Monday, March 26, 2007

My Favorite City

For the past 7 months or so, I have been obsessed with the city Szekesfehervar for no particular reason, but there are many superficial ones. First of all, we pass it every time we head anywhere southwest of Budapest because it is a major rail junction. Secondly, I love the way it sounds (say-kesh-fay-hair-var). Last of all it means Seat of the White Castle and was the home of Hungary’s first kings and of course the link to the famous White Castle sliders. For all these reasons I had to see it, even if everyone was telling me that it wasn’t worth it.

I jumped on a train about noon after a very awkward transaction to buy the ticket. I had forgotten that Eric made me spend all my money the night before on a Chinese dinner. So I had about 200 forint in change in my wallet and the ticket cost 260. I happened to have about $3 wroth of Slovak money because I was supposed to go to Bratislava but overslept. Anyway through the help of a translator the lady said she would take my Slovak money because her son collects foreign currency.

So I sprinted off to get my train and saw it was still on the platform so I slowed to a walk. That’s right when it decided to depart. So running up to the train, I dashed in front of this guy hobbling with a cane and jumped on – then my conscience kicked in and I helped the injured guy get on.

The outskirts of Szekesfehervar looked a lot like Salgotarjan, but the downtown was pretty neat. It consisted of about four intersecting streets of cobblestones. Still I had to make the most of this city if it was going to be my favorite (I guess it made it in name only). You walk off the train and the train station is incredibly Socialist. It’s very square, plain, and the two story entrance had these two very simple murals dedicated to workers. The town was full of these murals dedicated to surveyors or factory workers – you can see some of them in the pictures.

For lunch, I decided had to compare the hamburgers in this white castle to the ones of the white castle in America. The hamburger was pretty good, but it just didn’t measure up to the quality of a slider. I walked around a bit more, got some chocolate and a much needed finger nail clippers and then headed for the train. At the train station I had to sit in this waiting room for about forty five minutes with these two sleeping, homeless guys. Then I went to buy a fanta where the guy in front of me was drinking a bottle of beer as fast as he could before his train departed. Ah Hungary. Made it back to Budapest safe and sound, and must say I’m a bit disappointed with Szekesfehervar, but I still have a special place in my heart for the city.

I forgot to mention that the first thing you walk by in this town is a graveyard which I think was dedicate to Russian soldiers liberating the city from the Germans after WWII. The last major German offensive was launched from just near the city. The graveyard had lots of Russian writing, Soviet star shaped flower beds, and a giant monument with a Red star on top. I thought for a second my train had travelled back in time.

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