I had never seen a real life live snake running around in the wild before. I had seen live snakes draped around people’s necks for tourists to take photographs in places like Colombo and Marrakech and I had seen live snakes in deli counters in the Central Market in Phnom Penh (but not Delhi). Of course I’ve seen one or two in a zoo or two though I’ve never been completely convinced that they were alive as they never seemed to move.
Today, however, I saw dozens of them as I walked along Lake Balaton’s shore on the Tihany Peninsula.
I stopped my car in the car park of a roadside café so that I could take a photograph of a stunningly white swan contrasted against the sparkling green water of the lake in which it swam. While I was at it I thought I’d also go for an arty farty photo of the tall reeds that grow there in such abundance. This meant stepping off the concreted path onto an overgrown bit. As I lined up my shot I heard something rustle in the undergrowth nearby. Could it have been a bird, or a mouse, or something more exotic like a lizard, I wondered?
To my horror, when I looked down I spotted only two feet from my two feet a two feet long snake. With my constipation immediately cured, I stepped back onto the path but didn’t run away screaming for my Mum because I really wanted to see said serpent again.
Less than a minute later I saw another, smaller one. Wild snakes, it seems, are like Leeds buses . . . you wait fifty five and a half years for one and then two turn up together.
I walked a couple of hundred metres along the path, looking over a low wall at the undergrowth on the shore’s edge on the other side of it. Amongst the vegetation I saw along the lines of twenty or thirty snakes in the space of fifteen minutes, plus a few bright green lizards and far too many burger cartons, beer cans and old car tyres. A sad sign when McDonald’s, Carlsberg and other corporate giants have infiltrated the communities of Central Europe’s reptile population. But the snakes seemed happy there. My main worry by then was that too much junk food would lead them to obesity and poor health in later life.
Prunella Scales and Monty Python . . . and friends.
Having used the café’s car park I thought I’d better go and buy something to justify my presence so I sat at an outside table with an Espresso and chatted to the waiter about snakes, of all things. He said they were nothing and their bite wasn’t even poisonous. This didn’t ease my anxiety at all as there had been so many of them and they were so large and, poison or no poison, I reckoned that being bitten by one was never going to be a great deal of fun. Lions aren’t poisonous either but I wouldn’t want to be bitten by one of them.
The waiter’s only worry was that he didn’t know the English words for the horrendously vividly coloured, chemical and fruit flavoured crushed ice drinks that he was selling. I told him that they were called Slush Puppies and he thanked me. So at least his concerns were alleviated, if not mine.