Peterjon Cresswell, Budapest Writer

  • 6 Jul 2023 11:40 AM
Peterjon Cresswell, Budapest Writer
Salvaged from the wreckage of a provincial past by punk rock and Total Football, Mönchengladbach-born Peterjon Cresswell has always looked to Europe for work and inspiration.

Mainly covering sport and travel in Hungary, Croatia and Poland, he has also created Time Out Guides to Baku, Brussels and Paris. He has talked football face-to-face with Ferenc Puskás at Budapest’s historic Hotel Béke and interviewed Eric Cantona by a pile of sand in Dubai.

Football, travel and strange backstories dovetail in Libero (, his first digital project, and the result of far too much research into the subject.

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?

My nearest and dearest cohorts, members of a ferocious London punk band called the Brain of Morbius, were on the same bill as a legendary alternative group from Miskolc called Ápolók. (The book 303 Hungarian Records You Must Hear Before You Die lists one of their albums.)

This occurred at a Dutch squat just as the Berlin Wall was collapsing. The Hungarians arranged shows here the following summer of 1990. As I always assigned myself a Geoffrey Chaucer role on tour, I came with. The rest is Hungary.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?

I survived long-term language-study courses in the South of France, in Kyiv and what was then Leningrad during Soviet times, and in an old Russian monastery outside Paris.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

What an entirely different planet it was. And is.

4. Friends are in Budapest for the weekend – what must they absolutely see and do? 

Depending on who’s in town, I would take them to Váci utca. We would stroll past the international shopfronts and, beside a boutique for upscale Italian lingerie, dive into a hidden courtyard. In a far corner of this inner sanctum, a tiny premises the size of the Tardis stocks rare football badges from across the Eastern bloc circa 1965.

While showing you his life’s work as a collector of such items, the owner, Bálint, will regale the Hungarian speaker with tales of listening to football reports on a handheld Sokol transistor radio, on a freezing balcony in Transylvania, in the days when nobody owned a television. The whole world shops for things they don’t really need. Budapest gives you a story and a one-of-a-kind retro jewel to go with it.

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?

Káposztás hasé.

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?

Milk. Hungarians drink their morning coffee with a spoonful of sugar, a cigarette and a huge helping of guilt about whatever happened the night before. Milk helps the medicine go down.

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?

Sajnos. Nincs is the cherry on the top.

8. What do you miss most from home? 

There’s no such place. Here’s the nearest I’ll ever come to it.

9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?

Beside platform 1 at Keleti station, a little hut houses an old railway employee who seems to spend his day feeding needy stray cats and reading Nemzeti Sport. Now and then, the Hungarian train jingle, as composed by Tamás Székely in 1974, gives a doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo over the airwaves. Retro heaven with a pension. I wish that particular career opportunity had knocked, if only they’d me about it at school.

10. What’s a job you would definitely never want?

Anything involving neckties. Or smiling.

11. Where did you spend your last holiday?

Holidays never happen. It’s all gravy.

12. Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?

See above.

13. Apart from temptation, what can’t you resist?


14. What was your favourite band, film or hobby as a teen?

Any guitar and any bass drum.

15. Red or white?

If VBK or fröccs, then fröccs. It doesn’t stain as badly.

16. Books or films?

I’d love to say books. Pass the popcorn.

17. Morning person or night person?

Both. There’s absolutely no difference. God gave us the 24-hour clock for a reason.

18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?

Wheelie suitcases. Dubrovnik has just banned the damned things. If you can’t carry your bag, don’t pack it in the first place.

19. Buda or Pest?

Pest. As Australians say about New Zealand, Buda’s OK but not for the whole day.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?

Follow. That. Dream.

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