27 August, 2010

Vacation Week 4c: Hungary

Today we took a trip to Hungary, my grandmother's birthplace. I'd really like to see Transylvania, the area she came from, but it was too far away from our campsite, so we visited nearby Szombathely instead.

Entering Hungary is like entering into a completely different world. The language is totally foreign for me-- neither Russian nor German nor English helped me here. The people we spoke to were very friendly but it was hard to find anyone who spoke anything other than Hungarian, the signs were all indecipherable and I just couldn't seem to get my bearings even though I really tried.

We arrived shortly before lunch and paying for parking was a challenge, as usual. I quickly found a meter, but had to go in search of a bank to get some forint first. Then I had to break a large note, so I hopped into the bakery to buy something small. There was bread on the shelves, but none of it looked very appetizing so I bought a bag of candies for the kids. But these weren't just any old candies, these were tasty Negroes! (WTF?! The kids missed the humor of it but I have to admit that I giggled childishly every time we ate one!)

I really wanted to try some Hungarian food so we stopped a friendly woman on the street and asked her to recommend a nice restaurant. We should probably have taken it as a bad omen when she replied: "Hungarian food? No idea. I only eat Chinese food."

When we finally found a place M and the kids eschewed paprikash in favor of pizza, and I had to laugh when they got it: BBQ sauce smeared on pizza dough and adorned with slices of spam and analog cheese.

I was feeling slightly superior until it came time to choose my own fare. For lack of any other filling vegetarian options I went for a "Light Lunch": fried mushrooms, fried cheese and vegetables from a can with a side order of mayo-based sauce.

Feeling heavy and a bit nauseous we rolled back out onto the street to explore the town. The center square was actually quite pretty with a wide pedestrian area and a couple of fountains. The kids bought an ice cream with their pocket money which they happily deemed "cheap AND yummy!"

We kept laughing about these ubiquitous signs that said Kotzponts-- no idea what it means in Hungarian, but when said in exactly the right way sounds like a "Vomit spot" if one mixes Dutch and English. This later proved to be very fitting when B actually threw up at one. (Even he saw the humor in the situation once he'd rinsed out his mouth.)

It might not surprise you to hear that we didn't stay very long in Szombathely. We just couldn't find our mojo and decided to take a long scenic drive back home in order to get a better feel for the Hungarian countryside.

The surroundings were lush and green, but the towns we saw seemed run-down and forlorn. There was none of the vivacious charisma that seemed to pervade Slovenia, nor the optimism that we felt in Slovakia. Instead the word that kept coming into my mind while driving through these small towns was: "hopeless".

I have to say that as much as I wanted to like Hungary I just didn't. Which maybe isn't fair to say based on one trip to one city and the surrounding areas. I hope I am completely wrong in my quick judgment, but don't think I'll be going back any time soon to find out...


Goofball said...

kotz ponts...hahaha, I had exactly the same association before you even translated it :p

try Budapest the next time, that's a nice city to visit, although my vegetarian friend on that trip also had difficulty to find food

Chui Hsia said...

Was the Negro a liquorice-type thing? As in, just the word for 'black'? We love Budapest, by the way. Been there twice, never enough time. People not so friendly, but I think that's just Hungarian - they just look stern a lot and walk off/turn away when they think "this conversation's done".

Anonymous said...

You made me LOL with your translation. Thanks for introducing me to eastern Europe. I never had a chance to see it.

Lisa in Indy.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why on the main page (in firefox) your dates are all August?

Lisa in Indy

Betsy said...

You know what it is? I'm only just getting around to blogging about the vacation so I'm backdating all of the posts so that they're in the right order. Am almost caught up so soon you'll start seeing the right dates again.

Thanks for checking with me, though-- it could easily have been a glitch with the template or something...

Anonymous said...

That's It!
Oh, I've done that too...back date.

Carry on, wink.
Lisa in Indy

Kelly said...

M's completely serious look really makes that picture.