Yurts provide cheap escape for Hungarians fleeing cost of living crisis

Petra Pogany-Bago prepares lunch as her husband Mihaly works in their yurt tent near Kecskemet

By Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than

BUDAKESZI, Hungary (Reuters) – David Zih, who works in Hungary’s film industry, never thought he would end up living in a yurt to escape the surging costs of living. He was planning a house with a terrace and a view on his plot of land near Budapest.

But mounting construction and energy prices have forced him to rethink. The 37-year-old head camera technician has bought the yurt, a large circular domed tent like those used by nomadic people on the steppes of Central Asia.

“By the time the yurt is ready it will be half the cost of what a lightweight house would have been. I got a quote for a house like that in the spring and by the autumn costs rose by another 30%,” Zih said.

His new home, with windows and an insulated wooden base, and its slatted wooden walls and ceiling covered with insulation and waterproofing, will cover 80 square meters among the pine trees in Budakeszi and be finished before the cold sets in.

Zih, who currently lives in a rented flat with a communal heating system, said once he moves in, he will make big savings in the yurt which he will heat using electric wall-mounted heaters.

Zih is one of an increasing number of Hungarians who are choosing yurts as their permanent accommodation because of the energy crisis.

Yurt builder Gabor Adorjan said his orders have soared and he is fully booked until next summer, all with orders for the largest-size yurt typically used as homes.

He estimates around 1,000 yurts exist in Hungary now, with an increasing number being used as homes. Before, they were used only for tourists or people living remotely off-grid.

‘HUGE RELIEF’

“Some say this will stay like this in the future probably because many people choose this not only because of rising energy prices but also because of the rise of construction prices,” Adorjan said.

Building a yurt up to the size of Zih’s would cost less than 10 million forints ($23,400), he said, which is less than a quarter of what a small house would be.

The largest yurt takes around three days to construct. There are about a dozen yurt builders in Hungary, and most of them said they have had lots of new inquiries and orders.

Yurts are cheaper to heat, as the air circulates in a single round space which keeps heat in for longer, while the walls are insulated, Adorjan said.

“Even a small stove can heat up a yurt within a short time,” Adorjan said.

The Pogany family, who live on a farm near Kecskemet in eastern Hungary, keeping sheep and growing pumpkins for sale, moved into their yurt three months ago.

In their former farmhouse, they only heated one room with a wood stove and even that got cold by the morning. Now they will use a stove and electric floor heating in their yurt, which is decorated and kitted out like any apartment, with pictures, plants, a sofa, bed, dining table and neat kitchen area.

As they expect their first child, keeping warm is more important than ever. They plan to live in the yurt for years, while trying to save up to rebuild their old farmhouse.

“For me it is a huge relief … I have no fear that we would be cold as I know the stove will keep us warm,” Petra Pogany-Bago, a 22-year-old babysitter, said, sitting alongside her husband in their cosy home.

Mihaly Pogany, 28, who works as an insurance agent, says the world has changed and people must adjust to a lower level of comfort.

“It’s a big luxury to heat flats to 26 Celsius,” he said.

($1 = 427.9000 forints)

(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alison Williams)

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