Three Days in Budapest & riding the retro metro

It was wet, grey, tiring and dingy in places. Not at all the way I’d imagined a January. I imagined it colder, much colder. However that is the kind of weather that awaited my wife and I on a recent short city holiday into Hungary. Budapest to be exact.

A cheapo Easy Jet flight three nights including breakfast at a reasonable price in a well situated and well appointed Hotel in the midst of that large city was just the thing.

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Not that the weather where we live on the German side of the Swiss/French border was any better as we were herded through the airport gate like so much documented cattle. It could have been worse, much worse. The city could have been held in the frosty clutches of mean old man Winter. But it was not. And so a little bit of wet weather didn’t seem all that depressing when we stepped out into the Hungarian rain for the first time.

We arrived mid afternoon and  it being a Sunday and us not having planned anything touristically urgent as far as activities go, we located our hotel via our helpful little and later much used city/map book and my suddenly in demand sense of direction (albeit a bit confused with having to read/decipher a new language neither one of us was face with before). Then we set off and rather embarrassingly our very first jaunt  took us to a pretty big mall. Say no more, say no more.

January darkness fell more rapidly than we had anticipated and as the rain had let up a bit, we took advantage to look at the city lights from Margit Hid bridge over the dark Danube at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Nice.

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Very glad to have a guidebook/map along for this trip. Knowing and figuring out exactly where we were or exactly where we wanted to be/go wasn’t all that much fun all the time but it certainly made getting around easier. The locals we approached were very helpful when asked for assistance in either German or English. Thanks kindly you friendly Budapestians.

tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

Tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

There were tips on good eats in the guide booklet at several, actually two indoor market halls where various delectables from all over could be sampled and I had set my mind and stomach for an afternoon stroll of deliciousness in silly proportions/portions. I was really looking forward to the culinary experience and the usual list of local eats such as goulash and … well, goulash was the only culinary dish I knew of. But we were open to new things too. After wandering down a canyon of tourist shops lining the Vaci Utca;

One of the lesser shopping display along the Vaci Utca

One of the lesser shopping displays along the Vaci Utca

…pretty much all of them selling pretty much the same wares. Hmmm. At the end of that Utca we suddenly came upon the Nagycsarnok or Central Market Hall. Halleluja I thought; well maybe not thought so much as I felt something akin to that expression as we pushed our way through the heavy dirty darkish green woolen curtain flaps that separated the winterish outside from the warmish interior. Let the fun begin.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

One stall sold fresh and colorful vegetables, the next sold honey, various sized bags of Paprika both sweet and hot along with different alcoholic souvenir bottles along with nuts, dried fruits and trinket sized wooden scoop spoons. Along the lines of ‘Souvenir’ accoutrement. Noted. The next stall sold meat: poultry, pork, beef, various cuts and meats in differing states of deconstruction depending on what the butcher was doing. These stalls also stocked huge supplies of the ‘Pick’ salami that I also was keen on purchasing to take back and sample in the comforts of home. These salamis came in different sizes and the different stalls appeared to apply differing prices for these same wares, depending on where they were located in the hall. The wife made note of that fact. Nevertheless we bought some. In a nutshell, a large market hall with many stalls but all stalls basically selling the same things. And upstairs arranged around the outer walls, more stalls with traditional embroidery and more tourist trickery. Bummer. The whole thing could have been condensed into four shops based on goods sold. Nothing for my belly other than a couple of excellent spicy dried snack sausages. We did not go into the basement for further my disappointment.

National Spice of Hungary is Paprika ... ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

National spice of Hungary is Paprika … ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

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Nope … didn’t eat here. Why not? Well, the name implied certain culinary danger. No matter that the hustler out on the street touted the menu to be “just like your mother home food”.

We did however stumble across the ‘Strudelhaus‘ on October 6 Utca. Wow, who knew Strudel could be so good. This restaurant also offers other traditional Hungarian fare but we spoiled our appetites with mouthwatering late afternoon goodness. Absolutely recommend this establishment for a delightful and very tasty visit.

Below is a sample of the sights and personal impressions:

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Parliament building besieged by constructionism

Solitary tower view point overlooking Budapest

One of the towers of the Fishermans Bastion overlooking Budapest

Bronze Aged Police

Bronze Aged Police on Zrinyi Utca/Oktober 6 Utca. Budapest

Wooden restaurant facade

Wooden restaurant facade on Vaci Utca

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Post christmas blues in the city

from there to here (camera viewpoint)

Rokford restaurant on the corner of Honved St and Szalay St. Didn’t eat there either.

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Seriously guarding the Hungarian Presidentat Sandor Palota

Looking across the Danube river  (beside the 'Chain Bridge')

Looking across the Danube river beside the Széchenyi lánchíd or Chain Bridge

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Detail of historical graphic context

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The unintended monumental asphyxiation of statues in an unnamed square somewhere in downtown Budapest

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Two tram cars as seen from Vemezo Way

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Yup Unicum … tastes exactly like ZWACK

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Still in rail service to the nation at Nayugati Railway Terminal

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Lonely morning street with retro VW bug

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Cool colors and wheels

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Dekagrams of decadent goodness

We can imagine how Budapest might look like in spring time.

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tired tourist feet

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Good’bye’ Budapest. Thank you kindly for the hospitality.

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wrong-way adventures on the M3 Blue Line to get to the airport

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Captain, please start this engine for takeoff

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A Canadian abroad in southern Germany

Ok, so what’s it been now, three weeks I think. Yup. I’ve been here in my new home for a scant three weeks and it feels like a few months already. Why?

Because I have  had so little time to just hang out and absorb the new culture, instead I’ve hit the ground running, looking and applying for full time work, looking at  a new rental Wohnung/apartment that my wife found for us (ironically in the same village I lived in that life time ago). Then there was the painless waiting for the residency/work permit which just arrived and I repeat myself in spending most of my free time online looking for work. That’s my full time job now, for now.

The good news is that I’ve got a tax free part time job at a nursery in the village we are moving to end of this month. However I will need much more than that to create a new normal and I can’t let up until that happens. I am not worried nor will I let it get to me. Things are happening in their own time and I am in a good place.

Cat at Rest

Cat at Rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then sometimes I am suddenly hit but the immensity of what I’m actually doing. Adjusting to a new life in a still new to me country; even after all these years away and its familiarity I am constantly reminded that this isn’t just another visit counted in weeks or months, no. As I peel back the layers of normal life beneath the wide eyed tourist curiosity of it all, I recognize the new real I have committed to.

How am I holding up? Given the circumstance I am well, I suppose. A bit more stressed out than I expected but that is a forgivable condition. How are my language skills? Ok. Good enough? Yes, and they will improve as I immerse myself in the culture and the daily life.

Given that the Fastnacht season aka carnival is in full tilt and the fools are out in inebriated force and colorful garb and dense, close knit village Umzüge/parades, it is I who at times feel like the fool in that often even the smallest of mannerisms, conversational etiquette and other such given formalities elude me. “Das macht mann einfach nicht,” (One simply does not do that) as a German saying intones when faced with something out of the expected Teutonic order of things.

And then there is the food … another subject for another entry.

Canadiana 102

There are a wide variety of trees in Canada, tall, short, wide, skinny, and mostly green. I’d hazard a guess that there are Brazilions of them. More than I could count. Hell, I can’t even remember how many I personally stuffed into mother earths’ skin the summer I tree planted. The west is generally green all year round, what with all those evergreen trees congregating in dense groups called forests or woods. If you’re looking for the pretty colorful Canadian fall calendar type scenics, you will find it more in the central to the eastern regions of this land.

However many trees types that make up our countries lumber supply littering this contries’ garden wildernesses, national parks, provincial parks and city parks as permanent shade givers and landscape features, there is a place where those suckers simply don’t grow well or at all.

Separating the bit of Canada with lots of trees and the bit without is something called the ‘Tree Line’; see the squiggly green line on the graphic for visual aid.

Squiggly Northern Canadian Tree-Line (image curtesy of http://www.ece.gov.nt.ca website)

It might all be north as far as you’re concerned or south depending on where you are reading this from right now, but if you’re north of that line, you’ll know it because you can’t climb the shrubbery excuses that pass for trees up there. It’s the frosty cold grip of the climate up there that tends to be a tree killer because it freezes the tree sap, zapping them to death with the freezer effect.

There also are other types of tree lines, but I wanted to draw your attention to this green one in particular.

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Canadiana 101

Dear reader … I am Canadian and being a Canadian, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my country Canada. I will do this by serving up one at a time tid-bits of information and factoids that you might or might not have known about ‘us’. Enjoy … eh?!

Fact: Canada is a huge country with a varied geography and a wide variety of climates. The general area: 9.9 million sq. km. (3.8 million sq. mi.); not quite as big as the largest country in the world. The middle part is mostly flat expanses with rocky mountains in the west and lowlands in the southeast and wild rocky coastlines on the far eastern side. There is ocean water on three sides of us and our climates are just as varied as our landscapes; from temperate to arctic with hot parts too. No, it is not all one big snowy white-out and no, we are not just like Americans, our southern neighbors.

Returning to the Past … Future

You might have experienced this dear reader. You grew up in a very different place than the one you now call home. And yet you feel an odd connection, sometimes strong, sometimes vague and at times nearly imperceptible; but it is a connection that simply will not let you forget.

It is something very real that you have not had any control over other than to have spent a significant amount of time living in or had a formative experience that bonds and binds you to a place like a deep memory. Perhaps you identify with that place in a familial sense in that your family is from there. Those are the strongest types of bonds in terms of people who have up and left for greener pastures somewhere else on this marble we call earth.

I am living one such experience. For the past 30+ years I have made ‘somewhere, Canada’ my home albeit with the distinct feeling that I feel very connected to ‘someplace, Germany’; a country in which I grew through kindergarten an primary school and on, onto a private school experience and then a sudden and somewhat unexpected transplantation back to the north American continent in my late teens. A time when I did not identify with things north American even though I was/am Canadian by citizenship. It was a strange polarity, being one thing and living in another reality. A twilight existence if you will.

Longish story short, in the past two years I have made a number of trips back to that place in Germany … something I had not considered too much in all those intervening years. Actually I had settled myself with the notion, the idea that I would not go back there. I had no need to and no real interest and the older I got the more … well, one settles into patterns and the past is the past. Done.

Then suddenly … a sea change in thinking, adjusted by an emotional condition called love. I fell in love, again. With someone from my much younger past. It was as unexpected as it was wonderful, a total change in being and because she lived over there and I here, the ensuing relationship requires some frequent back and forth travel (that in itself a decent arguement for time travel or at least instantaneous travel as far as I’m concerned, lol).

The first visit back after many many years was an emotional experience as I knew it would be. Hell, returning for a brief summer visit after my first school years away was more emotional than I could have imagined. Now, much older and wiser, the emotional ties were still taut and strong, something I have had to adjust to but they are easier to accept than forced. I also have the freedom to consider these ties at my leisure and yet as I ponder my future choices, I am considering more than just that.

Granted things in life are not always as simple as one would like and much more complicated than anticipated but still, it is our choices that drive us forward and carry us along on life’s unpredictable and eventful currents. And now I have another choice to make, one that I make out of love and a familiarity long cherished and all the rest will fall into place when the necessary steps are taken. Make the first step and the path becomes clearer.

Choosing is something the heart has no trouble with if intentions are pure. Finding the balance between thinking head and ones emotional considerations … now there is the trick to staying on the ball. Being open to change and open to experience is a wonderful way to be … it take a wee bit of courage and fearlessness but the excitement of love and what tomorrow will bring is thrilling, something to be savored in this short life we live.