Szolnok, Set Car on Fire

Metered parking in Szolnok involved paying at the nearest stand, then displaying the receipt on the dash.

Anyone familiar with parking in Vienna prior to parking apps —which required the same amount of paperwork as divorce filing or congressional bill passage, plus a race against time to the nearest Tabak shop to get the forms—will appreciate the straightforward efficiency of this system. As with most receipts, Szolnok’s was printed on thermal paper.


The Hungarian Plains in summer gets hothothot. I was used to it. I had lived already for years in Lower Austria, the non-Alpine part of the country, where summer temps often hang in the low 100s for days at a time. No A/C to speak of, so the body learns to adapt (hint: biergarten).


My apartment in Szolnok had no A/C. The archive building didn’t, either.  The blinds in our assigned room were kept down to keep out the intense sunlight.


For lunch, I’d drive us --my assistant and myself -- over to the Cafe New York on Kossuth Square. Ours were working lunches. My assistant was a Szolnok historian, and he would use that time to tell me about the city (he’d draw maps and such while he was talking :) )


I lost track of time one day, and then it was all "The car! The parking! I have to feed the meter!" We hurried back to the car. I looked on the dash and saw the parking receipt had burned to black in the heat.


“I wonder how many more minutes I had until it sparked a flame,” I said.


“We don’t fine you if you go over your time,” my assistant said. “We just set your car on fire.”