June 24

Budapest farewell

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We’re getting packed to leave Budapest this morning. We’re flying from here to Paris on Wizzair (God help us), where we’ll rent a car and drive to the tiny hamlet of Chaumont to hang out with friends for a few days. Our friends have owned an ancient house there for years and years—we’ve visited in the winter when it was freezing cold, but never in the summer, so we’re looking forward to seeing the gardens and being able to eat outside in the court yard.
Although this part of the trip may sound idyllic, it’s fraught with some problems. These friends have three beautiful teenage daughters who have a multitude of friends that are visiting, the distaff half of our hosts is French and is having her friends come visit, so there is, so to speak, no room in the inn for us. Which is fine, since we are not particularly keen on spending our nights at what is sure to turn out to be a grand slumber party—nor do we want to share a bath with a horde of teenagers. Problem is we didn’t discover this part of the visit-to-France equation until late in the game, and we’ve been unable to secure a room for our entire visit. We will be one place one night, one place another night, and another place for the rest. And, we’ll be spending one night at the slumber party because—due to a large wedding in the small hamlet—every room is taken that night. I don’t know if we’ll even have an en suite bath, let alone internet connection, so the future of this blog—at least for the next few days—is questionable.
Budapest is a city that grows on you. When we first arrived and felt our way around, we weren’t crazy about it, but after having spent a day or so walking around, we’ve decided that we will definitely be back.
The city sits astride the Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. Most of the restaurants and businesses are in Pest (pronounced Pesht), while the desirable places to live are in Buda. There are a couple of bridges crossing the Danube, all of which we walked numerous times. In Pest there is one of the nicest markets I’ve seen anywhere. It’s clean as a whistle and virtually every kind of vegetable or meat that you might want can be found there. I had a picture of myself taken with the three beautiful teenage girls mentioned above in front of a stall selling horsemeat. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I’ll post the picture.
I have no official statistics, but from looking around it doesn’t appear that the obesity problem here is of Prague proportions. There are obese people, to be sure, but not to the extent that there are in Prague. On the way to the last concert last night the guide on the bus may have given some insight as to why.
She spoke perfect English (as do many Hungarians—Hungarian is an almost impossible language to learn unless you grew up with it). She was describing life in Budapest and said that the people ate “pork with their pork.” She added, sort of wistfully, that she new it wasn’t very healthy, but that the people here just liked meat and they ate it in large quantities. Hmmm, maybe they’re on to something.
The last concert was last night at Matyas Templom (Mathias Temple Church) and it was, if anything, better than the first. Much though I love my wife and much though I love Mozart, I’m glad I won’t have to sit through another requiem for a while.
I’m going to quit for now because I have to come down to the lobby to get the wireless service (for $17 for two hours—and I thought Prague was bad) and I’ve about come to the limit of both my time and my ability to inhale the cigarette smoke that is hanging like a cloud.


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