Saturday, March 24, 2012

Around the World: Budapest

March 24, 1992

Budapest is just a short train trip from Vienna and gives me an opportunity to visit Hungary.

The tourist information booth at the train station is a bit like accomplishing a task in India.  Once I find the booth, I am sent upstairs to wait in line for 20 minutes only to discover that maps are not available here.  Another booth that changes money downstairs has maps for sale.  It doesn't take long to discover that only major streets are marked, which is often not the type of street I am on.

Sausage Goulash

Not knowing much about Hungary or the city of Budapest, I search for postcards to point out sites of interest.  I can't find those either.  I do know that Hungary is famous for goulash, a thick stew that simmers for hours, making the meat delicately tender.  There are different varieties so I decide to seek out a restaurant that boasts their goulash as the best.  The place I choose does not disappoint.

On a search for a souvenir to bring to Uwe, I discover that my rear end is once again in sampling territory.  Tired of being constantly checked for freshness like a bushel of produce, I find a can of goulash in a small grocery next to the train station and head for the safe haven of Vienna where my butt isn't treated like a loaf of day old bread.

Budapest, leaving the train station.

Vienna is a different animal at night.  As I walk from the station to Uwe's house, I pass several prostitutes advertising their availability, each of them wearing more or less (well... less) the same thing, like a sort of uniform.  Not far from the train station, I notice I am being followed by an unsavory character.  He's lanky and not terribly good at being discreet.  To test my theory, I stop to look at a dress shop window display and notice he stops to examine a window display of fine china and tea sets.  When I start walking, I can see in the reflection of store windows that he is trailing me again.

I have to turn a corner just a few blocks from Uwe's place, and not wanting to be followed home, I duck out of sight into the shadows of a doorway and wait for my lanky stalker to make the turn and continue past me.  I don't know what he saw; if the shadows and the additional height of the step made me appear threatening, but the sight of me startled him.  He increases his pace, now walking ahead of me and looking back over his shoulder frequently.  Whether he is trying to keep track of me or I am making him nervous, I don't care.  I adjust my pace to duck into the alley that leads to Uwe's while he's not looking.

Safely home, I offer to cook the goulash from Hungary for dinner.  Everyone is curious what goulash from a can could be like, but it's actually pretty close to what I had for lunch.  Hopefully, that's a good thing, considering the directions to make it are only in German.

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"We don't live in a world of reality, we live in a world of perceptions."
- Gerald J. Simmons