Having just had an opportunity to update the ‘Our own little corner of Eastern Europe’ post of some weeks ago with the information that Pöttyös was in fact a brand not a product – the product being Túró Rudi – and to catch up with the Pöttyös Túró Rudi Facebook page, showing that, with the history of the product, brands and products that began life in the Eastern Bloc (this also probably relates to the ‘Long before KFC’s campaign’ post on TV commercials in Communist-era Czechoslovakia) are still alive and well and thriving in the social media age, this has caused me to reflect on my long-term relationship with products from Eastern Europe….and it is indeed a long-term relationship. It also links in with the fact that the formerly state-owned Czechoslovak record label, Supraphon has very neatly used the final two letters of its name in its ‘webshop’, called ‘Supraphonline’. It’s almost as if they knew about the Web age before it happened!
It all probably began back in the days when they used to show motocross on ‘Grandstand’ (there are all sorts of sports that used to be shown to a mass audience on Saturday afternoons that seem to be on obscure channels in the dead of night nowadays) and I was definitely a fan of the CZ riders as opposed to the BSA ones, probably because there was something ‘exotic’ about the name, which, as one would probably guess, is Czechoslovak in origin. Sorry if this makes me a ‘traitor’ to good old British BSA!
It carried on into the 1980s when Poundstretcher – the original discounter, way pre-dating Poundland – opened a shop on Corn Market (I think it was) in Derby and sold ridiculously cheap electrical goods made in the DDR. I clearly recall the white-handled dry iron and the brown and golden-brown two-tone filter coffee-maker that gave us years of service. There was no obvious brand, as such, but I think I managed (goodness only knows how I did that in the pre-Web age!) to track down that they were probably made somewhere in Dresden and I used to wonder about the lives of the workers in that factory. Well, now I know what sort of music they might have listened to in their spare time! Also, we had ordered by mail order, some time in the late 1970s, a food processing set, probably made in that Dresden factory, the food mixer of which I still use today…and very powerful it is too!…AND it’s got a very handy sieving attachment!
Also in the 1980s, when I was studying Food Technology at Nottinghamshire College of Agriculture, we had a stand at the Newark Show and during my breaktime from duties at the stand it was quite a thrill for me to go off to the Škoda and Lada stands and fantasise that I was driving one as I sat in the driver’s seat (Škodas and Ladas as ‘dream cars’???). It was a real prize to sit in the Škoda Rapid Coupé (whatever happened to the Škoda Rapid?) I wouldn’t have minded (as a Norwich City fan) this yellow number…and since the first year of manufacturing of that particular model of Rapid was 1984 and since I was at NCA from 1983 to 1985 it would, at that time, have been a brand new model.
Once again in the 1980s there used to be a family-owned convenience store on King Street in Belper (Stans) that sold Oberon jam, made in Bulgaria and Hungarokonserv jam, made in Hungary, which were always favourites of mine…especially the black cherry! They came in very unusually-shaped jars with a very green tinge, which were a pleasure to keep for home jam-making. Who, also, can overlook the Krakus jam, made in Poland?
Moving on to the 1990s, when I went to Osnabrück to participate in an archaeological dig, doing my food shopping I used to get quite excited when I encountered the ‘Ostmarken’ (‘Eastern Brands’) from the former DDR on the supermarket shelves. I used to think to myself, “good for you to be still in business after the fall of the Wall!” and was a keen supporter of them. I also used to love spotting the ‘Schwalben’, that were a cross between a motor cycle, moped and scooter, made in the former DDR, on the streets. I wanted one almost as much as I’d wanted a Škoda Rapid!…and here’s yet another attractive yellow number!
Oh…and back in the 1970s, when we used to eat in the kitchen, we used to sit on wooden stools with ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’ stamped under the seats, which I used to think was quite ‘neat’ and also, later, ate out of fruit-themed dessert bowls ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’, maybe made in the bone china factory in Klášterec nad Ohří used for shooting the romantic comedy-musical movie, ‘Holky z porcelánu’, featuring a song sung by none other than Valérie Čižmárová! (With the actress, Marta Rašlová mouthing the words)
So, there you have it. My life has long been supplied, informed and flavoured by Eastern Europe. One could say that getting into the Pop Music of the era from that part of the world is merely a natural extension of the way my life has been headed for decades.
And finally, thank goodness my divided loyalties match of England versus Slovakia at the ‘Euros’ is now out of the way! A draw? That’s just about right! Phew!