Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Weekend in Budapest

Next to St. Stephen’s Basilica is a wine bar called DiVino. After attending a Bach concert at the Basilica, I went to the bar to try some Hungarian wine. People who couldn’t find seats went outside and sat on the ledge of a fountain. If it hadn’t been so cold, the fountain would have been the ideal place to hang out and drink wine with friends. They were all laughing and having fun, so although the women in beautiful dresses were exposing their legs to the cold temperature, I remembered that at least for me, lively conversation is a good distraction from the bitter cold. I just stood in the middle of the room and drank my wine before heading out to walk along the Danube. I don’t usually get cold, but I found Budapest to be very very cold.

I went to Budapest alone this weekend, but I wasn’t completely alone. I did happen to meet some very nice Russian women on a boat tour. We kept in touch and I practiced what little Russian I could remember from the classes I took in high school and college.

The night after the boat tour, I met some Germans at the opera and had a beer with them afterward. The opera was mediocre, so I went out, hoping my evening would improve. When my new acquaintances started complaining about how “rude” Hungarians were, I told them that considering all that suffering that Germany had inflicted on Hungarian people during WWII, I didn’t think it was appropriate for Germans to come to Hungary and complain about Hungarian people’s perceived “rudeness.” They also complained that Americans never say what they really mean. That might hold some truth. Indirectness is a trait I believe we inherited from the British, and although it doesn’t really apply to me, I think I sent the message that, if need be, Americans are capable of being direct.

I only visited one museum: The House of Terror. This museum is a memorial to victims of the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Hungary. I went after the concierge at my hotel told me it was “touching.” Now I think we may have a different definition of touching. I find Steve Hartman videos on CBS Evening News touching. Seeing elderly people at the zoo with their grandchildren is touching. The House of Terror? Not so touching. It’s a worthwhile museum, but the exhibits left me emotionally exhausted. The slow uncomfortable elevator ride to the underground prison was made more uncomfortable by a video on a large obtrusive screen, in which former guards explained how they would torture and kill people. After seeing the torture rooms, prison cells, and gallows, I needed to return to my hotel for a long nap.

If I could spend more time in Budapest, I might try to visit more uplifting museums. I would also spend more time in the Alexandria Book Café, the fanciest bookstore/café I’ve ever seen. I would also visit more wine bars and sit at a restaurant with outdoor seating along the Danube. I would enjoy more traditional Hungarian food and live jazz at a restaurant called Ladó Café. This restaurant is an absolute must if you ever come to Budapest.

I hope to return to this beautiful city someday and stay longer than a couple days.

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