Sundays in Budapest are quiet days. Perfect for taking walks, cleaning the apartment, or catching up on work on the computer. This is because the current government has put laws into effect that restrict businesses larger than 200 square meters from being open. Their reasoning is...interesting. Officially, this is to protect workers from being forced to work on Sunday, kindling the conservative efforts of the current government. However, after some discussions, I've also heard the argument that it helps smaller stores stay competitive with their larger counterparts. Smaller businesses are more likely to be Hungarian owned - thus more business for them means more money circulating in Hungary, rather than getting sucked into stores owned by companies in other countries. Therefore, it's important to have visited the grocery store on Saturday, or in my case, be invited over to the Török's for dinner. Which I was very thankful for because, although I felt like I made out like a bandit from Lidl the day before, none of the food was very substantial. And since I still had trouble getting the two burner gas stove/oven to light, my options for cooking were a bit limited.
After my late night at the Liberty Statue and the consequential 3 hour photo editing session when I got home, I didn't get to bed until about 1 or 2 in the morning. I've always been more of a night owl though - this stems partly from my building monitor job in the GBPAC back at UNI, when I was paid to stay in the performing arts hall from 11 pm until 2 am, making sure the building was secure and locked at the end of the night. It was a fantastic job which already fit into my normal schedule of practicing horn after midnight. Making it to class the next morning however, was always a bit of an adventure. Prepping my backpack and setting out sweatpants was critical for successfully waking up 10 minutes before class started.
I woke up to the sounds of the busy intersection, the roar of buses driving past, and the hum of the 6 tram stopping at the station every 5 minutes. It was about 12:30 in the afternoon. This was nice though, because now I could eat breakfast for lunch and then eat at the Török's this afternoon.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Hungary. I haven't really found a reason as to why - just the look of "it's always been that way, why would we do it any different?" when ever I ask. I would assume because it is in the middle of the day and is better for your metabolism by spreading out nourishment with plenty of natural exercise afterwards. I liked the idea of a big meal; it would be a welcome treat from my snacks at home or the ever convenient Gyros stands from up the street. So when it got to be about 2 o'clock, I headed out the door and jumped on Tram 6.
After leaving Buda side, traveling through some of Pest's busiest neighborhoods and intersections, Tram 6 crossed the Danube again and I was back in Buda, now on the North part of the city. At the second stop, like Zsuzsa said, I jumped off and headed for the big park right off of the intersection.
"Hi Zsuzsa! I'm at the park, now where do I go?"
"Okay, you need to just start walking down the road to your left. Follow it all the way down, I will send Gáspár to meet you"
"See you soon, bye bye!"
After just a block past the park, the neighborhood suddenly became very different. The houses were much nicer. It was quiet. The buildings were divided by small, one-way, cobblestone streets. There were far fewer businesses here; a hair salon, a light repair store, a cafe, and even a small LEGO store. The neighborhood was very peaceful. In between the small hatchbacks perfectly parallel parked along both sides of the road, I saw Gáspár with a huge smile on his face.
"Hey man! What's up?"
"How are you?" I asked, giving him the ceremonial high five.
"I'm fine. So, where are we going?"
"Well, to your house aren't we?"
"Oh, yea, I think so. Where is that?"
[Casually, I keep walking the direction we were going]
"I don't know where it is.. I've never been"
"Oh, alright. Well maybe you can find it. So what's new?"
Here we go again, another game with Gásbár. I had to laugh because I should have been expecting something like this from him. At first I figured if we walked past his house then he would react in someway; then I realized that wouldn't be the case. I had to guess where the house was. After about a block, I found something that looked like it could be theirs. It was an old building with trees out front. There was an iron gate separating the courtyard from the side walk.
"I think this one is it" I said.
"Oh, okay" he replied.
[I'm very hungry at this point]
"Well, go look on the list of names by the door"
By the buzzer for each apartment is a small keypad and a list of names and numbers. If you need to ring a tenant to buzz you in, you type in the number to call them. This is also how you get into the locked building. Sure enough, Török/Bognar was listed. Gáspár congratulated me and we walked upstairs to the 3rd floor.
The door opened up to an open air passageway between the kitchen and the rest of the apartment. Feri was relaxing on a chair enjoying his day off from shooting. Zsuzsa was hard at work in the kitchen - the whole place smelled amazing. Paco, their middle child, came rushing out in pure disbelief that I was actually here in Hungary. I hadn't taken my bag off for more than 2 minutes until he pulled the camera out and started shooting around the house.
Lunch was fantastic. There was an arugula salad with special dressing and delicious cherry tomatoes, carrots and hummus, olives, some spare ribs, and roasted potato wedges. For dessert, we had a delicious baked cake made of cottage cheese (not the American kind of cottage cheese...think cream cheese with the texture of cottage cheese). Afterwards, there was coffee and plenty of discussion between Feri, Zsuzsa, and I while the kids played around the house. Feri explained that Sziget is a piece of national pride for them, one of Europe's best music festivals. Aside from seeing the landmarks, he also that that A38, a Ukranian stone-hauling ship turned live-music venue, is one of the conteninent's best. This led to one of my favorite maps of the city
As he explained, Budapest is a fantastically designed city. The river (blue lines) cuts straight down the middle; no confusing twists or turns. Trams 4 and 6 (red rail line) connect Buda and Pest, with stops near both our houses (dots with circles) while making a complete half circle through Pest. This easily takes you to just about anything you need to see-museums, the opera house, Parliament, etc. There are 3 bridges in between the 4 and 6 route, the Chain Bridge, the Elisabeth Bridge, and the Freedom Bridge. On Buda sides of these bridges is the Castle and Fisherman's Bastion (semi circles). A38 is just south of the Petõfi bridge which the 4 and 6 cross. He suggested that I purchase a map and get very familiar with how things are laid out - if I ever get lost, just find the river.
After lunch, I took their suggestions and decided to walk most of the way home. It was a beautiful day and after such a filling meal, I needed to get some exercise in. Feri assured me that we would make time for the set this week; but it was important for me to do lots of exploring and get my bearings for the city. With that, I jumped back on the 6 and crossed the Danube to go back to Pest.
My route was simple - just follow the river south. There was plenty to see and experience by getting up close and exploring. I knew I would have a chance to get a good look at the Parliament and Chain Bridge.. but there was plenty more to see than just that. Take a look!
Not only had I walked for a few hours, but I had essentially walked a good third of the entire length of the city. Needless to say, I was happy to be home and relax my feet.