Saturday, May 08, 2010

Joe's comments now that we're at home

We've been home for a week and it feels great to sleep in my own bed again. I knew it was warm here but I was still surprised to see how everything greened up during April. The grass needed to be cut right away. Luckily we managed to catch the Magnolia tree in its full glory. Today, only a few petals remain. Unfortunately, most of the Crab Apple trees have tent caterpillars. Everything else seems to be okay.

Itty-Bitty showed up the first time I called her and she spent the night indoors, taking turns sleeping with me and Wayne. I guess she missed us. Warren must have fed her enough food because she looked full and healthy. And knowing her, I'm sure she supplemented her food with mice, birds, rabbits and whatever else she could catch. She's not one to starve to death when we're gone.

Last Days in Istanbul

We were driven from our hotel in Kuşadası to the airport in Izmir and we took a no-frills flight on Onur Air to Istanbul. We arrived late but made it back to the Alaaddin Hotel without any problems, or so I thought. My stomach felt uneasy and I had to use the toilet only to discover that somewhere along the way I managed to get a bad case of "travellers diarrhoea." It lasted four days and I was wasted.

We managed to visit Kadıköy on the other side of the Bosporus and we made it to the Spice Bazaar but, because of the diarrhoea, I didn't enjoy the crowds or the hustle and bustle of the city. The city-run ferry on the way back from Kadıköy was brand new with lots of comfortable seating. It's a short ferry ride but Turkish tea and snacks are available but you have to pay. It wasn't the best day of my life but at least I didn't waste it stuck in the hotel room

Macaristan or Hungary?

I have a confession to make: I was born in one of the "Stans." You know - Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, etc. I was born in Macaristan! Actually, I was born in Hungary (Magyarország) but Turks and many Arabic nations refer to it as Macaristan. The "c" in Turkish is similar to the "gy" in Hungarian so they're saying Ma'gy'aristan. We were often asked where we were from and we'd say Canada and I'd add that I was born in Macaristan. They understood right away, unlike four years ago when people though I was saying something about being hungry. Sigh...


We arrived in Budapest on Saturday, April 24. We were met at Ferihegy Airport by Attila, Peter and Hami (I hope that's how it's spelled). Peter and Attila spent some time with us last summer and Hami is Julia's live-in boyfriend. Julia spent some time with us three years ago. Along the way, Peter was dropped off and Julia was picked up from work. She has a part-time telemarketing job with ING in Budapest. Apparently her babysitting job pays better. Should I be surprised?

When we're in Budapest we stay with our "Hungarian Family" in the Buda hills. We met Zoli and Zsuzsa and their children, Attila and Julia, in 1994 when Zoli came to UW to work on a chemistry project. They give us the keys to the house so we can come and go as we please and they make us feel like family. They are great hosts!

When we arrived, Zoli and Zsuzsa and Zoli's mother and father were waiting for us. In a few minutes Peter and his mother arrived. Because I still wasn't feeling well I decided to have a rest but I got up after a couple of minutes because a large picnic to welcome us was underway. The food looked great but I didn't indulge except for a small piece of home-made cottage cheese strudel that Zoli's mother made.

Zsuzsa works in the pharmacy in a hospital and she told me that doctors often recommend Cola for children who have diarrhoea. The following day I drank a large bottle and it seemed to help. Who knew? The anti-biotic may also have helped. But I was self-medicating and perhaps didn't even need the anti-biotic. My dentist prescribed them in case my tooth got an infection. So it may have been all the gunk in the cola...

We visited some of our favourite areas of Budapest. We went to the Nagycsarnok and walked along the small ring road, passing by the Hungarian National Museum as well as the second largest Synagogue in the world. It has been recently sand-blasted(?) and it looks great. Unfortunately I forgot about the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs so we didn't see it. Perhaps next time.

We walked up Andrássy út (a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of my favourite streets in Budapest) until we got to Franz Liszt Square, near the Oktogon. Along the way we stopped at a ticket office and got two tickets for a modern dance performance at the National Dance Theatre in the Castle District.

At Franz Liszt Square we stopped for lunch at the Bohemia Restaurant and Beer Hall and I had one of the biggest schnitzels available anywhere. They call it the "Giant Wiener Schnitzel with mixed salad and steak fries" and it cost 2290. Hungarian Forints ($10.75). It was paper thin with an incredibly light breading and it was delicious. I washed it down with some fabulous beer called Prágai Tavasz - a sör forradalom (Prague Spring - the beer revolution). I wonder what the Czechs think about that?

After lunch we walked to the Oktogon and took the number 4/6 Tram to Moszkva tér. From there we took the 61 Tram to Hűvösvölgy. We planned on spending some time in the early evening with Attila and some of his friends.

After meeting Attila's friends we walked up to the glider/ultralight air field in the forested Buda hills. His friends were friendly but perhaps a bit shy. All of them were studying graphic arts in school and one of them, Istvan, drew the whole time we were together. The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the hills.

New York Café

One day we took the tram down to the Oktogon and started walking along the Big Ring Road. The street isn't as glitzy as it once used to be, thanks to new super malls in the centre of the city, but it's still a great walk. Around noon we stopped at a faux Mexican Restaurant because their lunch special was inexpensive. The food wasn't bad and eating alfresco and watching the people go by made it worthwhile.

For dessert, we stopped at the New York Café. The building was built between 1892 and 1894 and the New York Café was called, by some, the most beautiful café in the world. No kidding. Check out the pictures from the hotel's site or Wayne's pictures. As we approached the building I could see the top of the crown and the torch of the Statue of Liberty towards the top of the building. It was made to look as if the statue was behind the building. The bourgeoisie sure knew how to live... And you might understand why the communists took power...

We were shown our table by a very attractive maître d'. Wayne ordered his favourite Somlói galuska and I ordered some Esterházy torta, a cake with lots of walnuts. Both of our desserts came in two different versions. (Check out the pictures on Wayne's Blog under "extreme indulgence.") Very impressive and very tasty. No complaints, except perhaps for the price. But when you enter this place you just know it won't be cheap. And it wasn't.


That evening, we went up to the castle district to see the modern dance production at the National Dance Theatre we bought tickets for the day before. Before the show we had a small meal at an incredibly overpriced restaurant a block from the theatre. Don't eat in the castle district!

"Pikáns történet / A Hullámos és a Nimfa
" were two pieces performed by two dancers. The dance was in the Refektórium, a small side-room, with good seating, in the Theatre. One piece was called "Salt and Pepper" and the other (I can't remember the English) was about two caged birds sharing the same perch. Very interesting performances. I'm not an expert on modern dance but both pieces seemed to have something to do with sex. Duh!

Lady Gaga, Elton John and Paul Anka will be in Budapest this summer/fall. I'm glad to be home.


Tunisia is an amazing place. Dugga, even more so! I would have liked to have spent much more time there. English is spoken in tourist areas and French is spoken everywhere. If you've never been to Africa, Tunisia is a good place to start.

Turkey. Anything and everything was a highlight. Friendly and helpful people everywhere. Great food everywhere. Istanbul is to be experienced. Turkey is very English friendly. It was spoken everywhere we travelled. Visit Turkey before you die. You'll be amazed!

Budapest is one of my favourite cities in the world. It's very English friendly (the announcement on the 4/6 tram are in English and Hungarian!) and if you avoid the tourist traps the visit will be more that enjoyable. The food tastes great but it's a bit heavy. Salads have started to make an appearance in this formerly carnivorous country. And the metro 4 will be finished one of these years. What more can one ask for?



Anonymous said...

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I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!


Anonymous said...

The picture with the giant slices of wienersnitzel and a beerstein, makes me wanna sit down right across that kind looking gentleman and help him out, but since Hungarian food and beers are excellent , I don't think he had any problem, to enjoy the whole thing.

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