Friday, January 29, 2010
By the time you read this, you may already have met your son or daughter at the airport or seen your friends back on campus. It is six a.m. Budapest time and the students are just waking up along the corridor of our guest house. Most of us will leave for the airport in about an hour to travel back to Minneapolis or other destinations.
I wanted to take a minute to thank the students for their terrific work in class, with the program and on the blog. You all did a fantastic job bringing our friends and family along with us on this adventure. I also want to thank you all one more time for a memorable month. I enjoyed the chance to get to know all of you, play cards well past by usual bedtime, do some math, share the Garrett tradition of "pol"ing and explore Hungary.
Safe travels to the group and all of you going off on more European adventures. See you on the Hill!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This afternoon we took a class trip to the Gellert Baths. Most of us went to the Szechenyi Baths a few weeks ago. Gellert is simply another location of a bath...Szechenyi and Gellert are basically two separate swimming pools in Budapest, except that they have really warm water. Gellert had different pools for guys and girls, and I will spare you the gory details, but let's just say some guys showed more skin and butt-crack than we were ever hoping to see in Budapest.
Tonight some of us also attended a futsall game. Futsall is basically professional indoor soccer, played on a hard court smaller than a normal soccer field, and there are no boards on the sidelines. Since the field is smaller, teams play only 4 on 4 plus a goalie on each side. It's very fast-paced and exciting to watch. Hungary is hosting the European Championships, so we saw a quarterfinal game between Serbia and Portugal. I decided to cheer for Serbia, but they got smoked 5-1. It was great to experience something close to real European soccer.
We got 3rd-row seats a midfield for only $13! There some teenage Hungarian soccer dudes sitting directly in front of us. I couldn't help but notice that almost all of them had mullets! So, if you are a teenager and want to be like cool European teens, get yourself a mullet. Or, if you are not a teen and also want to be cool, get yourself a mullet as well. I have included a video recapping a lot of our experience at the futsall game, including our favorite part: the Euro-trash-hip-hop male dance team.
The Budapest final countdown continues (cue classic song by "Europe"). We only have three more nights here. I feel as though it is nearing time to leave. We have been stuck in this weird middle place between being tourists and being citizens of the city. We're neither, but a little bit of both. It's hard to live like a tourist for a whole month, but I also haven't felt the need to get very settled in because it's such a short trip. Don't get me wrong; I have had a wonderful time here and will never forget the experience. But you know when you feel it's time for something to be done? Others in the class may disagree, but I think it's time to be done in Budapest soon.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Updates from FREE Weekend: Everyone got back safely and in one piece: the Vienna group returned on three different trains, although all were more or less a hundred Euros poorer; the boys survived in the Czech Republic; both of the international flights, from Amsterdam and Berlin, arrived without delay; and Tina returned from London with Cari whom we were all excited to meet. Although the trips were a great change of pace from our everyday experience, we all felt ready to return to a "normal" life back in Budapest. The best parts about our normal life here are the familiar surroundings, the quasi-familiar sounding language, and the Forint that is much more forgiving than the Euro. We will have a rude and unfortunate awakening when we have to use our own US dollars that we know for certain isn't ours. The Forint somewhat resembles Monopoly play money that we can use in real life but have no real concept of its actual value. Conversion rates are enlightening to a certain degree, but I haven't fully grasped the worth of the currency.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Szentendre is a beautiful town built along side the Danube. Despite the cold weather, we decided to take a walk down the bank of the Danube. With the addition of the snow on the ground, this scenic tour was quite stunning. At some places, there were streams running into the Danube that were small enough to feature some frozen wonders.
This trip was definitely worth more than the 530 forinths (less than $3) we each payed to go. It's definitely a good daytrip for those staying in Budapest. Also, who can resist a town whose baseball club is known as the Szentendre Sleepwalkers!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Once we got off the train and trekked to the center of the city, we immediately began to notice a lot of construction. It seems that a lot of the changes and renovations being put into place for the year as a European Capital of Culture are still going on. Large monuments were taped off and guarded while renovations were made. We could only imagine how beautiful the city is going to look in the snow-free spring and summer.
Despite the associated cold, we welcomed the huge flakes of snow that really set the mood as we hiked up some of the hills to get great views of the city. While Pécs is a fairly large city (about 150,000 people), it had a smaller town feel and appearance.
The largest group of students (a whopping 9 of them) is taking the weekend to Vienna (Austria), a historically popular choice for the Budapest interim's free weekend. Several students are making the 7 hour ride to Prague (Czech Republic) while a handful are staying in Hungary, making day trips to cities and towns such as Pecs, Szentendre and Tokaj. A few daring people are flying to larger and farther away cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and London.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
On another note, one of my favorite hobbies these past few weeks has undoubtedly been people- watching. Our commute across town every morning and afternoon carries us through some very energetic, busy crowds--presumably Hungarians on their routine commute to and from work or school. Over the weeks, my top three observations are: Hungarian commuters are polite, affectionate, and very, very stylish.
Polite: Even now that the strikes are over, public trams and subway stations are often very full, with people constantly sitting, standing, exiting, entering, stumbling from jerky stops (or maybe that's just us tourists) on the packed cars. Despite it all, and even with the language barriers, I've noticed that the elderly and handicap are always given a seat, that "excuse me" or "sorry" are frequently muttered, and that both passengers and drivers (usually) wait patiently for everyone to exit and enter the vehicles at each stop. And, in the unthinkable occasion when an Ole finds him or herself a bit turned around and unsure which direction he or she wants to go on a tram, it is plausible that a random Hungarian man or two who speak not a drop of English would patiently spend a solid five minutes pointing and gesturing until the student finally figured out where he or she was. Not that that has ever happened.
Affectionate: French kissing isn't only in France!
Very, Very Stylish: If you are a woman between the ages of 15 and 30 and you are every wondering what you could wear to fit in in Budapest, I guarantee a pair of dark-washed skinny jeans, tall black boots, and a black pea-coat with a cashmere scarf would do the trick! A few of us girls grabbed a quick lunch today then spent the rest of our hour shopping for what else but skinny jeans and boots. Tina warned us before we left that blacks, browns, and greys would be the most common colors on the streets, and she was right about that!