My friend, Beata, is currently interning at an NGO (BOCS Foundation – check them out, their work is really very interesting) in Székesfehévár, Hungary (approximately a one hour bus ride away). This weekend she came to visit us in Budapest! This is the first time we’ve seen each other since graduating from college in May 2009.

Beata arrived via bus Saturday morning and as soon as she was settled at our apartment we headed out to Margret Island (Margitziget). It’s very easy to get to the Island from our apartment: we just took the 4/6 tram towards my work, got off at Jaszi Mari tér and walked across Margit híd (Margaret Bridge) to the island. Very easy! It’s a huge leafy park and very lovely. All of the shade is nice when it’s 95 degrees out! It’s also home to the Palantius Strandfürdó, one of Budapest’s many baths, but it really seems more like a water park. There are also several dance clubs that are open only during the summer.

We didn’t have any specific plans of what we wanted to do on the island, but that didn’t last long. We saw a bike rental shop and went to take a look. Who could resist the opportunity to rent a bike cart and ride it around an island? Not us! It was so much fun. We rode all over and probably embarrassed ourselves, but we didn’t care, we were having a great time.

A lot of the men wear short shorts here. I think it’s great. There were also a lot of old men wearing loincloth type things and playing handball in the park. I’m not exactly a fan. We would have taken a picture but we didn’t want to be too creepy…

On the way back to the apartment we stopped for ice cream. There are ice cream stands and shops all over the city. It seems as though every other person I pass walking home from work every day is eating ice cream. I’d successfully resisted the temptation until Saturday. Now I understand why everyone is always eating it! It’s amazing and so inexpensive (320 HUF or $1.50 for a small, but not really small, cone).

Saturday evening we went out to eat an Italian restaurant in Liszt Ferenc tér (Franz Liszt Square). The US vs. England game was on, but I’m so blind I couldn’t even see the score! (There are giant screens in a square closer to the river for watching all of the World Cup games. I’d like to go watch a game or two there before it’s over). It was a delicious dinner and just a great time, overall. I kept thinking how strange it is that we all met in Chicago and have not been able to meet up in the United States but we’ve all come to Hungary this summer.

After dinner, Beata and I walked down along the river and walked across Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd).

Then we headed to Szimpla- my favorite bar ever. It’s amazing. We didn’t stay very long because we were both exhausted after such a long day. I’m sure I’ll be back several more times before I leave Budapest. (Going to Szimpla was one of the things on my To Do List, but I'm not going to cross it off yet because I plan on going again).

Sunday morning we woke up in search of freshly baked pastries. (Beata is a pastry connoisseur with very discriminating taste). Unfortunately, we could not find a single bakery that was open! What a shame. Not much is open on Saturdays and even less is open on Sundays, very typical for Europe, in general.

After getting our caffeine fix, we decided to walk around Lipótváros (Leopold Town) near Parliament because it was fairly close (our feet were dead after walking around last night for several miles in heels). There was some sort of marathon/relay/run going on- those people are crazy for running long distances in this heat! Here’s what we saw:

The Hungarian Parliament (Országház) This building is gigantic. I’m not sure if you can tell just how large it is from the pictures. It’s quite an impressive structure. Maybe one day I’ll go inside… Kossuth tér and the 1956 memorial (one of several throughout the city).

The Jószef Atilla statue near the Danube. Josef Atilla is a Hungarian poet. I’d never heard of him before, but Beata likes his work. I’d like to read some of his poems if I can find them in English… Our attempts to take a picture of Beata next to the statue were complicated by the two little boys who kept running around the statue. Then they started talking to Beata and playing with her. It was pretty cute.

The Holocaust Memorial along the Danube. It’s fifty bronze-cast shoes along the embankment; it was built to honor those who were shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45. It’s very moving and well done. I did not even know that this event had occurred. I really need to get a few history books…

A statue of Imre Nagy

We walked by St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) on the way home. I went inside two years ago and saw St. Stephen’s shriveled right hand. I will not be repeating that experience anytime soon.
And finally, the Opera House (Operaház) on Andrassy ut. I’d like to go to the opera sometime before the season ends. It’s supposedly one of the best operas in Europe and you can get tickets for as low as $4.
That evening, Beata and I headed to the Bookcafé on Andrássy ut. for coffee and cake before she headed back to Székésfehevar. We discovered the café earlier that day when we went in the Alexandra bookstore in search of a Hungarian history book. We were unsuccessful in our endeavors, but we did meet a nice local man who used to play piano at the café and told us that despite its grand appearance it is the most affordable café on the boulevard. We ordered cappuccinos and cake, but due to a miscommunication we ended up with three cakes instead of two! Not that I’m really complaining...
It was an excellent visit and we hope to visit Beata this coming weekend. I'm really looking forward to exploring another Hungarian city as well as a bit of the countryside. We've also discussed going to Lake Balaton (Hungary's largest lake) later this summer, because it is not very far from Székésfehevar.

Beata has been in Hungary since late April and works with several Hungarian girls, so she's picked up a lot more of the language than I have (or probably ever will). She taught us all sorts of words and phrases, most of which I've already forgotten. Most importantly, she taught me how to say "I don't speak Hungarian" - a phrase I could have used several times last week.

New Hungarian Vocabulary:
Nem bészelek magyarul = I don't speak Hungarian
Szia/sziasztok = Hello (singular/plural)
Jó napot = Good day/afternoon
Jó estét = Good evening
Hogy vagy? = How are you?
Viszlát = Goodbye
Kérem = Please
Kösönöm (sepen) = Thank you (very much)
Szívesen = You're welcome
Bocsánat = Excuse me (to get past someone)

I am going to look into taking a few Hungarian lessons. I know I wouldn't be able to pick up much, but I feel pretty terrible not being able to communicate with people (especially if I am going to be here for three months).

(Sorry that this post is so long!)


One Comment

Kinga said...

You have to see the Parliament inside ! And visit me in Poland with Beata !