Apr 25, 2009

E Pluribus Unicum

Out of more than 40 different herbs the Hungarian bitter Unicum is produced, and while the claims of toxicity from the Time Out guide review are wildly exaggerated, I did finally figure out that the sinus headache I've had for the last few days has little to do with my sinuses. Having survived more of that wonderful concoction at the MemoQ Fest party Thursday night than I'll ever publicly admit, I figure there's not much that can kill me in the range of consumables.

Last night after the official program ended, most of those who didn't have to travel home immediately got together for one last dinner. Like every other event this week, it was enormously fun. One thing I appreciate a lot about the Kilgray crowd: this young company has top-notch technology that is now being copied by more "established" market players, and now that it's quite clear that they may very soon be a force to be reckoned with in the industry, with a response to come from some of the competition that should probably not be expected to be gentle, but rather more like heavy artillery. But some of the big SDL guns may be trained back on the perhaps-not-to-remain market leader: I was very surprised to see some of the top trainers and marketing people who used to be part of the SDL Trados world in Germany here at the conference taking a strong interest in promoting and supporting MemoQ. Among them were Claudia Fricke, the head of marketing responsible for Passolo from its beginnings and Angelika Zerfass, a trainer and language technology consultant who needs no introduction in the German-speaking Trados world. Jost Zetzsche, a noted independent consultant and reviewer of translation technologies whose work is highly valued by far more people that the 15,000 or so who subscribe to his Tool Kit newsletter came all the way out from Oregon - not something one would do for a technology that does not seem poised to play a major role in the industry. There were others of equal stature whom I don't know personally, but overall it's clear that the course Kilgray has set is winning the kind of valuable allies needed for success.

This morning (Saturday), a number of conference attendees gathered again at the hotel venue and set off on a walking tour of Budapest lasting more than five hours and competently guided by Kilgray's COO István Lengyel. I was suspicious about what a good job he was doing taking us around and explaining everything, and when cornered with a question, he admitted that he was also a trained tour guide. A damned good one too I think, though I hope he sticks to the good job he is doing promoting his company's products. Still, I really appreciated him showing us the Buda Castle district (especially the statues of the dogs) and other wonderful sights in the city. Gábor Ugray also kindly pointed out the bronze statue of Hadik András, mounted on a horse whose testicles generations of Hungarian students have polished for luck before their exams. I was particularly fascinated by the majolica tiled roofs of many of the buildings in the castle district.

Afterward I had the good fortune to meet the owner of the CSŐVÁRBERKI Magyar Vizsla Kennel where the mother of my dog Aristos comes from and where the grandparents of his Danish mate Wagga live. I met a lot of wonderful dogs and had the opportunity to observe a lesson in the field for a "problem dog" that the Ms. Noveczki was retraining for a local hunter over the past two months. It was quite interesting talking to her about her training methods and her diploma thesis on Wire-haired Vizslas for her degree in Hunting Engineering (yes, there is such a thing - I was surprised). I hope she will get it translated into German or English; it would probably be a valuable expansion of the information on those dogs available outside of Hungary.

At the end of this very long day I dragged myself back to the hotel, then went out again for dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant in the neighborhood: Osteria at Dohány utca 5 (www.osteria.hu). The service by the waiter, Kereskényi Csaba, was absolutely superb, and the food (cream of pumpkin soup, goose liver risotto, an excellent wine, chocolate mousse) was absolutely first class and surprisingly inexpensive. Things are actually not cheap here in Budapest, but are very much on part with the cost of living in Berlin in most respects (so the translators here obviously should not be asked to work for peanuts!), but I really would have paid twice as much in Berlin for the same quality, except at one little French place I was lucky to discover. The total bill including tip was less than 22 euros (and included several things I didn't bother to mention).

Whether you come to Budapest on the excuse of checking out MemoQ or Kilgray's other products (a good idea) or come because it's probably the finest city in Europe doesn't matter. Just come, you won't regret it.

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