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
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
I’m so excited! Today, I just launched my first YouTube video about Budapest. If you knew how non-technical I am, you’d know that this is quite the accomplishment. A giant shout out to my friend Paul Corfield for putting it all together. You can watch the movie of my Hungarian home here at: An American in Budapest. You’re welcome to share it with your friends, too. Thanks for your support. Enjoy! Continue reading
Recently, I asked my third graders what they would do if they were in charge of the world. One said he’d make homework illegal. A second stated that he’d make soccer a subject in school. Another proclaimed he’d cancel bedtime. If I were in charge of the world, I know exacty what I would do. I’d get rid of all spray paint. Sadly, Budapest, like many big cities, has a tagging problem. Some people seem to be able to ignore it, but I can’t. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. Fortuntately, the problem is better than it used to be thanks to an organization that is committed to beautifying Budapest. Continue reading
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.
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
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
Hungarians in Hungary don’t do Halloween. Oh, you’ll see a few pumpkins at the florists and in an occasional restaurant, but for the most part, that’s about it. In Hungary, there are no Halloween aisles at the supermarkets. Hungarians don’t wear costumes to work. Kids don’t march in Halloween parades at school. And they certainly don’t trick-or-treat. In fact, except for what Hungarians see in the movies, the whole concept of walking door to door for candy is completely foreign to them. They don’t realize that trick-or-treating requires talent, skill, strategy, and finesse! This week I got into a discussion about it with a few Hungarian colleagues who listened closely as I taught them the art of trick-or-treating. Continue reading
City guidebooks will often describe the best landmarks, restaurants, views, and food, but rarely will they tell you about the smaller bests – like the best park bench, balcony, or cobbled street. I wish they would. To me, bests you have to hunt for a little bit are so much more intriguing. Today I’m going to pick up where the guidebooks leave off and share one of my town’s oft overlooked treasures – its trees.
When my friend Piroska’s kids were young, she noticed that they were arriving home from school late on Thursdays. After some investigating, she discovered why. On Thursdays, her neighbor’s grandmother came to see her grandchildren, and when she visited, she’d always make palacsinta - thin, crepe-like Hungarian pancakes. Piroska’s children would stop by on their way home from school to eat them. So, Thursdays in Piroska’s house became known as Palacsinta Days. Continue reading