My first impression of Hungary was not a good one. As I drove down the littered road from the Ferihegy Airport into Budapest, the buildings were run-down, the fences were crumbling, the bumpy road felt like Indiana Jones’ wild adventure … Continue reading

The Faces of Budapest

If Budapest were a song it would have to be Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” All around the city carved faces look down from old facades at those below. Some of these faces look serious, others like they’re cracking up at what I’m wearing. Still others with their tongues sticking out remind me of my students’ poses on Picture Day when the photographer says, “OK boys and girls, now we can take the silly photo.” Continue reading

The Interview

When people ask me how I landed a teaching job in Budapest, I tell them it was because of my father. It was the spring of 2000. I had just flown from California to London to attend a large recruiting … Continue reading

The Passport

When I first arrived in Budapest and handed the stone-faced controller my passport, he flipped through the pages, reached for his big metal stamp, and pressed it hard onto the paper. Cha chug. I smiled when I heard the sound. … Continue reading

The Doors of Budapest

When asked what my favorite architectural detail is, I’d have to say it’s the door. Balconies and windows are nice, but they’re not very fun. At least with doors, you get to push ‘em. I’m particularly fond of old doors, and Budapest is chock full of them. There is something about a tall, heavy door aged with time that grabs my attention. Add decades of paint, an iron handle, and a worn knocker – even better. Such doors have always reminded me of the fancy, detailed covers on old, beautiful books. Both open. Both invite you to come on in and see what’s inside. Continue reading

Stuffed Peppers (Töltött Paprika)

No doubt about it – Hungarians love their peppers. The last time I went grocery shopping, four out of the five people standing in front of me in the check out line held plastic bags filled with them. Stroll across … Continue reading


Hungary’s most famous dish is also its most misunderstood. When I arrived in Budapest, one of my first surprises was learning that goulash (gulyás) is not a stew. It’s a soup. In Hungary, what Americans think of as goulash is … Continue reading

Hidden in Hungary

Growing up in California, I loved going to Disneyland. I liked riding through the canon ball attack in Pirates of the Caribbean, singing along with the toucans in The Tiki Room, and sitting with a ghost in my car at the end of the Haunted House ride. One of my favorite things to do in the park was hunting for Hidden Mickeys. These are images of Mickey Mouse that Disney imagineers conceal in attractions, buildings, gates – anywhere.

There is an animal that hides all around Budapest, too. It’s not a mouse, but a lion. Throughout the city, images of lions appear on facades, doors, fountains, bridges, balconies. Symbols of power and strength, many of these lions are easy to miss. Out of view, they often blend in. And just like at Disneyland, I like to hunt for them.
Continue reading

Andrássy Boulevard

Remember the children’s game Red Light, Green Light? Kids stand far away from the caller, who faces them. Every time he turns around, the children run toward him. When he whips and faces them again, the children stop. It’s a game of constant stopping and starting. Well, walking down Budapest’s Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út) is sort of like playing Red Light, Green Light. You’re forced to stop a lot. The buildings and their details are just too beautiful. Completed in 1876, this spectacular boulevard in Pest is the Hungarian Champs-Élysées. Recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2002, Andrássy út is lined with Belle-epoch mansions, luxury shops, charming cafes, and jaw-dropping theatres. Notable spots include Heroes’ Square, the Music Academy, and the Hungarian State Opera House.
Continue reading