July 10. I slept in, awoken by fierce thunder. A powerful storm ensued, complete with tumultuous rain and thunder and lightning, only to clear in the afternoon. It was a day to rest and catch up on writing. I organized my things for the the next day’s drive to Kismaros, Hungary and tried to catch up on my blog, but to no avail. I was still two weeks behind and afraid that I’d forget everything by the time I sat down to write. The day passed, and I was glad to have a rest. Monika’s house was peaceful, and I loved sitting outside at the small table and writing. In the evening I had the chance to hang out a bit with Monika. She and Ludo were headed to northern Italy the next day to spend time at the mission where their son Peter might be moving.
July 11. I awoke early, as Monika’s family needed to leave the house by 10:30 and I had to leave with them. I showered and packed, and was ready on time. Phew! These guys were sticklers on time, and I didn’t want to make them wait. I bid them farewell and drove to Kosice, where I had a piece of cake and a latte at my favorite cafe. Then I hit the road and headed to Miskloc, Hungary, the entrance of Bükki National Park. I wanted to drive through the park on my way to revisit Eger. I had typed the national park into my GPS. It led me instead to Diósgyőr Castle. Interesting. Maybe it knew that I loved castles and had hoped to visit Szilvásvárad, an hour west of here, which also hosted a castle. It turned out I didn’t have time to go to Szilvásvárad, so I was glad I had the chance to visit medieval castle of Diósgyőr Castle instead.
The first castle of Diósgyőr was built in the 12th century and destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1241. A Gothic castle was built in its place. The castle experienced its greatest period during the reign of King Louis the Great (1342-1382), later to become a wedding gift to various Hungarian queens until the Ottoman invasion of Hungary in the 16th century. By the end of the 17th century it had fallen into ruin. Archaeological excavations started in the 1960s, and by 2014 the castle had been completely rebuilt. I enjoyed the castle. Luckily, there was an English audio guide. I only had an hour to explore, as the castle was closing at 5:30pm, so I hurriedly listened to descriptions of the central courtyard and surrounding rooms. I learned about the use of the castle by King Louis the Great, who had designs on Polish rule, and used the castle after becoming king of both Poland and Hungary. The castle was geographically well placed, as it lay half way between the capitals of Hungary and Poland. I especially enjoyed the presentation on the use of herbs for healing and alchemy, and learned some new things. The chapel was lovely, and unique in that there was a large opening to the second floor, where the royal couple would sit and listen without having to watch the priest.
At 5:30 I turned in the headset and continued on the road to Eger. It was a short drive, maybe 20 miles, but wound through the Bükk (literally, beech) mountains. Luckily there weren’t many people on the road, which was too narrow to enable passing. I wished I had more time to spend there. I passed the lovely tourist town of Lillafüred, and very much wanted to stop but was afraid I’d end up behind a slow car. I found out later that Count András Bethlen, the minister of agriculture, had a holiday resort built in the 1890s near the town’s artificial lake (Lake Hámori) made supply the iron furnace with water. The resort was named after his niece, Erzsébet (nicknamed: “Lilla”) Vay. The Neo-Renaissance Palace Hotel was designed by Kálmán Lux and built by István Bethlen between 1927 and 1930. Its stained glass windows show the castles of historical Hungary. The hotel is surrounded by a large park with rare plants, and hanging gardens located between Szinva and Garadna streams. Nearby are three natural caves, Anna, István, and Szeleta. There is a trout farm a few kilometers away, which is one of the most famous in all of Hungary. Visitors can buy freshly grilled or smoked trout.
Next time. I arrived in Eger around 6:45pm, and went back to some of the places I’d visited last time. I visited the Gothic-style Bishops Palace of Eger, reconstructed during the reign of King Matthias (1458–1490) by the order of bishop János Bekensloer. Building operations continued during the bishoprics of Orbán Dóczy and Tamás Bakócz. A Hyppolit Gate was also built, but recently was removed. It looked like a cross between the Acropolis and the US White House. I descended the steps and found a nice park along the Eger River, where actors were rehearsing for a play. I had a misstep and broke my flip flops. Again. I started walking with one shoe, making my way slowly back to the car. I decided to ask for help, and asked a young couple if they would help me ask for tape to repair the shoe. We found a market and the transaction was done. But the tape wouldn’t hold. Then they had an idea. I was to wait there while they got the girl’s father’s electric scooter. I found out later that he rents these on the main street. I waited near the stream, enjoying the cool air, until they returned. I liked those scooters! It was fun making my way through the streets, and wasn’t too fast to be on the same walkways with pedestrians. I retraced my steps to the car, changed shoes, and drove the scooter back to the girl’s father’s stand. I thanked them all and set off on foot to explore a jazz trio I’d heard on the way to my car.
The group was called Tizzia, and the lead singer was amazing. She sported ripped jeans and a t-shirt, was short and stocky with a shock of gray. Not your usual singer of torch songs. She belted out Madonna’s Express Yourself, Hungarian pop, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The crowd loved her, and people had gathered in the street to listen to the outdoor concert. I was one of the onlookers, and stayed till they finished, then wandered off in search of a sundae. I got there at 8:59pm with a minute to spare, and they weren’t in the mood. So I got a cone to go, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the ice cream. The whipped cream and chocolate sauce of the sundae had masked the flavor of the ice cream, and I hadn’t realized how good it was. I walked back to my car, satisfied at the full day and kindness that people had shown me. I was ready to return to the belly of the beast and face the dentist. And my fear that one of the implants had gotten loose.
I drove back to Kismaros, arriving at 11pm. Luis was home and we had a nice chat before I headed to bed. I had to be up and out early, as I had a morning dental appointment in Budapest.
July 12. I awoke and chatted with Luis for a good half hour before realizing that I would be late to my appointment. I rushed the hour drive into Budapest, arriving just before 11:30am. As luck would have it, Dr. Windisch wasn’t ready for me until 40 minutes later, so I sat and watched Wimbledon. Not a bad way to spend the time, especially since I’m a tennis buff. I played on the high school and junior college teams, and still have dreams of hitting the court again. We’ll see. I go through phases where I am obsessed and practice 4 or 5 times a week, then get frustrated at not progressing. Finally, he called me in and looked at how my mouth had been healing from the recent surgeries. He was happy with the progress, even the tooth with a soft tissue transplant. I ask him to check the loose tooth and implant, and to my relief it was only the temporary, not the implant itself, which had become loose. He tightened it and told me to make another appointment to have it adjusted. The only time available was Friday at 9:30am. I was happy that all had gone well, and left to pick up my new glasses at Kodak Lens.
I took the metro to Corvin Plaza, since I’d found a good parking spot and didn’t want to lose it. I had a tuna salad at the fancy sandwich shop near the mall, then made my way to Kodak Lens. Adrienn was not there, so I explained who I was. The employee was very kind, and said that Adrienn wanted to give me $71 off the price of the progressive lenses, due to the significant delay in getting them made. Originally they were supposed to take 10 business days, or 2 weeks. I had to leave for Slovakia after that, and had hoped to have them for my trip. It turns out that Adrienn and her husband own a franchise of the company, but don’t have any control over the speed with which the glasses are made. They felt badly about my waiting so long for the glasses. She also threw in the polarized clip on sunglasses. I felt guilty and said that I didn’t want Adrienn to suffer because of these discounts she was giving me. Her coworker said no, that wasn’t the case. After thanking her profusely, I went upstairs and noticed a Starbucks. I had planned to get something but really needed to sit and use the wifi. I did so, and found out that my credit card had been hacked. I called the company and discontinued the card, and dealt with the aftermath of the closed account.
I decided to check once more to see if Adrienn was back. I went downstairs, and to my delight, she was. I thanked her for the deep discounts she had given me, and told her I didn’t want her to suffer as a result. She said she wouldn’t and explained that she and her husband were upset about the delay. I felt guilty in part because I’d written a frustrated email saying that if the glasses didn’t arrive by the time I came back to Budapest, I’d need to cancel the order and have my money refunded. I think she took that to heart. I need to be more careful when I’m angry not to communicate until the feeling has passed. Prevents regrettable incidents.
I decided to get back on the metro toward Deak Ferenc station. Then I jumped on the M3 and headed to the Buda side of the river, where I took the 21 bus to Normafa Park. Normafa, or elm tree, is my favorite park in Budapest. It sits up on a hill and looks down over the entire city. I took a brisk walk, enjoying my favorite rugged trail, walking in my flip flops on the muddy track. It was wonderful.. After a good hour walk, I headed back to the metro terminal on the Buda side and walked in the neighborhood, finding a large park and then getting lured into a bar by a big screen TV playing… you guessed it, more Wimbeldon. It was the men’s quarter finals, and I stood transfixed, watching the athletes outdo one another. I started talking with the only other person in the bar, Akos. It turns out that he was a professional tennis player who grew up in Eastern Hungary, and he told me everything I might want to know about the players. He even knew Mirka Vavrinec Federer’s background as a Slovak-born Swiss former professional tennis player. In 2002, she teamed up with Roger Federer in the Hopman Cup, an Australian tournament which plays mixed-gender teams on a country-by-country basis. I coudn’t tear myself away, and ended up staying until the end of the match of Cilic vs Muller. Cilic ended up going on to the finals, and lost to Federer. I made my way back to Kismaros late and went to bed.
July 13. I awoke and went to visit Katalin, whom I’d promised I’d visit. I spent 4 hours at her place, listening to her life challenges. I really needed to catch up on my blog, and finally excused myself at 2:30pm to dart over to the town library and write. I stayed till 9pm, writing nonstop. I’ve become aware of my compulsive need to capture every moment of my travels by photo or writing. As a result my phone’s storage is full of images, and I can’t spend less than an hour writing up a day’s activities. I was challenged to write less and take less photos. I’ll give it a try. I’m sure those reading the blog will appreciate the break ;> I want to turn this blog into a book, but as one friend pointed out, it’s not about chronicling every moment’s activities, but rather choosing a few choice bits to really focus on. I hadn’t realized this before, but I think that my traveling is an attempt to do something useful with my life. Since I stopped working in 2002, I’ve been searching for a life purpose, or at least something to tell people when they ask what I do. I inadvertently made world travel a job, and often approach it with this mentality. I find myself weary and exhausted from trying to see every last historical house, museum, and cultural experience. I’ve been challenged by a friend to write less, and notice the source of the compulsion to experience everything. I find myself going to a place and simply snapping a few photos to chronicle the experience rather than really being there. I want to change that.
So I’m going to attempt to be briefer in my descriptions. I’ll see how it feels. I returned to Katalin’s and spent 2 more hours, then begged off. I was at my limit with listening, and needed to take care of myself and rest. Establishing boundaries. Very challenging for me, as I was taught that everything was my responsibility and that if someone needed me, I must be there. When people find I can listen, they often will client non-stop. A wise friend pointed out that establishing boundaries requires a balance: you don’t want to shut people out, or not be available to help them. But if some people take advantage of access to you, then that does two bad things. First of all, it injures you, and second, that injury prevents you from giving them whatever help you can best offer. So I will practice putting my own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.
July 14. I had to be in Budapest at 9:30am. Yikes. Luis said it would take 2 1/2 hours to get there with work traffic. I took my chances and left at 8:30am, and arrived on time. As it was, I had to wait another hour till the dentist was ready. She looked at my implant and adjusted it so that I could clean between the teeth. Then I headed to Central Kavehaz. I remembered that the American guy I’d met there had used it as an office base, and I decided to try working there all day. I arrived at 11:15am and wrote until 8pm. In the course of the day I ordered a latte, a special Hungarian sponge cake, and an ice cream sundae. Very nutritious. My favorite desserts ;> I searched for real food and ended up eating at Paris 6, ironically an upscale California cuisine restaurant (paying dearly for a small dab of food). There I met Jill from England, who was traveling alone for a week and celebrating her birthday. We exchanged numbers to coordinate visiting the Szentendre open air ethnographic museum a few days later.
I rushed out to find a place by the Danube to watch the opening ceremony for the Watersports FINA world championships 2017. This was the first time Hungary would host an international sporting event. The waterfront was packed. I jumped the fence and walked on the railroad tracks, caught in the press of thousands. I ended up finding a lamp post on which stood 6 or so people. I asked if I could get on, and one guy said no. I said that if he was in any way negatively impacted, I’d get off. He was fine. The cermony started right at 9pm. I couldn’t see the stage, which was next to the Danube, but had a view of a large screen which projected the event live. I could see Buda castle and the light and water show on the Danube. There was an impressive semi-historical choreographed reenactment of world history, with elaborate costumes and peaceful vs warring tribes. I especially liked the percussive effect of large armies of boot stomping men who stomped complex rhythms. Their foot movements were reminiscent of many of the traditional Hungarian and Transylvanian folk dances I’d seen. The stage production reminded me a bit of the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics in Beijing. A larger than life performance featuring thousands.
The light show projected on the castle were also impressive. They coordinated it with music to create a desired effect. Finally, the president of Hungary and mayor of Budapest gave long-winded speeches, and I lost interest. I wandered back toward my car, and stumbled upon a viewing point with bean bag chairs and a movie-size TV screen showing the performance. I ended up sitting and watching, and got to see Cee Lo Green sing “Crazy”. His performance ended with a huge fireworks display, which I ran to the waterfront to watch. Yay! What I missed most about the 4th of July was the fireworks. I returned to Katalin’s house tired but happy to have witnessed the opening ceremony.
July 15. I slept well. Katalin’s house was quieter than Luis. Less dogs and roosters. I dropped 5000 HUF at Luis’s place to compensate him for a chipped lid. In the course of cooking soup, I’d placed the soup lid upside down, and the enamel had chipped. He was quite upset, and I offered to pay him for the pot. He’d asked me to buy another one of the same model, but I had no idea where to find it. He’d told me, but then retracted his request, saying that it would be difficult to find. Last night he’d emailed me and asked me to give him money. So that was the resolution.
I headed to Nagymaros Saturday market, enjoying the colorful booths and homemade food. People in this part of Hungary make all nature of food and medicinal products, including herbal tinctures, flower syrups, kefir, yogurt, cheese, salame, and bread. I bought some herbal cheese spreads, cheese, raspberries (this is raspberry central), cherries, dill, cucumbers, and laser cut wood earrings. I met Steven White, a Fulbright scholar who had just returned from teaching food sciences and economics at Oklahoma University for the last 2 years. He had answered my question about the beeswax-sealed gourds that a man was selling. I found out he lived in Zebegény, which seemed to be a nexus for artists, scholars, and other interesting people. It turned out that it was his birthday, as I learned later when I visited Maruska and attended a wonderful piano concert by Eva Polgár in Zebegény. Eva grew up playing Liszt, and is now co-director of the biennial Los Angeles International Liszt Festival.
After the market I found a pub/cafe with wifi, and ordered a latte and cake. I spent from 1pm to 5:30pm writing, then headed to Zebegényo to meet Maruska. Endre was at Depo-Z, their kayak/canoe/bike rental shop on the Danube, and we spoke for a few minutes. Then Maruska and I took a quick walk with the dogs, and headed to the concert. I found out that during the 18th century, the Crown recruited German farmers to populate the areas like Zebegény that had been decimated by the Ottomans and restore farming along the Danube. The Germans were allowed to keep their language and religion, and became part of the group known as Danouswabians. Numerous German, Hungarian and Slavic migrants settled here. Records from the 19th century mention Zebegény as a German-Hungarian-Slavic village.
The Roman Catholic Church in Zebegény where the concert took place was built in secession style in 1910 – 1914 by Kós Károly and Jánszky Béla, famous Transylvaian architects. The stained glass behind the altar and along the sides were remarkably vivid and detailed. There are Art Nouveau frescoes on either side of the hall depicting historical events in Hungary. The detailed ornamentation in the same style was lovely, and the acoustics were perfect. You could hear a pin drop. After the concert, Maruska excused herself to attend Steven’s birthday party, and I sent wishes for a good birthday. I took a walk toward the hills, meeting an American woman who had a lovely home next to the spring. She had married a Hungarian, and this was their summer home. They lived in Budapest during the week. On the way back, I ran into Eva, and thanked her for her performance. She said that she studied in Helsinki, Finland, and misses life there. She currently lives near Dallas, Texas. I told her I’d follow her music career with interest. I left and headed back to spend the last night in Kismaros. Katalin and I had a nice meal and talked for a bit.