’t make out why all the shins weren’t barked to the bone; nor why, as one of the goals backed on the house, none of the windows were broken. The other side won but we scored four goals, and when the iron Maltese Cats were back in their stands, we limped back to the steps, where Countess Denise and her sister Cecile and some others had been leaning on the balustrade like ladies gazing down into the lists.”
(Patrick Leigh Fermour’s ‘Between the Woods and the Water’)

Incidentally, they are still playing polo in Hungary:
I thought I had a website for them at some point but can’t find it, check out this instead http://alleycat.hu

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1 Response to “Playing polo with Hungarian Counts”


  1. 1 m4gw4s March 24, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Well, we are playing in Millenáris Velodrome (a 111 year old velodrome, the cradle of the hungarian sport) every wednesday afternoon (4 pm to 9 pm) and saturday morning (10 am to 1 pm).

    The webpage you might have remembered is http://velodrom.hu/ (under reconstruction right now. Lots of informations, but mainly in Hungarian now).


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