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Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 02:39 GMT 03:39 UK
Erotic camping at the Grand Prix
Micheal Schumacher at the Budapest Grand Prix
The Budapest race attracts all kinds of thrill-seekers
By Nick Thorpe in Budapest

Hungary's Formula 1 racetrack has witnessed some strange sights in its 15-year history.

In 1986 thousands of Romanian visitors refused to go home after the race, and sought asylum in Hungary.

And now this year, the country's first open-air brothel has opened in a wooded area between the Gold and Silver entrances.

They were everywhere - outside every house, in the bushes, at the side of the road

Mogyorod resident
Under Hungarian law it is known as a tolerance zone - but the white banner above the gate advertises "Erotik Camping".

In fact there are no tents, just 20 whitewashed booths, each sporting a red carpet, a bed covered with a grey blanket, and a neat stack of toilet rolls.

Red wine, red lights

Last year's Law against Organised Crime, dubbed the 'anti-Mafia law', allows - or even instructs - local councils to set up red-light areas wherever prostitution is widespread.

So far councils have all fought shy of doing so, until plucky Mogyorod - a village of 4,200 inhabitants, close to the F1 track - made the headlines.

A sleepy village for 11 and a half months of the year, famous for its red wines, stored in traditional vaulted cellars set into the hillside, it comes alive at race-time.

Prostitute at Mogyo
Waiting for business at the Mgyorod tolerance zone
Open prostitution has been a problem in previous years. "We were so ashamed," said one local woman. "They were everywhere - outside every house - in the bushes, at the side of the road."

This year, local police approached the mayor, Sandor Toth, with the idea of legalising prostitution, in a carefully designated area, just for the five days of the race.

The big day arrives

And so at 1600 on Thursday, the girls arrived - allegedly selected from Budapest prostitutes, because of their knowledge of a few words of foreign languages.

More than half the 250,000 visitors expected at the Grand Prix are foreigners - the majority from Germany, Austria and Italy.

But the girls, sitting on wooden benches, waiting for their first customers, appeared disgruntled.

"This is not what we were led to expect," said one, a 21 year old wearing an ankle-length dress.

"All of us feel really unhappy about it. We expected normal people, in normal surroundings."

Necessary evil

With raucous music pumping from loud speakers, and swarms of security guards in dark-glasses wearing T-shirts with the words 'Iron Dwarf security', the tolerance zone has more the atmosphere of a zoo, than a brothel.

The local people appear resigned to the phenomenon.

"I see it as a necessary evil - though not necessary to me," said 49-year-old accountant Erzsebet Juhasz, who lives on the main street.

Her neighbours agree - that it's better to keep such goings-on in the woods, and out of their front gardens.

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22 Feb 00 | Europe
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