Monday, August 27, 2007

sok, sok szőlő...

Despite being spread across the city, most of us having sporadic internet access, at most half of the people having cell phones and the phones people do have being prone to not working for various reasons, news still travels quickly through the program. Friday night Chelsey decided to hold a dinner party for 7 pm Saturday night and I offered to help her cook. By 5 pm on Saturday, around 20 people had RSVP'd, so when I arrived shortly after 5 she was rather worked up (she had never cooked for such a large group). We managed to put together enough rice and eggplant/potato curry to feed everyone and then have left overs. I love cooking and feeding people, it always makes me happy :-) After dinner several of us just hung out and chatted, it was very pleasant.

Sunday morning I met Christina at the palascinta place at 8 for breakfast before going to church. On my way out the door, my host mother caught me and was clearly worried that she had not fed me breakfast. I tried to explain that I was meeting a friend for breakfast before going to church, but only managed to explain that I was supposed to meet a friend near the Battyani metro station at 8. She assured me that it only takes 5 minutes to get to the metro station, that I had plenty of time and had me wait while she made me a sandwich to take with me for breakfast (it made a nice lunch). After pancakes, Christina and I went to the Lutheran Church in Déak Tér. It was somewhat plain compared to the cathedrals we have seen around the city, but it was still a beautiful building. The service was also very nice and I was able to vaguely follow along as it followed the same basic service order as American Lutheran churches. Some of the tunes were even familiar :-). We both concluded that singing hymns in Hungarian is great practice for our pronunciation and that listening to the service in Hungarian is good practice for our listening skills - when preachers give a sermon they do not tend to speak as quickly as people do in everyday conversation. I was able to pick out a larger set of random words this week than last, which is definitely encouraging. Oh! The church also has an amazing organ and there were signs that suggested that it hosts organ concerts frequently. I definitely want to go to one at some point :-)

After church we stopped by Christina's apartment so that she could make a sandwich and to pick up Chelsey. The three of us then went and had a picnic lunch in Városliget (the city park). I have been asked if the pigeons are the only animals I have seen here. They are definitely the most abundant wildlife, but during lunch we also saw ducks.

While at the park, we examined the statues in Hősők Tere (Heroes square) and discovered that the street I live on is named after a famous general, Hunyadi Janós.

We also wandered around and found a giant hour glass. It apparently is carefully designed to time a year (with some sort of mechanism to account for leap years) and is turned at midnight on new years. It is quite impressive.

After the park I went home to study my vocab and conjugations. When my host mother came back home she brought with her sok, sok szőlő - lots and lots of grapes. The sheer quantity of grapes was really quite impressive. We went though them pulling the bad ones off of each bunch and completely filled the bottom shelf and half of the second to the bottom shelf of the fridge with good ones before she went and got out the blender. At that point we started pulling off the good ones from the remaining bunches and got several large bowls full. These grapes were then washed, run through the blender and strained. Fresh grape juice is incredible. We had enough grapes to produce several liters. Between the szőlők, almák, és silvák (grapes, apples and plums), I have been eating a lot of fruit. It is quite nice :-).

There is nothing really interesting to talk about from today, so I will leave it at that for now.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


I now understand Hungarian pronunciation (though some of it is still tricky for me), know a rather strange collection of nouns, a handful of suffixes with which to modify the nouns, a small but useful collection of verbs and how to conjugate them in the present tense (both in the definite and indefinite situations) and a few silly songs. For four long days of class that seems like a reasonable enough place to be. I am slowly training myself to say "kösönöm" instead of "thank you" and "boscánat" instead of "I'm sorry" or "excuse me". To cope with having the intensive language class all day everyday, I have been going straight home after class. I study vocab for a while, watch the evening news (in Hungarian) with my host mother (and attempt to pick out words and phrases I know - commercials are especially good as they tend to have lots of numbers ;-) ) and go to bed relatively early. Now it is the weekend though, so it is time to explore some more!

After class yesterday Christina and I decided that we should go exploring around the city some more. We started by stopping by my apartment and then going up the stairs next to it to explore the castle. Part of it is under restoration construction, but the rest of it was beautiful! Once we had wandered around the castle for a while we walked around the top of hill. There are some amazing views of Pest from up there :-)
Castle pictures
Pest, the church sticking out is Szt. Istvan's Baszilika (I think I spelled that right...)

There also really nice views of the rest of Buda, but with the location of the sun I was unable to get any good pictures. Maybe some other time. After wandering around Buda for a while we stopped by her apartment in Pest and then met up with several of our other friends and went to Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő Városligeten (the baths in the big city park). The baths are basically three large swimming pools - one kept very warm, one kept quite cold and the other at a medium sort of temperature. In the medium pool there is a circular path in the middle where (sometimes) there is a current. It is far more fun than it has any right to be to ride the current around in circles :-). It was really fun and relaxing to just hang out and chat in the water. After leaving the baths a small group of us rode the metro back to Buda and had a snack at the 24 hour palacsinta (the Hungarian version of crepes) place. Between the Hungarian I have learned and my pattern matching abilities I managed to order in Hungarian! It was delicious and a wonderful end to a great evening. Tonight I am planning to meet up with Chelsey to make dinner. It should be fun!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Csak egy kiscit beszélek magyarul...

The language course really is very intense. As a result, I have spent the last few days doing little else (and do not have any new pictures for you). In the evenings my host mother likes to watch the news (in Hungarian naturally) and I am slowly managing to pick more and more words out of it. Commercials that give prices are especially nice as they give me a chance to practice recognizing numbers :-). I successfully managed to order my öszibarack juice in Hungarian today though, so all the studying must be doing some good. Right now though I should go find dinner and study the huge list of vocab I have amassed...


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Smoke On!

I came across my first Hungarian pun Friday night (and forgot to mention it Saturday, so I will now) when I was at an open air concert (something classical, not sure what - all of the information was in Hungarian) at Kossuth Tér(square). They had set up one of those portable outdoor stages and it had a sign on it reading (and the capitalization is theirs) audiTÉRium. It was exciting.

On Sunday Jessie and I decided to go a service at a beautiful church that we had been wanting to see the inside of. I think I eventually deduced that it was a Calvinist church. The service was entirely in Hungarian, but it was pretty, and Hungarian is phonetic so we could sing the hymns from the hymnal :-). Other than that, Saturday and Sunday were basically spent wandering around Budapest and meeting the other BSMers here that are here for the language course.

Monday, aka Szt. Istvan Day
My host mother Éva spent all morning cooking and I helped her roll potato dumplings for the soup she was making. Éva's daughter and her family came over for lunch. We started with the potato dumpling soup and then had fried meat (not exactly sure what kind, but it was good), squash, zuchini and potatoes. Hungarians seem to be fond of fried food. For desert we had málna biskota (sp?), a sort of cake with raspberries in it and a cake made with cottage cheese and plums. The whole meal was delicious and the only troublesome part was convincing Éva that I really was full. Here is a picture of some of the food:

After lunch we took Éva's grandsons down to the Danube to watch part of the air show. This included such things as giant passenger jets flying at very low altitudes down the river and a stunt helicopter. Around two, we left to meet up with some of the other students at Déak Tér. We wandered around and eventually ended up back down by the river, this time on the Pest side. By that point the air show had switched to the Red Bull Air Race, basically stunt planes seeing who could run the obstacle course the fastest. It was fun to watch, in part because of the energy of the crowd. It was very clear when the current pilot was a local favorite :-). In addition to the handful of English used by the announcer (whenever a plane started the course they would announce the plane's number and then shout "Smoke On" - we all found this hilarious), I managed to pick out a few words, things like "nagyon szep" - very beautiful. When we got board with the planes we wandered around some more and I finally discovered the Hungarian equivalent of a water fountain:

As we approached the fountain we noticed that all of the locals were drinking from it, and it actually had surprisingly cold water! Gives new meaning to the phrase "Straight from the lion's mouth" ;-)

We had dinner at a local étterem (restaurant), and then headed down to the river for the fire works. They launch fireworks from all of the bridges and the top of the statue hill in Buda, so there was enough front row seating that we were able to sit right by the river. Even the 4th of July in DC could not compare to that fireworks show, it was phenomenal. In the US fireworks shows are choreographed to music, here they choreographed it with itself. For example, there was a large display on the hill that would end with slow falling red embers. As they fell there was nothing, but as soon as they hit the ground, the next round exploded from the bridges. The dramatic timing was amazing. The fountain fireworks from the bridge that fell into the river were also amazing.

Today was the first day of language school. We took the 16 busz (which stops right by our house, but which does not stop down by the river on the Buda side) to Déak Tér and then the red line of the metro to Astoria for the language school. The whole commute took about 35 perc (minutes). The class was long, but fun. We learned the csip csep song and now it is stuck in my head :-).

Ok, I should be heading home for dinner now.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Hill


First off, when classes get actually started, I am not going to be updating this everyday. Try not to get too used to it ;-).

There is one problem with the internet cafe we have found, and that is that we have to walk up the giant hill to get home when we are done.
Here we are at the bottom of the hill:

Then we get to the stairs

and up more stairs

and from the top looking down

And now I am off to go meet another girl from the program, so I am going to end the post.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Shoe car!

This morning Éva made breakfast for us (Bread with butter, some sort of salami, delicious peppers and cheese, it was awesome) before she left to go to her garden. She brought back fresh grapes, plums, peaches and apples. There is so much good fruit! While she was gone, Jessie and I went to explore part of Budapest. The Batthyany Metro stop is in easy walking distance of where we are staying, so we took the Metro to Deák Tér and wandered around there for a while. We then took the bus over to Keleti and located the College International. Near the college there is a gelato place which has amazing málna (raspberry) gelato . I am going to have to be careful to not get addicted to stopping there on my way home from school ;-)
(Speaking of getting addicted to things, the internet cafe right near my flat (and which I am currently at) has free wireless if you get something to eat or drink and has amazing őszibarack (peach) juice!)

While wandering around Budapest we found a car with a shoe on it

and discovered that in addition to the normal pigeons, there are also brown ones

For dinner tonight Éva made us gombas (some kind of Hungarian mushroom, though the texture was better than normal mushrooms) es sonka (ham) pizza. Volt nagyon finom. By the time the Hungarian class starts I think Jessie and I will already know quite a bit of the language :-)

A picture tour of the flat I am staying at:
My room

The living room

View from the balcony at the back

The courtyard

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I am currently sitting in an internet cafe a few blocks from the flat I will be staying in while I am here in Budapest. I will be staying with a wonderful Hungarian lady (who incidentally knows basically no English) and a girl named Jessie. We live in the Castle District (probably the nicest part of Budapest), directly down the hill from the castle, actually. It is pretty sweet. I will get pictures of it later. When we arrived early this afternoon, Éva (our 'mom' for the semester) had cold peach soup for us. It is amazing. After dinner tonight she brought out fresh peaches - they looked green, but were definitely ripe and are amazing. There must be a different variety of peach here. Right now I am very tired, so I will leave you with a few pictures and a promise to add more sometime soon.

Sunrise from Heathrow Airport

For my MathCamp friends, the salad dressing lid from the airplane dinner: