A friend is on her way to Budapest, and I wrote some of this to her. I’m copying it down here so that I don’t lose it.

I was in Budapest in the fall of 2000 on my way to Oradea, Romania. There, I helped build a huge house to be used for a family-style orphanage. It had 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 1.5 kitchens, 2 living rooms, and a dining room. We had to finish it from a finished foundation and framed walls to “pillows and sheets on the beds” in about 8 days.

Anyway, here’s some memories of Budapest:

  • the contrast of the inside of the airport (like Frankfurt, but smaller) and the decomposing Russian airplane we saw on the way off the airport grounds.
  • seeing the Danube and thinking “hmm, it’s not blue. oh well, at least now I’ve seen another Great River ™”
  • people watching in the indoor marketplace; the grannies are always the best
  • taking a walk at dawn and watching the rising sun light up the parliament building
  • having a pint at the Irish pub on the boat (is there ANYWHERE the Irish have not preceded me with kegs of Guinness? God, I hope not.)
  • trying to buy a train ticket to a city spelled V-A-C by asking for “vack”, and getting corrected by a very confused and frustrated ticket seller once he understood I wanted to go to “vash”.
  • a priest in Vac who told me he’d come to San Francisco long ago during the Communist years.
  • a friendly cat up past the church on top of the hill in Vac

We flew in and out of Budapest, since at the time their airport had much better connections to western Europe than Romania’s. We spent the night in Budapest, then took a 8 hour bus ride across Hungary to get to Oradea. We worked ourselves to death, but finished the house on time. We rode the bus back to Budapest and had one free day there. Most people used it for sightseeing, but I was so exhausted from the final sprint to finish the house that I knew my body couldn’t take a day of sightseeing. In order not to tempt myself, I took a train north to Vac, a little city an hour’s train ride north of Budapest. I passed the day there, reading and napping on the banks of the Danube. Best decision I ever made in my life while traveling.


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