We returned from Hungary successfully. And our flight home was infinitely less aggravating than our return from Prague two years ago (which does have a downside — I came away from OʼHare two years ago with a story idea, almost completed, for the Tourist; no one annoyed me enough to devise a means to fictitiously kill him or her this time, unlike the pompous slick who mercilessly reclined his seat into my face the entire flight, thus earning an excremental demise by drowning, outside baggage claim, in my short story*).
The recent trip was a lovely experience. I now know what all those items in the image I used from Wikipedia are — namely: an aerial view of Buda Hills across Parliament and the Danube from Pest, the Chain Bridge—south side with one of the lions, Heroes Square at the end of Andrássy út, Parliament viewed from a boat on the Danube, Fishermanʼs Bastion north of the castle in Buda, St. István Bazilika in Pest (quite near our hotel), and finally a view up the river toward Margaret Island from Gellért Hill in Buda. Since I really didnʼt know any of those things before the trip, the awareness now is pleasant.
Anticipating our time this October might be too reminiscent of Prague, we harvested instead an entirely new set of treasured memories along the Danube. Budapest was extraordinary and interesting, lively, and although not as antique as Prague (having suffered destruction repeatedly over its history, particularly in the closing months of World War Two) still romantic and exotic to dulled Midwestern eyes (even if reconstructed recently).
Travel books had warned us that Hungarians might seem stand-offish and remote, even officious (as Czechs had also felt), but we experienced none of that, meeting pleasant people who did their jobs well and folks who spoke with us and helped us out if necessary. Although I did study my Hungarian handbook and memorized important sentences to say in nearly a dozen situations, none of it was necessary. Everyone with whom we spoke or had dealings possessed some level of English sufficient to their and our needs. My feeble pronunciation and probably grammarless constructions earned faint smiles and quick English responses every time, except with our cab driver to the airport on the final morning. The hotel had called to schedule the cab for us the previous morning, and because it is a German chain (Starlight Suiten), the cab company dispatched a driver with German but no English. Even so, we communicated, and he enthusiastically accepted my payment and “Köszönöm”** with an unexpectedly warm handshake.
The city was beautiful, interestingly mixing restoration of past glories (like the Rick-Steves-criticized Royal Palace aloft in hilly Buda or the sturdy Chain Bridge/Széchenyi lánchid over the Duna*** and just across Roosevelt tér [park] near our hotel) with contemporary energy and industry. We loved the food (all except one Rick Steves recommendation that was our worst meal of the trip, ranking below even airline eating — not to ridicule the renowned Rick whose book, along with DK and Fodor, did steer us well usually). The people were wonderful. The sights and experiences were invigorating and vividly memorable. We had a marvelous time.****
(And I have absolutely nothing appropriate to say for this day, Halloween.)
* I guess that the opportunity to review what lies where and in which order in the passport clearance—>baggage claim—>customs experience arriving in Chicago helped with the old tale, however.
** “Thank you,” which I hope I pronounced keu-seu-neum (with those eus like French neuf, accent, as with every Hungarian word, on the first syllable).
**** Yes, we wish we were there… And I will have much more to say about the trip (perhaps in too much detail, again) in days to come.