I arrived in Budapest late Tuesday. First impressions — gorgeous architecture, strong feeling of community, beautiful parks, great museums and lots of performing arts. Many of the downtown streets are lined with trees and busy sidewalk cafes, and there seems to be a thriving youth culture (which is on my official list of criteria for healthy cities).
I am reminded of a low key, friendlier Paris. Families — and a lot of that thriving youth culture — show affection in public and I hear laughter at unexpected times. People hold conversations with their dogs and their neighbors, and every time I say thank you in Hungarian, I get a big smile.
I am staying with Daisy, my bridge partner in San Francisco and a native Hungarian. Daisy has a darling apartment in a classic 19th century building, which she bought for her aunt and uncle after the Soviets left and the government started selling off real estate. The neighborhood — once Budapest’s Jewish ghetto — is thriving.
I should include a food report since I was just so sure I was going to lose 15 pounds here, where you can have your meat with or without peppers, and the closest thing to vegan is covered in cheese. But, alas, I am eating quite well. My first night here, Daisy made an amazing ragout of Hungary’s signature vegetable — sweet yellow peppers. Last night, we had a fantastic traditional fish soup and a porcini mushroom stew. Daisy has a bit of a thing for Hungarian pastries and found a vegan rum soaked cake for me — yum! And of course, I can smell a falafel joint a mile away.
And in case you were wondering, thank you in Hungarian is “koszonom”. It took me two days to remember it at the right time!
Next stop: Thinking Hungarian cowboy country…..