Saturday, February 10, 2007

Day of Contrasts

This morning I was supposed to get up at 6 am and head off to far Eastern Hungary to see a really big castle. Well it was downpouring at 6 am, and I was tired so that has been pushed back until tomorrow. Instead, today I was lazy, got a train at 1:00 and went up this town called Vac on the Danube. In this town I was routinely struck by various ironies. Let's start with the first one.

I decided after walking around, I would get some gulyas, before I left town. My book recommended this wine-cellar type restaurant underneath the town square. So I find it, go inside and order gulyas. They tell me they are out of gulyas. I think they just didn't want me to order somehting so cheap, so I got this Italian pasta instead. Not having gulyas in Hungary is like not having Big Macs at MacDonalds. Ordering was an accomplishment in itself considering the entrie menu was in Hungarian. It helps that we learned the word for pasta yesterday. Anyway, I'm eating away in 15th century wine-cellar when they start to play Michael Jackson. Not be outdone, this is followed with a song by Queen and then 50 cent to round it out. How bizarre, I'm undergound a town square in the middle of Hungary listening to Micahel Jackson.

The next thing that struck me was the communist outskirts of the town. I had walked around for a couple of hours and had only seen small one family houses on old narrow strees. I was walking down one road and suddenly I popped out on a major avenue next to 50 huge communist buidlings. It was such a stark contrast from the rest of the day. I've tried to capture it in the pictures.

Also, I was walking on this bike path next to the Danube, and this huge stretch of green grass loomed in front of me. Turns out this very nice, scenic view of the river is also enjoyed by a number of prisoners incarcerated at the local prison. What a rough punnishment.

A few other highlights of the day were trekking 10 km (it was more like 2) to see the so-called Charles Bridge of Vac. Charles Bridge is this really famous bridge in Prague over a huge river with a lot of statues. I didn't think it would match the original, but I never envisioned such disapointment. The bridge was a little two lane causeway over a crick with 6 tiny statues covered in burlap. What a lackluster detour I had just forced upon myself. This detour did bring me into the communist part of the city though, so I guess it was alright.

The other thing I noticed during the day, is that my Hungarian is really improving. I convinced the people at the restaurant I was Hungarian, I argued with a lady about what day of the week it was (I think she was a little crazy) and I got a guy to help me buy my ticket in Hungarian. This is really motivating for my self esteem.

That was my day to Vac which was pretty simple, but still pretty interesting. Tomorrow I should have more to report after two 4 hr train rides, a talkative Irish girl and one of Hungary's most famous castles and colleges. I'll let you know.

Other interesting developments in my life include an internship at Hungary's National Defense College. Officers from all over Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and even Africa come to this school to learn English. Before I knew what hit me, I was having a drink with a 55 yr old female lawyer in Albania's defense ministry, a 25 yr old lieutenant in Sebria's infantry, and a 45 yr old captain working for Algeria's defense ministry. After the meeting, the guy from Algeria had me write down my number. I'm hoping he will pass me state secrets and jump start my CIA career, but I don't think that will happen. Even if it already had, I couldn't tell you.

Well if you have time, check out my friend Eric's blog. He has tried to initiate a war of the I's (Ireland vs Iowa), but sadly he lacks the ammo to compete. Iowa is just too much fun to even stoop to level of Ireland. We have snow, lakes, and caucuses. Ireland

1 comment:

im-azn said...

1st one to post a comment . . . yesssssss