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December 6, 2014

This trip was all about doing things we’ve never done before. Going to countries and cities we’ve never seen, discovering new cultures and languarages. This was, by far, the furthest from our comfort zone. In past trips we either knew English was abundant enough that we’d have no trouble whatsoever (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands), or the main language was one that at least one of Tisha or I had some training in: France (me), Germany (Tisha), Russia (Tisha), Belgium (French in the parts we visited), Switzerland (German). But aside from Vienna (where German is spoken), this was going to be new territory. People generally speak a little English, but you’ll find some who really don’t, or are as self conscious about their English as I am about my attempts to mangle their language. But we got by just fine.

In any country we’ve visited, you can typically get by with only English, but if you have a phrasebook or dictionary for the times there’s too much of a barrier (or to help you decode a menu), and just make it a point to learn the courtesies and pleasantries, you’ll get by just fine. Czech and Slovak are similar languages, but not the same. Thank you in Czeck is pronounced “DRAH-koo-yeh” (where the DR is more of a dzr sound with a rolled r). In Slovak, it’s “DRAH-koo-yem”. But “please” in both is “PRO-seem.”

But, Hungarian? Throw all that out the window. The Hungarian language is nothing like its neighbors. Its closest relative, for some reason, is Finnish, but even those are only distantly related. Hungarian “thank you” is “KUR-sur-nerm”. “Please” is “KAY-rem”. So just when I’d gotten used to saying “dobry-den” for hello/good-day in Czech and Slovak, in Hungarian we switch to “YO-na-poht”.
You get used to it after a day or so, but it’s disconcerting to switch so frequently. Thankfully, by the time we hit Austria, I could fall into my little bit of survival German pretty easily, having been in German-speaking countries a few times. “Bitte” and “Danke” are like second nature. “Grüss gott” is a bit different that “Guten Tag”, but is easy enough. But I’m getting ahead of myself, at this point in the tale, we’re in Hungary, so on with that.

After another delightful breakfast with our Bratislava hosts, we made our way to the train station for our train to Budapest. Not too long a ride, just under three hours. Upon arriving in Budapest, the weather was not any different than what we’d faced most of this trip – rain, drizzle, and occasionally fog. We met our charming host at our flat in the city after a short bus ride. He gave us plenty of tips and recommendations, then left us to our own devices, se we strode off to discover the area.

We walked the main shopping drag near the apartment (Andrássy út), often called the Champs-Élysées of Budapest. Very pretty, very pricey. We got to check out yet another Christmas market, and ride a big overpriced Ferris wheel (much like we did in Paris last year). Our post-supper activities were limited to another attempt at shoe repair by me, some much needed laundry thanks to a machine in the flat, and a frustrating attempt to stream the Packers game on my tablet (that was ultimately successful, but we fell asleep before the game ended).

The next day, it rained, so we relegated ourselves to indoor activities. Up until now, the rain has been sprinkles or drizzle, but this day was outright raining to the point we had to break out the umbrella. We went to Matthias church over on the Buda side up the hill, which was quite impressive. But the rain did in my last attempt at shoe repair, and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. My feet were soaking wet and cold, so off to the mall we went, back to the Pest side of things. We found a Tesco, and I bought a pair of sneakers and some dry socks (my feet were soaking by this point). After changing into dry shoes and socks (which felt *sooo good*), I tossed my water-logged shoes into the trash, and after a bite to eat we made our way back to Buda to do the Hungarian House of Wine. Turns out the place was inexplicably closed, possible for good. So we figured we’d try the wine cellar across the street at Hilton. Alas, they were closed for holiday. Sigh. I will not let this get me down. We took the bus/metro back to Franz Liszt square (where we were staying), and had a lovely chicken paprikash dinner, and some grog. Yum.

Our last full day in Budapest proved to be a rainy day again, so we took off to do the parliament tour, then the fine arts museum. We were going to try to do a river cruise, but the weather just wasn’t going to make that worthwhile, so instead we found a charming little cat cafe to go hang out at before supper. This place had five or six cats with free reign over 3 floors of the place. Some would come to hang out with you, some would let you come pet them. We stayed for a coffee (for Tisha) and a couple of beers (for me), and unwound surrounded by cute kitties.

And that’s all she wrote for Budapest. We’ll be back, if only to see the beautiful city without the clouds and the rain. Next entry I’ll sum up our wonderful Vienna visit. Until then, jó éjszakát!

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