Friday, the 20th of July
I start my writing sitting on a bench in a small green square with fountains and a playground for children. According to my map, that must be ‘Honved ter’. At least I know for sure that one of its sides is Szemere Street. I open a bar of my favourite extra dark chocolate, ‘Roshen Brut’ – I brought it from Kyiv along with other travelling snacks and have kept it until this minute. (Kyiv… I’m already so homesick…) <…> *Oh God, I wish it were cooler than 40˚C and my chocolate were a snack, not a drink*
View from my park bench
So, returning to Fishermen’s Bastion. Natalie told us the history of Matthias Church (which was at the moment partially hidden under that stuff for builders – its exterior is on reconstruction). Next to the church stands a hotel – ‘Hilton’. An ugly modern building. I’d kill people for erecting such things among beautiful historical monuments. (That means I’d kill the authorities and public architects of Kyiv). A funny occurrence: among others, there’s an old man, quite a Soviet-looking old man in our group. That’s his first visit to a western foreign country. So, this Mr. Joseph M. asks Natalie: “Dear, you said this hotel is owned by representatives of some dynasty?” – “You’re quite right – the Hiltons”. “The Hiltons? Who are they? I mean, nationality” – “Well, Americans – but have you never heard, for instance, of Paris Hilton?” The answer was only an ‘ehrm…’ :)
( My Pictures of the Sights )
Trinity Square – unfortunately, the monument there was taken away for renovation. Well, five years ago I did get a glimpse of it. Nice medieval (or renaissance, I’m bad at such niceties) streets… an old theatre where Beethoven gave a public concert… the President’s residence (nothing around it that could show one that this is not an ordinary mansion). The Royal Palace – this time only a brief look through the gate. We walk back to Disz ter, get on our bus and drive over Chain Bridge (or Széchenyi Bridge, after the great count István Széchenyi).
( My pictures of the sights mentioned )
Chain Bridge - a popular shootview, isn't it?)
…Central European time 13:10. I sit in a café (or a pizzeria, they serve pizza here) – Nádor Kavéház in Nádor Street 19 (I write from the menu). I was simply tired of walking in 40˚C, this talk of the town (probably the temperature’s higher, according to my feelings). So I came to the first café which seemed to be not something terribly posh and expensive. It’s small, two-storied and cozy. The hostess doesn’t speak a word in English, German, French or Russian – my foreign languages; fortunately by this day I’ve learnt to read menus in Hungarian. Pizza – quite clear:), as well as ‘kávé espresso’ (and ‘üdítok’ seems to mean drink in general). I choose their ‘déli menü’ – 24 cm pizza of your choice (I pointed on the word ‘salami’ and on a drawing of a mushroom), 200 ml (they call this quantity 20 dl) of Coca/Fanta/Sprite and ‘kávé’. At this very moment I am waiting for my salami&mushrooms.
On the Pest side we were shown the Parliament (as if I need to be specially shown this magnificent building which makes me feel so envious…) *ah, here comes my pizza. A little burnt, but starving Sasha will devour anything… but the pastry is really thin and the filling is tasty…* The next stop was next to St István’s Cathedral (or basilica, I’m not always good at finding precise English equivalents). How do I like the architecture of Catholic temples, both outwardly and inwardly! The organ was playing mystic variations during our whole visit. Icy air (in comparison to 36˚C outdoors), stone pillars, really high ceiling (the main dome is 96 metres high, for Hungary was formed as a state in 896 AD), these sounds… that was magnetic. Subsequently I changed my money (“Ah! Finalmente!” – ©Puccini, ‘Tosca’) and buy a card for international calls. But the automatic telephones didn’t work for me. They simply asked for extra coins (which they shouldn’t do, according to the instructions on the card) and devoured them with no result. That was a great disappointment. Only on Thursday I managed to activate it and have a fine talk with my parents.
( My pictures of the sights mentioned )
The bus drove to Heroes’ Square, Városliget (City Park) and the… well, here I dare not choose a description or epithet… Vajdahunyad Castle. I absolutely adore that part of it which is a copy of some famous building in Transylvania. (Besides, the Hungarians still wish that Transylvania had been returned to Hungary, as it had been for a long time until the end of World War I). So, I took a really great number of pictures of someone’s castle (I also returned to the spot in other days). You see, just before my departure from Kyiv I spent a week reading Hellsing manga and fanfiction (trying to choose my favourite pairing Al+Tegra), then discussing the whole matter with dearest Tatiana (or simply Nazgul for close friends)… so Hellsing fans would understand me.
The castle which captivated me
( My pictures of the sights mentioned )
Around 1 PM our free time began. Some of us went to the zoo, some chose the Luna park. I was among those who went to the famous Széchenyi Spa Baths (Széchenyi fürdo), a nice neo-Baroque building. 2400 forints for four hours, 200 of them repaid for every hour unspent. The baths are really, really nice. There are 11 (I counted them intentionally) indoor pools, from small to rather large ones. The temperature varies from about 15˚C up to 40˚ (or even 42˚C). Again, underwater seats everywhere. After a long journey I felt dizzy and almost fainting, but some repeated submersions, done in turn in the 15˚C and the 40˚C pool made me feel alive.
4 PM. Finally after hours of walk I ‘landed’ in a café. A tiny confectionery with two round tables. Again only one of two women behind the counter understands some words in English. The punch cake is ‘comme ci comme ça’; kind of a chocolate muffin with thick marzipan icing is better… But at least an item costs 230 forints, not 500 or 1000! My thought returns to Széchenyi Baths…
Yes, the Baths were fantastic! I noted already the number of indoor pools. Among them were one with a stream, another, where a coach showed everyone aqua fitness, three (or was it four?) Finnish or dry saunas, two of them included pools of cold water and tubs full of ice… a ‘Russian sauna’ – the sweating room with steam. Outdoors there were three large pools, two with streams for hydro massage, there also was a big section with powerful stream which turned the pool into kind of a merry-go-round. The third was the only deep one. I wished to have a swim – I adore swimming and dislike places not deep enough. But I wasn’t allowed to: only those with bath caps are. Do they think there exists a bath cap to be pulled over my whole amount of hair? I spent quite enough time by making a ‘Hairstyle for Bathing’, in order not to let a lock to become wet.
Still, as I’ve said, I had fantastic time in the Baths.
At 6 PM our bus took us from a park lane by Heroes’ Square to the hotel. A change of clothes – and I’m ready for an evening at a traditional Hungarian restaurant, ‘csarda’, and additional tour offered by the agency. Live gipsy music and folk dance. *by the way, I’ve already asked for a fourth cup of tea. And my continuous handwriting… I wonder what the ladies think of me? Still, have I to worry? My seat is comfortable enough and Earl Gray with milk is quite tasty* So, what do I say? The evening was great. Amazing! Exciting! Fascinating! I liked the interior of the csarda – folk style, hanging dried paprika and garlic braids (sic!) for decoration… (it’s rather an inn, or a pub – the word ‘restaurant doesn’t suit it perfectly). I also liked the food served. Goulash soup – big pots put on the table, so everyone had plenty of it (I ate two full plates). Then – assorted meat, sausages and salads. As for the latter, there could be more, but at least the cabbage I tasted was fine. As well as the assorted shish-kebab: chicken, sausage, pork lard, bacon… As for drinks, there were big bottles of red and white dry wine – not only I, a modest and careful drinker, but all of our group had enough of it. And plenty of mineral water in bottles and carafes. The wine was quite nice – I seem to have mentioned above that I like dry ones and dislike any sugary drinks. In the end there was some cake with coffee for dessert. And the music was wonderful. As I later noticed, the trio we listened to, that’s a traditional folk ensemble: a violin, a contrabass and a cembalo. Unfortunately they didn’t play my favourite Monti’s Csardas. I used to play the piano part for my brother, a wonderful violinist for his twelve of that time. (I should confess that I’m a poor accompanist, I try badly, but I can’t get rid of my habit ‘always to lead’). Back to the csarda: they did play Brahms’ Hungarian Dance! (I’ve forgotten the number, let’s say, the most famous of them). I’ve always liked this enchanting music piece. And since I saw Leslie Nielsen dancing to it in ‘Dracula Dead and Loving It’, I became Very Fond of it. “My favourite dance – the Csardas!” Other pieces played during the evening, not ‘something Gypsy’ were also to my liking: instrumental versions of Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf, retro hits like ‘Bessame mucho’… We had a possibility to dance, both in a round and in pairs. I asked some group guide to dance (in pure German, and later I heard him speaking Ukrainian to our guide Michael… I wonder whether he learned finally my nationality). I also danced some conventionalized Carpathian folk dance with Michael…
( A picture I took there )
So, once again I repeat: the evening was great. On our way home the whole bus was singing folk songs (sometimes different ones at a time) – people were obviously enjoying themselves. They decided to continue the party, the difficult point was the choice of place or the hotel room. Me (sitting in the very front, loud in German): “Zimmer zwei hundert achtzehn! Zwei hundert achtzehn!” (Or 218, the number our guide stayed in). Michael: “Nein! Das geht nicht! I am on duty!” Finally after the bus had been shouting for some time “Misha, our dearest guide, we’ll come for the party to your room, whether you like it or not” he had to agree. Unfortunately I never learnt what happened that night, for I went to my room as soon as we arrived. I didn’t risk looking out and joining the party wherever it took place. And in the morning there weren’t any signs of heavy all-night drinking on anyone. But with our people you may never know…
Five cups of tea and two cakes… I am leaving the café. The evening hasn’t fallen yet!