When I left for Europe I didn’t think it would be much different from when I left for school in the fall. However, I’ve missed you so much and I’ve only been gone for three weeks. I suppose that’s still a long time… A long time for a lot of adventure to happen. A lot of adventure that I wish you were here for. As much as I love going places, it’s so much more fun when I have my fellow explorer with me.
I know I haven’t really told you much about the places I’ve seen. The internet in Austria is too weak for Skype, and this whole time zone thing isn’t really conducive to calling. So, I’ll write you a tale of two-ish cities. I say ish because I’m not sure how many I’ve been to in this particular tale. I did go on a train to a different country after all. Also, this city used to be split into two, and while they’re joined now the divide can still be faintly seen in the architecture.
This city is Budapest (which used to be Buda and Pest) because it’s probably one of the more interesting adventures. I also happened to develop a love/hate relationship with this city. The Buda part of Budapest is beautiful. The architecture is so old and ornate and there’s so much character. I think you would love it. It’s everything I imagined an old European city to be.
In fact, it was the first time I really felt like I was in Europe. I think it was because I don’t speak a lick of Hungarian. It was there that I realized that not everyone speaks English. In fact, most of the people didn’t know English at all. It’s a really weird feeling being completely surrounded by people, yet being isolated from them because you don’t speak the same language. I also learned that just because someone is speaking slowly and gesticulating doesn’t mean that the listener will understand. I find that a lot of Americans in the U.S. do this to foreigners and think that they’re being helpful. I’ve learned first hand that it’s really not helpful. At a grocery store the clerk was trying to tell me something about my bananas. I guess I hadn’t weighed them properly… I’ll never know.
The bananas tasted good though. You know what tastes better than plan ‘ol bananas? Hungarian food. We have to make this when I come home. Remember how over Christmas break we cooked dinner almost every night? We should do that again this summer. I ate some goulash while I was there and oh my goodness it was so good! For future reference, it was at the Menza Cafe, which used to be called the Communist Cafe. The name has changed for obvious reasons, but their food is still legendary. Take some time to be jealous:
I also had some of the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten in my life, and it was gluten free. I think it had to do with the spices in the sauce… Hungarian paprika, methinks. We’ll have to experiment. I didn’t take a picture of it though because I was ravenous when I bought it. I’m telling you, I remember places by the food that I eat there.
The only thing that I wish I wouldn’t have to remember about Budapest is all of the smoke. If you thought that places in America were bad, think again. Everyone in Budapest smokes. I felt like my lungs were collapsing for the two days I was there. It was really bad in both the Buda side and the Pest side. I think that aspect of the trip really ruined it for me… it’s hard to enjoy something when you can’t breathe. That’s partly why I’m not going to Prague this weekend. I don’t think I could handle another weekend surrounded by smoke. I don’t think my arches could handle all of the walking either. I couldn’t move my feet by the end of the Budapest trip. No joke. I suppose the benefit to walking so much was seeing a palace. I mean, how many of those are plopped down in the middle of town?
There were also a lot of horse statues. I thought you would appreciate this one. He probably thought looked funny at this angle. Or short. I’ll probably have to go with funny because I’m definitely not short (although I did lie down on the ground to take this photo).
We also walked to St. Stephens Basilica. It was stunning! It was also kind of weird because there were three weddings back to back on the day we visited. I think the church itself is a beautiful place to hold a wedding, however it would be so awkward and unromantic to have thousands of tourists in front of and in the venue taking photos of the building while you were getting married. I have to admit, I was one of those awkward tourists. At least I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb…
On the last day of the trip we went to the Terror House. It was extremely saddening and nothing short of horrifying. It’s the place where Nazis took in citizens, and the citizens were never seen again. I can’t even begin to describe what happened there. Torture… death… it’s hard to believe that people could do this to fellow humans. I am really glad that I was able to go though. In history classes we are so distanced from what actually happened that sometimes it’s hard to really understand the significance and impact of these events. It seems that more often than not the book leaves out or waters down small yet key pieces of history. While it’s hard to take in the horrors, I think it’s important to learn about them whether we want to acknowledge them or not. Just in the past few weeks of being in Europe I’ve learned so much more about the Cold War than I have in all my years of high school combined. I feel like I’m finally learning the truth.
We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside, so the only photos I have are of a memorial outside that depicts the iron curtain, and of the Terror House itself, which is also seen as a memorial. On the bottom part of the iron curtain memorial, which I wasn’t able to capture in the same frame as the top, it says “… Shall we live as slaves or free men? (Sandor Petofi) / It isolated the East from the West / It split Europe and the world in two / It took away our freedom / It held us in captivity and fear / It tormented and humiliated us / And finally we tore it down.”
So, there’s my Budapest story. I’m very glad that I went, as it was an eye opening experience. However, I’m not sure I want to go back. Maybe I’d go if I went with you and mom and dad… otherwise it would just be too overwhelming. This whole study abroad thing has been overwhelming, which is also why I’m not going to Prague this weekend. I’m kind of looking forward to having a few days of quietness and a chance to explore Salzburg at my own pace, dance a lot, and do some homework without feeling rushed. Besides, we’re gonna need some cities to explore together one day 🙂
I love you bunches Squeaky!!!