B.U.É.K.! That Great Hungarian Abbreviation!

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One day my first year in Budapest I was giving my third graders a lesson on abbreviations. Kids like abbreviations. When given a choice, they will always choose to abbreviate a word rather than write it all out. For children, it’s way more fun to write Jan. than January and U.S.A. than the United States of America. After making a list of abbreviations on the white board, I asked my students to tell me their favorites. Kids have favorite foods, sports, and subjects in school. Why not have a favorite abbreviation? Continue reading

Korhelyleves – Hungarian Drunkard’s Soup!

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Happy New Year from Hungary! Last night, Budapestis rang in 2014 all over the city. I went down to the river to watch the fireworks show. It was packed. I should have brought my umbrella with me. So many people were spraying each other with bottles of Törley (Hungarian bubbly) that it seemed like it was raining champagne. Hungarians surely know how to celebrate. And yesterday I was Hungarian. When I finally waddled home I had quite the headache. It’s a good thing that the Magyars have something special for a Hungarian Hangover. It’s called Korhelyleves or Drunkard’s Soup. Nope, it’s not made of strong black coffee. It contains sauerkraut, sausage, and sour cream. Today, I made myself a giant pot. I needed it. I’ve included the recipe in case you need it, too. Happy New Year! Or as they say in Hungary - Boldog Új Évet Kívánok! Continue reading

Santa Claus is Coming to Town…Half Naked!

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Recently hundreds of men and women ran through the streets of Budapest dressed like Santa Claus. But they weren’t donned in fur. These St. Nicks wore swim trunks and bikinis! The skimpily-clad merry makers were participating in Budapest’s Santa Speedo Run, an annual event to help raise money for children’s charities. Continue reading

Forralt Bor: Mmmmmm!

photo by Lennart Guillet

I thought I knew how to do Christmas: decorate some cookies, write a few cards, sing along with Bing Crosby, hold back tears when nearly all of Bedford Falls packs into Jimmy Stewart’s house at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. That is until I moved to Hungary. Hungarians take Christmastime to an entirely new level. And they have a couple of wintertime pleasures that just might keep me in Hungary forever.

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Hunting in Hungary: The Lions of Budapest

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Growing up in California, I went to Disneyland just about every year. I loved 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 to hunt for Hidden Mickeys. These are images of Mickey Mouse that Disney imagineers concealed in attractions, buildings, gates – anywhere. In Budapest, there’s an animal that hides all around the city, too. It’s not a mouse, but a lion. Continue reading

Rakott Krumpli: Hungarian Comfort Food!

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It’s chilly in Budapest now, time for wearing layers. But it’s time for eating layers, too. Layered dishes are extremely popular in Hungary, and my absolute favorite is Rakott Krumpli (layered potatoes). Made with potatoes, sausage, bacon, and gobs of sour cream, it’s quintessential Hungarian comfort food. My first year in Budapest, Elizabeth, my cleaning lady, would bake a big casserole dish full of it for me every week and leave it in the oven. One day, I had to ask her to stop. My pants wouldn’t fit. Continue reading

Happy Birthday! Now Let Me Pull Your Ear!

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Yesterday, my Hungarian friend Piroska came up to me at work, reached her hand out, and pulled my earlobe. “Why did you do that?” I asked, surprised. “Because today’s your birthday,” she replied. “In Hungary, if it’s your birthday, you get your ear pulled.” Then she spoke in Hungarian. “Isten éltessen sokáig, füled érjen bokádig!” “What does that mean?” I asked. “God bless you, and may your ears reach your ankles,” Piroska translated. “The reasoning is that if you pull someone’s ear on every birthday, each year his ear will droop a little lower. By wishing him ears that touch his ankles, you’re wishing him a long life.” Darling.

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Jókai Bableves: Soup’s On!

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In Gyula Krúdy’s The Cookery Book and the Toy Shop, Sindbad says, “Since I find it impossible to eat the local fare, I carry a Hungarian cookery book about with me and satisfy my appetite by browsing through it everyday. It is written by everyone’s Aunti Rézi, but from this book I can lunch and dine to my liking.” I, like Sindbad, like to look through cookery books, too. And I agree with Krúdy who also writes, “a cookery book such as this is your best friend abroad.” Continue reading

The Flower Lady at Hunyadi Tér

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Outdoor markets. It’s one of the many reasons I love living in Europe. My favorite outdoor market in Budapest is at Hunyadi tér. A hidden gem just off Andrássy út, you won’t find any tour buses here. When I visit the Hunyadi market, I don’t just go for food; I go for the charm. Hunyadi is the kind of place where scarved vendors with rutted faces still weigh their produce on ancient scales. At the market, I always make sure to stop by Mrs. Torzsa’s flower stand. She speaks to me in Hungarian. I don’t understand most of what she says, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Continue reading

All Saint’s Day: The Statues of Kerepesi

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In Hungary, November 1 is a national holiday. It is All Saint’s Day, or Mindenszentek Napja, a day to honor those who have passed away. The week before All Saint’s Day, many Hungarians visit the cemeteries to clean the graves of deceased family members, light candles, and leave flowers. I wish in America we celebrated Mindenszentek Napja the way Hungarians do. It’s a day of respect, honor, and reflection. For today’s Wednesday Walk, I will take you to Kerepsi Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in Budapest and one of the oldest  in Hungary. A peaceful oasis in the heart of the capital, it’s no wonder Kerepesi is known as one of the most beautiful statuary parks in all of Europe.  Continue reading