I have been caught in a wonderful whirlwind tour of Eastern Europe. I have nibbled Sachertorte (a famous Austrian chocolate cake) in a fancy cafe in Vienna, paddled a boat through a vast underground cave system in Slovakia, thieved sunflowers from an enormous field along a Hungarian motorway, and gotten a private tour of the Budapest Operahouse. I also prepared a proper Southern dinner for my hosts complete with biscuits, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, creamed corn, stuffed mushrooms (from the cookbook "True Grits," compiled by the Atlanta Junior League), Mom's cucumber salad, and cherry pie for dessert. It was a noteworthy departure from the delicious paprika-based dishes we've been enjoying most nights - paprika is a Hungarian specialty, and is the key ingredient to nearly everything they cook here.
Speaking of Hungarian, I'm not doing so well at, well, speaking Hungarian. My pronunciation has improved a bit, but when it comes to grammar, I can't seem to get much farther than "thank you," "is the bathroom this way?" and a few random phrases from my lesson book like "this is a plane ticket" and "his mother is a historian". It's been really exciting to be in such a multi-lingual environment, though - my hosts speak Hungarian, German, English and Russian, and two of them are professional translators, so the linguist nerd in me has really flourished here, and I'm looking forward to trying to improve my Spanish and French over the next few months (I think I'll have better luck with that!).
I have also really enjoyed learning firsthand about the impact of half a century of Soviet rule on a country like Hungary. The influence is apparent everywhere, from the pre-fab block housing alongside ancient palaces, to the newly burgeoning economy and dynamic politics, to the abandoned patrol stations along the Hungarian-Slovak border. But Hungary's long, rich history proves stronger than a few years of Soviet control, and its culture, architecture and identity seem to be flourishing with renewed vigor.
I am learning so much here, in this part of the world where I never particularly envisioned myself. I look forward to coming home with many stories, photos, and an abundance of paprika!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Kate in Hungary, Post Two
I think I have permission to share Kate's last email with the readers of Chatterbox. Several of you have asked how she is and what she is doing. Well, here is a first hand taste of her adventures in Budapest.
Posted by Family at 11:10 PM