Saturday, March 23, 2002

a few hours ago i was in hungary. tomorrow i'll be in russia. isn't it crazy? i got up at 4:30 this morning to catch a shuttle to the airport, leaving anne adorably fuzzy-headed and squinty in our bedspread-clashes-with-the-sheets-clashes-with-the bed. my mouth still tasted of the wine we drank last nite as we entertained and were cooked for by the brits, two bens we picked up the previous day almost right after i posted. all four of us were searching for the labryniths fabled to be beneath the castle. once down there discovered the maze, though old, is an enormous joke. "fossil finds" start appearing, roped off and with descriptive signs, about half-way through, of "homo consumerus": cell-phones, computers, an ATM, a huge coke bottle. and we assumed the hungarians didn't have a sense of humor just because they never smile.

the price of admission supposedly included tea so while we waited for it we got to know each other. the benz are old college pals from [around] london with very dry senses of humor and little in the way of plans. they'd spent the morning looking for the sewage museum, rewarded for their trouble only with sour looks. they willingly tagged along with us as anne and i had outlined activities. (how lucky was i to happen into a vacation with a cities major? the girl could na-va-gate. hooyeah.)
after an hour of waiting for tea, one of the benz went to inquire after it. he returned bearing mugs, grinning, repeating what the man behind the counter had said, in a classic example of hospitality, e. european style: "is museum, not cafeteria. get yourself."
we proceeded to a communist-themed pizza place called Marxism -- barbedwire fences separated tables; graffiti covered walls. then out into the city, without much luck, to find a bar. we ended up at a coffeeshop where a man played old american songs on a piano hidden beneath a blanket.
the next morning, anne and i wandered through the pedestrian [read: tourist] area, realizing the paradox of everything cheap, nothing desirable. we reconvened with the brits outside St. Stephan's basilica, paid the requisite entry fee plus extra 150 ft. to illuminate St. Stephan's mummified hand. the brits washed that down with street-vendor sausages, and washed the sausages down, more successfully, with sushi.

the weather, which had cheered up, wooing veritable throngs of hungarians, whose scowls relaxed for the occasion, into the streets, steadily declined again and the natives disappeared. we watched a folkdance and wandered over to the produce market to make use of the kitchen which buttkiss, our landlady, had insisted we needed. armed with two bottles of wine for the three of us who drank, vegetables, bread, cheese, and eggs, we returned to our lovely quarters, made dinner, got tipsy, exchanged info and said goodbyes. anne and i, once alone, talked more, read each other's fortunes with Gypsy cards she'd picked up at a cluttered drugstore, and slept.

it was an altogether enjoyable time, despite mediocre food, no nightlife, and a crazy landlady (she burst in while we ate dinner, suspiciously eyeing our male guests and trying to browbeat anne into changing rooms for the extra night she's staying even though she'd already paid for ours.) the charmingly-accented benz, though a good deal older than we, treated us like contemporaries. they complimented me on my sarcasm as well as my anti-social button, though in a gesture reminiscent of my one true ben, reminded me in a dead-pan voice that irony is a low form of humor. we spent a lot of time trading dirty jokes and learning each others' slang.
anne and i lucked out: going from never having spoken to spending 36 hours straight together could have been horrific. instead our approaches, tastes, reactions, and moods overlapped brilliantly. the turkish baths, an authetic 500-year old structure filled with pools of various temperatures filled in turn with women of various ages over 60, totally naked and doing stretches, made for an unequaled bonding experience.
i don't know when i'll next hit up eastern europe but i doubt i'll have more fun.

No comments: