Friday, November 6, 2009

heroes and fried dough

Early Tuesday morning, I was rudely awakened by the sound of loud Dutch and the clomping of heavy feet in hard-soled shoes. I was all set to write an entire post called "Double Dutch," dedicated to the two most obnoxious people I have ever had the misfortune of rooming with, who had absolutely no sense of empathy or respect for people who don't get up at 7:30 a.m. while on holiday. My anger at them has since faded— one even almost ran me over on a bicycle! I will add this, however: wouldn't it be great to be able to rate fellow hostel guests on a five star system based on factors like consideration for others and cleanliness?

So let's start over.

The sun came out and the sky was blue— it was a perfect day for wandering around town and getting purposely lost. Mirco and I grabbed tea and a bagel across the street at one of the many Coffee Heaven chain stores— somehow missing the exquisite afore mentioned pastry shop next door to it. With maps spread out on the wobbly table, pens in hand and a wedge of lemon in my tea, we plotted our way to Városliget, Budapest's city park, via the legendary Andrássy út, an avenue famous for its gorgeous palaces and buildings. Dating back to 1872, Andrássy is listed as a World Heritage Site— and it's easy to see why. The two sculpted façades I included in my eye candy post live on buildings along this lovely boulevard.

We couldn't resist stopping by the Hungarian State Opera House— unfortunately they only do guided tours at 3 and 4 p.m., and we were several hours too early. Instead, we wandered inside the lobby to marvel at whatever beautiful details we could see. I was particularly taken by the intricately illustrated ceiling and patterned floor— I can only imagine how opulent the auditorium must be. We peeked around marble columned corners to try and catch a glimpse of the grandeur inside, then carried on down Andrássy toward the park.

* * *

Suddenly, we found ourselves tiny, in the midst of a wide open square surrounded by impressive buildings— that could only be museums— and at the foot of an enormous monument of fierce men on horses, with a white pillar that stretched into the sky. The astoundingly grand Hősök tere, or Heroes' Square, is dedicated to Hungary's founding leaders and other figures of national significance, and marks the entrance to Városliget.

The world's first public park was brightly coloured in reds, oranges, yellows and greens; silent, except for the occasional hum of voices. Fairy-tale castles and proud statues peeked out in between the falling leaves. Városliget is home to a zoo, botanical gardens, a medicinal bath house, an amusement park and a circus— which though I was burning inside to see, I just couldn't bring myself near it. I've been so heartbroken over the loss of my trapezing days. There's been a massive hole in my life since I left San Francisco, that can only be filled by the pure joy of swinging high above the ground from a bar and some rope.

Upon entering the park, I made a beeline for the statue of Anonymus, a 13th century writer who was the first to chronicle the history of the Magyars, the Hungarian people. I was determined to seek him out for the sole purpose of rubbing his pen. I'm not a superstitious girl, but legend has it if an aspiring writer rubs the pen, they'll be granted with luck. How could I resist? I rubbed the hell out of that pen!

The hours of wandering had worked up an appetite in me, and the chill in the air was making me fantasise about little cups of hot mulled wine. We found a food stand across from the zoo that offered hotdogs and sausages, beer, and something called a lángos. I had no idea what it was, but apparently I could get one with garlic, cheese and ham. A handwritten sign taped by the opening in the window advertised what I hoped it would: forralt bor, hot mulled wine. I was overjoyed to discover I had ordered an enormous round of fried dough— I always make a point to sample the fried dough offerings of each country I visit. Mirco got a hotdog and perhaps the largest beer I ever have seen, and we took our snacks to the red benches by the pond to enjoy, watching the ducks and pigeons battle it out over crumbs of bread tossed by a little girl in a pink sweater.

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