The bridges over the Danube are one of the most amazing parts of Budapest. And they get even better when they close to have a party!
When I moved to Hungary in 2010, I planned to stay for a year. The theory was that I would hate teaching English and head home, or I would like it enough wander off and continue with adventures in different foreign lands. But, I threw the plan in the trash, and Hungary was my adopted home for four years.
After years of teaching and being a student, I packed my bags in late 2014, and started moving on. I noticed that expats who move to Hungary often stay either one year or multiple decades, but I still think four years was the right amount of time for me.
But, I haven’t escaped Hungary. Not by a long shot. Following another common trend, I wasn’t able to avoid falling hopelessly in love with a beautiful Hungarian girl. She was convincing enough to get me to tag along to Amsterdam, and my wanderlust was beginning to find its cure again.
Unfortunately, loving someone with a different passport has some downsides, and I’ve had to head back to my native country while I continue to try to figure out a way for the two of us to live in the same country.
So, my website is not dead, but it will no longer be primarily about Hungary. However, I haven’t yet shared all my past experiences, and I’m sure to have many future visits to Hungary where I can happily indulge on the delicious food that I already miss.
Hungarian word of the day:
This is pronounced “Vee-sont-laa-tash-rah,” and it means goodbye. In this case, it’s a little harsh and inappropriate, but I don’t have the skills to say “until we meet again” to the land of the Magyars.
Time doesn’t fly when you’re hungry, but it does when you’re in Hungary! It’s been a while since I’ve (publicly) made one of those jokes, so I thought it was about time I do it. Feel free to laugh and tell your friends.
The reason I’m thinking about time flying by is that it just hit me that this is the fourth summer I’ve been in Hungary. It takes noteworthy occasions to point this out, and for me, that was the 4th of July (aka Independence Day in the USA).
Four. Four summers. Four periods of unrelenting heat with virtually no ice cubes. And that doesn’t even count my initial arrival in August, so really it’s more like five. Most people spend summers in countries with beaches or nice climates. Well, most people aren’t very creative.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about July 4th. It’s weird spending your big national day in the borders of another country. The internet allows you to see in real time that your friends are holding flags, sitting at baseball games, and doing other patriotic acts. Yet, the people walking down the street next to you seem completely oblivious.
To make it worse, the World Cup is going on. I grew accustomed to seeing American flags waving on this particular day, but this year it was mostly the three horizontal German colors waving around. Maybe it’s a geographical location issue, but out of the four important games yesterday, I’d give the Cup to Germany and second place to Brazil based on fans wearing their support. Maybe the French are boycotting Budapest because of its lack of croissants. And what is Colombia’s excuse?
But, soccer wasn’t on my menu yesterday. Actually, my menu seemed to be set with a single option that wasn’t very tasty: my MBA thesis. With the deadline approaching, it seems to trump most other social activities. It’s pretty cool.
In order to spare me from my pain, I’ve been able to escape the distractions and heat of the center of the city in favor of a house in a nice quiet neighborhood in the hills. The nights are quiet, the air is clean, the wasps are making nests around me, and it seemed almost perfect for July 4th. But, I forgot my baseball bat, so my options were limited.
In a kind gesture to make me feel at home, it was arranged to have a little Hungarian style American cookout. The conversation went a little something like this:
“So, in America, what do you do to celebrate this day?” I was asked.
Starting to get excited, I said, “Blow things up, grill hot dogs, and play baseball.”
“OK, we can grill hotdogs…”
Notice how she left out the blowing things up and playing baseball? That’s what you get for hanging out with women. They always skip the important stuff.
So, we set up a little charcoal grill. After some confusing time spent on opposite sides of a language barrier, I finally got it across that I had no idea how to do it because I always used a propane grill. I was then politely banished from attempting to ruin dinner, and I took the opportunity to get some pictures to capture the moment.
The “hot dogs” were good, and the onions were even better. Since proper buns are scarce, we improvised with “kifli” or crescent shaped rolls (that, for some reason, are super popular and can be found everywhere). To add a Hungarian touch, we had to throw on some “szalonna” to give the meal some more taste. Szalonna, in my part of the world, is called “bacon fat.” But the Hungarians love it, and I’ve been told I’ll never understand because it’s not in my blood.
So, Happy 4th of July, everyone!
Hungarian word of the day:
This is pronounced “Veer-sh-lee,” and it’s a kind of sausage food. Wikipedia describes it as Vienna sausage, but I would say it’s the closest thing I can get to hot dogs, but still not quite right. No problem, though, they made for a great (and delicious) grilling experience.
DISCLAMER: I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I think Hitler sucked. So, if you’re looking to join a Nazi fan club, I suggest heading back to google and trying your search again. This article has the intention of making fun of that angry little man.
So, I recently spent some time around Lake Balaton which is frequently referred to as the “Hungarian seaside.” It seems to have a wide range of things from palaces to tourist traps to wineries, and it all blends together in a strange way. This keeps you on your toes because you’re never sure whether to feel like an aristocrat or a redneck (or, a Nazi, but keep reading for that…).
Last weekend, I was bumping around the town of Balatonlelle, and it had that feeling that can only be achieved by a town which people visit until they’re too sunburned to remain. There were a lot of beach town essentials around: restaurants with greasy food, hairy men wearing nothing but a speedo on a public street, and plenty of junk shops.
We had a brief period of aimlessness between our morning coffee and our artery clogging langos brunch, so we decided to look for souvenirs and have flashbacks to our childhoods in the trinket stores. Shockingly, the boy in me wanted the bow and arrow while my female companion was much more interested in the elaborate bubble making toys.
Anyway, we stopped at one shop where I was drawn in by a cultural lesson on some “very Hungarian” little clay pots that were suggested as souvenirs for my friends and family back home. Then we drifted past the matchbox cars, more bubbles, and wandered into the Adolf Hitler section.
I’m not joking, you could by your mini Adolf in whichever outfit you preferred, and he even was locked into his famous saluting pose. Next to him, for the man who wants to complete the set, was Rommel and some other members of the Nazi All-Star Team. Charles de Gaulle and other less controversial figures were further down the line, but they obviously weren’t what draw in the customers.
Now, it could be argued that I shouldn’t pass judgment because I don’t know what they’re for. They were very small, so they weren’t any toy (sorry young Nazi children, you have to look elsewhere for those), and my guess is they are used for creating some kind of historical diorama or something. Perhaps my friends are boring, but I’ve never been sitting on the beach and heard someone say “I’m heading over to the shop for a Coke and I’m going to check if they have the khaki-uniformed Hitler, do you want anything?”
So, if you know what these are for, I’d be happy if you shared it. Until then, I’m going to be reading up on beach etiquette out of fear that I’m missing some critical part.
Hungarian word of the day:
This is slightly different because it’s a name – not just a word. But, it’s said to be the biggest lake in Central Europe, and it’s a pretty popular summer spot in Hungary. So, if you need a place to cool off in the summer, or just want to by some mini Nazis, you have found your destination.
I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, that is, if that kid received a new bike. That's right, I bought a bike today! Would you like to see it? Of course you would.
|My new bicycle.|
I love it.
The train station is a 20 minute walk from where I live. It's a five or ten minute bike ride. Now I can easily explore the whole town, and all of the surrounding areas. Hungary's a very, very flat country, and I intend to take full advantage of that.
My day had two other highlights, a haircut and a sausage festival. Usually, when you get a haircut, you look at the hair of the person giving it. If their hair doesn't look great, you head the other way. This man, however, broke that rule. His hair was ridiculous. He looked like he stuck his finger in a light socket last week, and hasn't combed it since.
When in Hungary, do as the Hungarians do. Get haircuts from crazy haired people who don't speak English.
It was well worth it. He spent an incredible amount of time on it, and he did a very good job. I think he may have cut each hair individually, but I am not complaining.
Then, this evening, I went to the Csabai Kolbászfesztivál (the Sausage Festival of Csaba). It's the world famous festival held in Békéscsaba every October. If it's not world famous yet, then it will be. It was surprisingly large, although empty, because it just started today.
There were bands, beers, wines, Pálinka, and sausages. Lots and lots of sausages. Cooked, dried, and everything in between. I didn't get to see one of the traditional Hungarian pig slaughterings (a very big cultural thing), but I did see and smell a big truck full of pigs earlier today. It's not a good day to be a pig in Békéscsaba.
I ran into my neighbor at the festival, so I had someone to talk to. We at some food, drank some wine, and tried not to freeze to death. I'm not really sure whose idea it was to plan an outdoor festival during the last week of October, but they should rethink it.
Tomorrow, I leave for my fall break trip. I'm going to spend the Friday night with my travel companions on the other side of Hungary, and Saturday we leave for Slovenia. After a few days there, we'll go to Croatia to cause some trouble. Finally, I'll get back here next Sunday the 7th. I'll try to post on here while I'm gone, but I may not have the opportunity. I promise I'll have good stories when I return!
You can always pass your time by planning a trip to next year's sausage festival. Once you buy your airplane tickets, you can get a lifetime supply of antacids. Maybe a doctor too, I can feel my arteries clogging with the heavenly sausage.