Last week I jaunted over to Budapest for a few days. Just to put a toe into the Eastern European arena. It was good. And different. It’s been a long time since I was in a country where I had no clue as to what people were saying. In 2012 I visited Greece and Turkey. No clue. Since then, I have been rather French centric. I visited Barcelona in 2012 also but after living in California and having studied both French and Italian (lots of similarities between Romance languages) I didn’t feel out of place linguistically. And my trip to Berlin last summer – everyone seemed to speak English.
Many people spoke English in Budapest, but not all. I managed. Sign language. Pointing. Smiling. And I have learned to limit my personal expectations – I don’t have to see EVERYTHING. So I have a relaxing time while seeing a new place. As usual, I started with the hop on hop off bus. I find that the best way to get an overview of the city. I don’t hop off much – I just note those things I want to come back to see again. I skipped the big basilica. But found time for the Notre Dame church near the Elizabeth Bridge. It was built in the 13th century. And they recently discovered frescos from that time. Apparently someone had the smarts to cover them up just before the Turks invaded. And when the Turks finally left, no one remembered. The church was having work done and voila there they were.
Budapest has black buildings. You never see that in Paris. We clean the buildings regularly (I hear there’s a law for that…) Many of the Budapest buildings have years of dirt and grime built up.
The Budapest Christmas Market was open for business. I am collecting these Marche du Noel. Great fun. Many similarities but some fun and tasty differences. A specialty in Hungary is fried bread. I got mine with cheese – passed up the sausage as I wasn’t that hungry (Imagine, not hungry in Hungary… hahahaha). And had the best mulled wine I have tasted yet. Products for sale included hats. A LOT OF HATS. Fur (faux and not) hats. Cold weather I guess. And anything embroidery. Beautiful embroidery. I ended up getting table runners – and hoping that they will both fit and look good. As I was trying to decide between different ones, I realized that I haven’t seen my dining room table for 8 months! I was having trouble remembering it. Hope my decision was a good one.
Budapest is also a rebuilt city. All the bridges were destroyed during the war. And many things were destroyed in other earlier wars. And they rebuilt them. So you really have to hunt to find “authentic” old buildings. The Palace on the Castle side of Buda is one of the biggest buildings I have seen – I was told it was rebuilt many times – got destroyed a lot. But they kept putting up new ones on the same spot.
Oh – did you know? Budapest is the combination of two cities – Buda and Pest. On opposite sides of the river. Buda is the hilly one. Looking over the Danube and Pest. (Surprise for me – the first evening I was reading through material about the city in my hotel room and I kept hearing thumping sounds. I finally looked and saw fireworks lighting up the sky over the Parliament buildings. I love fireworks! It was so much fun.
Budapest is an interesting city with Turkish influences popping up here and there. With wonderful mansions. With wide Parisian streets. With gorgeous lights on the Danube (always make time for a river cruise!) Someone in Paris said check out the thermal baths. So I threw in my bathing suit.
I went to Gellert Spa on Wednesday morning. And was so disappointed that I hadn’t gone there on Tuesday. If I had, then I would have been able to go a second time on Wednesday. It was so relaxing and felt healthy. My old bones just lapped up the 40 degree C mineral water. It was not easy to figure out the place. Took a while to find someone who did speak English and could explain where everything was – and he just said oh you need a map. Why didn’t they just give me one when I walked in? In the hot bath I chanced upon a couple from Pennsylvania. Funny, after the election, there is now a hesitancy… where are you from? And a mental checking – did that state vote for Trump? Once I said California, they disclosed that they supported Hillary. So we ended up having a political conversation. But my initial hesitancy surprised me. Have to get used to it. (Although I don’t understand how any elector can possibly cast their vote for him given his actions after the election – the numerous conflicts of interest, the lack of distance from his business interests, the total lack of understanding of State department protocol? And really? Talking to heads of government on his own cell phone, not a private line? This does not bode well for America.)
As I reflected on the prevalence of the English language, I thought about Brexit. My understanding is that English is the official language of the EU. Will be funny to see that continue while Britain leaves. But it makes sense because it is the most common language. I read an article on the plane – Boris Johnson the foreign secretary wants a free market with EU but not the free movement of people. Apparently he said something to an Italian – “you won’t be able to sell prosecco to Britain – you lose a big market.” The guy responded – “maybe I lose Britain but I still have 27 other countries to sell to. You won’t sell any fish and chips.” HA!