Saturday, November 8, 2008

Jo Napot!

OK, it would have been better to have blogged while in Hungary, partially because things would have been fresh, and partially because I had a lot of time to do it. The problem is that the one internet cafe in Gyor was excruciatingly slow (as AN discovered when he tried to post one entry). I learned from this that I should just carry a journal and write things down, as I once did.

So here are the highlights:

You'd think a flight would be ruined by 60 German high-school students going back home from an apparent extended stay in the US; you would be wrong. No, a flight is more likely to be ruined by a baby who cried 7 out of the 8 hours the flight took. I ended up loudly suggesting some brandy in the bottle, and one flight attendant muttered something about a back-hander.

Switching in Frankfurt, amusing myself by crying out Morgen! to passing Lufthansa staff.

Finally arrived in Hungary, picked up by B and taken to a cafe while we waited for SP and AN to arrive. Picked up the boys, then drove to Gyor, a small town between Budapest and Vienna. Our B&B was run by an adorable middle-aged couple who fortunately spoke German, so SP was able to fill them in on what our broken Hungarian and our miming could not. When they told me my room number, 6, is "hot" in Hungarian, I, jet-lagged and delirious tried to explain that "hot" in English also means sexy.

I did this by trying to act it out. The look on the woman's face indicted I was unsuccessful. It gave SP and AN plenty of fodder to recall to humiliate me, though, which they did at least once a day.

Gyor was small, not a lot going on. Our guide, Krysztina, brought us to a movie shown in the basement of a bar, where we climbed onto a platform where several couches were tucked under the ceiling. It was us, our glasses of wine, and the projectionist. It was great.

Other than that, it was wandering the streets, looking at shops, noting from the clothing and hair around us that Hungary is where the 80s came to die.. Ate TWICE at a local mall food court because we could get Greek Salads and Chinese noodles with hot sauce. This was what passed for ethnic food in the town.

Other highlights: walking through the seedy part of town (be it Cabrini Green or where the Gypsies live, I always manage to find the ghetto), visiting Pannonhalma, a beautiful abbey, where we got a tour from one of our guide's high-school students, and where an amazing library contained, among other things, Bibles in various languages. Thus it was that I read from I Corinthians in Esperanto.

Day trip to Vienna to escape a holiday shut-down in Hungary; others had the same idea, so we spent the hour-long trip sitting on the floor of the train passageway; lunch at a restaurant next to an elderly couple with a small dog, coffee at Julius Meinl! The Mothership! Two floors of gourmet food - it was amazing; reveling in signs I could at least pronounce if not understand. Hungary is Hungarian with German as the backup language; Austria is German with English as the backup language. A trip to the Schmetterling Haus ("Butterfly House), where I photographed SP with a huge Schmetterling on his butt. Lovely, lovely city: palaces and museums and cathedrals and --oops! we have to stop and let the Lipizzaner Stallions cross from their stable to their performance area! Careful not to step in Lipizzaner Stallion poo!

My dentist was the only black man in Hungary. He was great, and my teeth are perfect. Drinking Unicum, a hundred-year old herbal liqueur, very famous, seen everywhere, and which almost made me puke when I drank it. Walking around Gyor, the three of us practicing our counting in Hungarian. Buying grapes from the old women at the farmers' market, surrounded by loads of food sellers selling basically a hundred variations of pig (SP: "it's like the entire country is on the Atkins' Diet.")

Day trip to Budapest, Margit Island, not a lot going on, back to Gyor, got my teeth, took pictures with Dr W., packed and headed back to Vienna for the weekend. Saw a Mozart/Strauss concert complete with occasional operatic piece and ballet, despite the stage being the size of a postage stamp.

Next Day SP stayed in the room sick with a cold while AN went to find a decent Internet cafe and I went to the Belvedere to see beautiful paintings. Got back, brought SP some orange juice and tissues, and we watched the German version of Judge Judy until AN came back. then to the Fun Fair (carnival), where we hit several haunted houses, laughing and joking at the cheesy papier-mache tableaux, and it's all fun and games until the gypsy ticket-taker wearing a mask grabs JC in the corridor. (Who knew I could hit a note that high?) And yes, AN, unknown to me at the time, captured it all on video.

Sunday we checked out of our gay-friendly pension (complete with men-only sport sauna), and headed to Budapest for our final couple of days.

Once in Budapest, we walked to out hotel, which I'd found on the internet. Down a dark side street, we came to the address and looked up at the kind of building you see in WWII dramas, the crumbling structures where the Underground Resistance meets to plot the overthrow of fascism. We looked at the rebar peeking out of deteriorating balconies, and rang the bell.

There was a cage elevator (we refused), an interior courtyard with a continuous balcony on each floor; all in all very charming if you were careful nto to lean on anything structural.Truly, it was beautiful in a haunting, old-world way. Our rooms were clean and neat, however, and ridiculously cheap: mine was $15/night. AN had suggested we see a movie, as we could enjoy it without having to try and talk to people, which was getting exhausting. We went to a local mall and saw "Mirrors" with Kiefer Sutherland. Two girls behind us kept talking, and I was frustrated at not knowing how to say, "Shut up you stupid ignorant bitches or I'll kick your ass" in Hungarian, although I was paying attention to the subtitles to try and pick up a few swear words. I didn't think counting from one to ten very angrily would convey the message.

Next day we went to the castle and the Labyrinth and the Szecheny Baths, the largest thermal baths in Europe. We stood with lots of others in a huge outside Baroque thermal pool as the sun went down; it was really nice.

Later, we found an Indian cafeteria-style restaurant. Faced with food that was vegetarian and spicy, we ate ourselves sick.

Our flights left very early the next day, so we were up at 2:45 and at the train station by 4, heading to Ferihegy ("Fair-ee-hedge") airport. We had different terminals, which were quite a distance (as in a car or bus ride away) from each other. The boys stood with me by a shuttle-bus sign and saw me off. I rode the bus, which had nothing I could read, following the signs for Terminal 2 on the road, paranoid that I'd end up far from where I wanted to be, unable to understand a soul. A man who deduced I was a bit lost began gesturing and speaking to me. I said my stock phrase, "I don't speak Hungarian," which didn't deter him a bit, and after a few moments of gesturing I got his meaning that he was getting off and I should take the stop after. I thanked him, and got to the terminal.

My flight home was fine, except I'd come down with SP's cold and some loud-mouthed Ukrainian in the seat behind me talked nonstop to another Russian woman, and by the end of the flight it was clear he was hitting on her, and she was not interested. I peeked between the seats to see her trying to ignore him my putting her hand over her face and turning away from him.

"You like jewelry? I get you jewelry. WHAT? We spend 8 hours and you no want to be friends?" WHAAAT?"

I'd had it.

I unbuckled my seatbelt, turned around, and stood on my knees and said, "You need to leave her alone or I'm going to have you arrested."

"I need to leave her alone?"
"Yes. You do."

He shut up. I turned back into my seat. Loser.

A friend met me at the airport, and back home I reveled with the kitties and bunnies, That night the cats were glued to me all night long, purring deliriously.

I loved getting my new teeth, I loved seeing new places and of course seeing My SP and my An, but boy, it was good to be home.

Oh, yeah; in my absence my company had layoffs nationwide, including my boss and a co-worker. I was spared, which I should be happier about than I am, mostly because things are harder now with fewer people, and the guy of whom I'd always said "Thank God I don't report to HIM!" is now the guy I report to, along with two analysts who have a case of perpetual arrogance. I hear people say, "at least I have a job." but I can't be that desperate or cynical. That's like saying "Well, at least my boyfriend beats me with his fists; he could use a baseball bat." So I'm starting a job hunt in earnest because I see clearly that life is going to become even more hellish.

But I have my teeth.


SP said...

Actually, you switched in Frankfurt

JC said...

Yeah, I know; I fixed that. I fear I may have early-onset Alzheimer's. I can't remember the names of vegetables, but I can sing along ot every song on the "Midnight Special " DVD infomercial.