Sunday January 25th 2015 - Budapest Hungary
That afternoon, Bettina and I decided to take it easy, so we went into her jacuzzi. We looked ridiculous wearing hats, because it was still cold and snowing, with our bathing suits! It was a great opportunity for us to chat and get to know the college-aged girls we had grown into since we’d last been together. We laughed, chatted and gossiped and completely lost track of time. I was/am so joyed that we have stayed such good friends. Even after almost 10 years we get along beautifully well. It is such a special connection that we have and I believe both families are so happy that we have reunited.
For dinner we enjoyed the delicious goulash before going to bed early in preparation of a very filled week.
Monday, January 26th 2015
On the way home, before getting on the tram, we had a beautiful look across the Danube River. You could see the places that I visited with Alison all lite up in the night. There was the beautiful castle, the church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. This view at night across the river is one of my favorite things about Budapest, and I enjoyed it each time we went home from a day in the city.
We didn’t want to end the day there, though. So, we went to the store and bought ingredients to make our own strudel. We made one apple and one cottage cheese strudel. Cottage cheese is quite different in Hungary compared to America. It is much less wet and comes in bags or wrapped. I also tried one of their snacks, called Pöttyös, which translates to dotted. It is chocolate covered cottage cheese. We realized, that what I consider to be dark chocolate is what they considered to be regular chocolate. If you could imagine, I really liked that snack. The strudel also turned out very well. We made a cinnamon pudding to go with it.
Tuesday, January 27th 2015
Wednesday, January 28th 2015
Thursday, January 29th 2015
The more time I spent with David (throughout the weekend), the more comfortable he became having a conversation with me. At first, we didn’t speak very much, but the communication we had was very interesting to me. When we walked into his house, he said “Give me your bag!”. My immediate reaction to a man saying give me your bag was to hold it tight and say absolutely not! If a natural English speaker was saying that, it would be quite rude. But quickly, I realized he was trying to be very polite and those were the words that he knew. Although it came off as forceful to me, I quickly realized it was just an intricacy of communicating in English with not natural English speakers. Throughout the weekend with Bettina’s friends (and sometimes with her family members) this was an important lesson to keep in mind. I actually find it quite interesting, and think these lessons are very valuable and fun parts of living in a different country and interacting socially with the locals.
We made our way to the Holocaust Museum in Budapest. Although I’ve been to many Holocaust museums, it is very interesting to go to one in a new city. The view on the Holocaust from the Hungarian perspective is extremely different then what we see from the American side. The city itself dealt with a lot of the destruction. I found it most interesting that, unlike other museums I’ve seen, they didn’t try to glorify their part in it. They just showed the facts. What I also really like about Holocaust museums is there is generally a lot of symbolism in the building. Bettina translated for me what a Hungarian tour guide was telling a group. We first learned that the ceiling of each room got lower as you got further and further into the museum to create a feeling of becoming more and more trapped in it. Secondly, there was white stripes on the walls, that started out very plentiful, and as you went through the Holocaust in history, got less and less frequent, which symbolized the lost lives. It was also a very unique experience for Bettina and I to do together. We have grown up with very different perspectives of the Holocaust and it brought up many discussions on how we think about it. As well, we discussed how things are taught differently in schools in Hungary versus America. There was also an old synagogue attached to the museum. It was quite unique from any other synagogue that I had seen before, but had all of the essential elements. I really enjoyed showing Bettina a bit of me even in her homeland.
Before going to the circus, we went to the very famous Gundel restaurant… ok, we went to the not as famous but just as delicious Gundel confectionary. We ordered lattes and hot cocoa (which is much more rich and chocolaty then the sugary versions we get in America) and cakes. I got the chocolate with almond marzipan cake and Bettina got the raspberry fruity cake. They were both delicious. Mine was rich and chocolaty, and hers was fruity and really interesting and different. It was snowing outside! The park looked absolutely incredible with the snow. I have to say, I was not expecting to get snow in Budapest. We then walked past the zoo to get to the circus!
We had great seats in the bottom section close to the floor. The building was actually made for the circus, and it was the only performance, so the building made it so you felt much closer and involved in the action then the huge stadiums I’m used to. Fortunately for us, the show that we saw was a collection of Hungarian performers! I found that I enjoyed this circus much more than my last experience in Worcester, MA at the Ringling Brothers circus. Instead of there being 3 rings with lots of flashy action, this show displayed the raw human talent. You were focused on one act, doing very talented things that weren’t necessarily very flashy. Overall the show was geared more towards the individual talent of the acts and not the circus and show as a whole. Not to my surprise, a lot of kids attended, but they actually made the show better! They laughed and clapped and made a great atmosphere, even though most of the show wasn’t geared to them completely. The teeterboard was my favorite act. They told a story with their performance, almost like dancers do with their numbers. They integrated the story well with the act and did some very impressive tricks. On the teeterboard they would jump back and forth to gain momentum instead of just jumping from a platform. The timing was impeccable. One of the performers cut his hand during the performance, but didn’t let it stop him and finished the act. There were two students doing an act with a pole. It seemed simple, but the isolations they did required so much core strength. They would hold the pole and teasingly slowly move their legs from down to horizontal to vertically up, all while holding onto the pole. They were clearly very ripped… but only like 17 or 18! I hadn’t seen anything similar to their act before. They did drops and would catch themselves inches from the ground. I very much liked it because it showed extreme strength in an artistic and impressive fashion. This contrasted the strong man, who was infact very strong, but added danger for the sake of it, instead of it being inherent in the performance. The high wire man was also great. He took a very serious and concentration required act and made it very showy and entertaining. He would dance, moving his hips and showing his big grin before and between each trick. And he did some very impressive tricks, as well. Bettina’s favorite was the elephant. He had an adorable bow, and had the motor control to put shaving cream on a man from the audience, push it off, rinse him and then put the bucket of cream on his head. Finally, there was a pair of two very famous brothers that also performed. They did partner gymnastics to a level almost unbelievable. After experiencing partner acrobatics at Olin, it was amazing to see the control that some of their tricks required. I forgot to mention that during intermission, Bettina sat on the elephant! The people were quite rushing and a little rude, but Bettina looked like a queen on the elephant!
After the circus we took a walk around the park outside the circus and the Vajdahunyad Castle. It was absolutely beautiful in the snow at night. It was lite beautifully. We met a British man who took a picture of us, and told us in a very strong accent that “That’s quite a good picture”. I sat on Anonymous’s lap, which was very cold and slippery in the snow, but I felt very loved. We then walked by the outdoor skating rink. It is pretty much a huge lake in front of the castle that freezes into a rink in the winter. In the summer it is big enough for boats to drive on! We then enjoyed a walk in the snow before meeting up with Bettina’s friends for a pub night.
We went to three pubs throughout the night. At the first, I had to try the Hungarian liquor Pálinka. I tried a berry flavored version. It was strong, kinda tasty, but mostly pretty strong. Hanging out with her friends was very fun. I met four friends, each did a very amazing job trying to speak English for me. It made for some fun translating
Friday, January 30th 2015
Saturday, January 31st 2015
This morning, Bettina did my hair very fancy before going out. She put a braid across the front of my head. We took public transportation to Margarite Island and walked around the park. It was very pretty and seemed like a great place to relax. We then took the tram to the mall to go bowling with her friends. No, bowling was not different at all from bowling in America, but it was fun to be with her friends and spend time chatting about new things. Especially since this was the second time I was with David and David (and two other friends joined us) we were much more comfortable and could chat with each other. From there, we went to get dinner at a food court. I ate another traditional dish which was a piece of fried chicken with creamy mushrooms and chips (fries).
We then went earring shopping (because I had to get a pair in Budapest, of course!). The boys waited while the girls (Bettina, Brigi (Bettina’s friend), and me) went shopping. We ended up buying some pretty studs. And Bettina and I bought matching earrings that, of course, had little bows on them! We are very excited to wear them and each time think about what a fun time we had with each other. Somewhere between picking out my earrings and buying them, I lost my hat! So, we stopped in a store to buy a new one (which is actually better anyways). You of course can't come to a city for a week and not leave anything!
From there, we went to a cocktail bar for some drinks. I had a very yummy blueberry daiquiri. It was fun to spend time with Bettina’s friends. They were all super nice and fun to be around. The communication at this point had gotten very seamless and without any problems. It was a great opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.
To end the night, Bettina and I got Kürtős Kalács, which is a very traditional and popular street food. It is a rolled bracelet of dough that is cooked over an open flame so the sugar carmelizes, and then rolled in a topping. Bettina got cinnamon and I got walnut. They were amazingly good and a great way to spend the last night together. We walked up the street and once again got the amazing view of the Buda castle at night before climbing onto the tram for the last time.
Sunday, February 1st 2015
Bettina also gave me a few earrings to help start my collection. She said since she helped put the holes there, it was part of her responsibility to fill them. We spent some time walking down memory lane. She showed me videos of her performances and high school prom/graduation and I showed her the senior video I had made. Her high school experience is so different from what we have in America. Their prom is almost a formal show they put on for the parents. There are class dances, duo performances, and a large class dance. They change at least 4 times! One of the outfits is a wedding dress that each girl rents. It was absolutely beautiful and remarkable how much effort goes into their prom.
We then packed my bags and made our way to the airport. That was its own disaster, but I’d rather not get into it. We gave final hugs good byes and huge thank yous! We decided that she would come visit me in Belgium during the semester, so look for that later in the blogs!
Before this week, only I had the opportunity to show Bettina my home and culture. Now, I feel like I know her, her family and her culture. I am so thankful for her family welcomed me into their house. I felt very much at home and as if they enjoyed my company as much as I was grateful for being there. I can not thank Bettina and her family enough for every aspect of the week I spent with them.