Tag Archives: Hungary

Ah, we will miss you Budapest

A tour of the Hungarian National Opera House was in order—one of Europe’s finest.  Emperor Franz Josef provided half the funds, but demanded that it be smaller than the opera house in his beloved Vienna.  The legend is that Franz Josef attended an opera here and left at intermission, incensed at this beautiful opera house so far away from Vienna. 



A special staircase was reserved only for the use of the Emperor and the Empress.  We did not use it either.  Their special box seating is still reserved for the president, the mayor and other dignitaries.  


Their private waiting room sports exquisitely carved wooden columns. 


The smoking section in the back is where the secret lovers would go during the breaks to snog (that’s Harry Potter speak, or maybe just British).   Writing this, I google “snog” to see if it’s actually a British word too.  As soon as you begin to type it in, Google fills in the rest of the suggested question, “is snog a british word”.  Apparently, I am not the only person who’s wondered about this critical bit of Western Civilization.  



We climb step by step up to Castle Hill on the Buda side of the river.  Several versions of the palace atop this hill were destroyed and rebuilt through the centuries.  As WWII drew to a close, the approaching Soviets laid siege to Castle Hill for 100 days.  The hill, and the city, were devastated. 



[waiting for the bus]

Wonderful views of the Danube and of the Pest side are free from here so you can save your Hungarian forints for goulash.  Many of the buildings we see were erected for the 1896 millennial year for Budapest.  1000 years of Magyar success.


It is amazing how much time we spend planning out our current—and next—travel itinerary.  It is all so worth it to see the kids’ eyes light up and to wonder what is getting into those developing minds of theirs.

While Lisa braves a local hair place we explore Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube.  This long, tear-shaped island is an urban playground for Budapesterians. 

We rent a silly bike cart that seats five. You steer it like a car.  The brake is a handle on the steering column, like a shifter in an old automatic transmission.  We take turns terrorizing—ahem, driving—and try not to hit any walkers, joggers or cyclists.  At times, I take over the steering as we near the concrete bank of the Danube.  I can just imagine the stories that will be told to mama if we end up careening down a bank and into the river.  One time Lisa left me alone with the kiddos and while I was reading them a story Will stood up on the couch arm rest.  Before I could get a hold of him, he lost his balance and toppled backward full-force into our bookshelf. He erupted into wailing and I could see the blood starting at the wound at the back of his head.  I did manage to get him off the carpet before the bleeding really started…  We were in the ER for that one with stitches but I think Lisa trusts me now with the peeps. Pretty sure.  

[When I am thinking clearly, I ask Lisa to proofread these posts before I post them.  As she reads this previous part she mentions, “then there was that time I was gone and Ana fell and hit her head on the windowsill and threw up.”  I kid you not.  So I suppose I take back the part about thinking she trusts me now with the peeps.  But it’s all good, she is a protective mama bear after all.]

It is a sunny day and the high-schoolers (or are they college students?) are out in a park doing team-building exercises. 


We drive around the island, weaving through people crowded around ice cream counters.  The kids spot a playground and there’s consensus, “we’ve GOTTA go play on that Daddy!”   When we return the cart, the young man checking out the carts takes our payment.  He mistakenly gives me less change but we get it all cleared up.  It makes you wonder sometimes when you don’t speak the language and stick out as an obvious tourist.  Honest mistake or wily, bored young man?  You’ll never know but it doesn’t hurt to estimate exactly what change you expect.  Trust, but verify as Reagan used to say—then, smile. 



Now I realize the smile is more for myself.  When folks crowd in and cut you off in traffic or whatnot, I can start to get all Jersey Turnpike.  You know what I mean, rarely is the best of human behavior showcased in traffic.  Hey, that was my 18 inches of buffer space in front of my car!  I am far better off when I remember to just give them the benefit of the doubt.  Dare I even say, to try and remember to love my neighbor.  I would love to aim for this righteous goal in traffic (or in crowded airports or train stations) but othertimes I am just trying to remember that when I start getting petty and small I just get myself riled up for no purpose.  I tell myself that life is too short for that nonsense but then that German on the autobahn is suddenly right on my back bumper and gesticulating wildly.  When he pulls up beside me to pass he emphatically gives me the two fingers pointing into his own eyes—the international sign for pay attention. 

I am familiar with some other internationally recognized signs used in traffic but I am grateful I somehow manage not to demonstrate them.

Do stressful commutes take years off our lives?  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.  And listening to great podcasts too!

The Great Synagogue and bravery


Budapest is a great walking city.  One perfect landmark is St Stephen’s Basilica.


We can’t seem to find a real coffee shop in Budapest, around our neighborhood.  They were everywhere in Vienna and Germany and we saw a few in Bratislava.  However, a fancy, restored Cafe New York with tall ceilings and billboard-size windows is perched on a busy corner near our hotel on bustling Erzsébet körút. (Elizabeth street). 

Though Budapest had an “ancient” coffeehouse tradition like Vienna, the Soviets shut most of them down.  They were concerned coffee shops would become convenient places to foment revolution discussions.  Since the revolution that did come, many of these coffeehouses are being renovated—such as the Cafe New York— to satisfy European desires for afternoon cake and coffee. 

This is all background to a visitor, except that here you tend to get your coffee from a machine.  I run early one morning to the corner bakery, buy some good-looking, unpronounceable rolls and ask where to get a coffee.  She points me towards a machine and I think she’s kidding.  You put in about 30 cents and select something that sounds like a cappuccino.  The small cup drops down into the holder and scalding hot java gushes.  You have to hold the cup near the rim and dash back to your place.  Later I discover there’s a Douwe Egbert’s machine in the parking garage and that becomes our new coffee “joint”. 

The Budapest Great Synagogue is the second largest in the world.  Any guesses on the location of the largest?    That’s right, it’s Temple Emmanu-El on 5th Avenue in New York City.   


Our guide, tells us that the Great Synagogue was built at a time when the Jewish community was increasingly successful yet seeking greater acceptance from within Budapest society.  When the building was unveiled, its critics called it “a beautiful Catholic synagogue” since it did not look much like a traditional Jewish synagogue.  It was consecrated in 1859 and is still active today.  If you are not wearing a hat as you enter the synagogue, a man hands the males paper yarmulkes to cover your head.  I have to keep replacing mine as I look up and up at the beautiful interior. 




In early 1941, there were over 800,000 Jews in Hungary, with most of them centered in Budapest.  Once the Nazis took over Budapest in 1944 they began deporting Jews to the death camps.  The area around the synagogue held the Budapest ghetto where the Nazis sealed all the city’s Jews behind high walls.  They were cut off from the outside world.  Food was not allowed in and trash was not removed.  The dead lay on the streets.  The buildings also became overcrowded, leading the spread of communicable diseases such as typhoid. 


Thus, the courtyard of the synagogue was full of the dead in 1945.  As the caption shows, over 2200 victims are buried in these large graves within the courtyard.  By the end of 1944, only about 25% of the Jews survived the Nazis and their ilk. 




After the war, prominent Jewish benefactors such as Tony Bennett commissioned the Tree of Life in the synagogue’s courtyard.  The tree sculpture is designed as an upside-down menorah. Its branches hold leaves bearing the names of loved ones killed in the Holocaust. 




Raoul Wallenberg is commemorated here as Righteous Among the Nations.  Righteous Among the Nations is an honorary title bestowed by the State of Israel upon those who risked their lives to protect Jews during the Holocaust. 



Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz risked it all in Budapest.  Though a Swedish diplomat, he was armed only with his bravery and moral courage (as noted on the official Swedish website about him). 


In 1981, he was awarded just the second honorary citizenship to the USA.  There are only seven, and their number includes Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill.  Wallenberg was a businessman and diplomat and was made the legation secretary to the Swedish diplomatic mission in June 1944.  The USA had created a War Refugee Board charged with getting Jews away from Nazi persecution.  With Swedish approval, Wallenberg’s job was to launch a rescue operation for the Jews.  He issued protective Swedish passports and rented “Swedish houses” (“safe houses”) for Jews to hide. 

He convinced the Hungarian Foreign Ministry to approve 4,500 protective passports then actually issued three times that many.  As conditions became more chaotic, he issued passports with just his signature and even this worked amongst the lawlessness.  To achieve his objectives, he even utilized bribery and threats of blackmail.  When word came that the Nazis would massacre everyone in the ghetto as the war drew to a close, Wallenberg wrote directly to the Nazi general.  He wrote the general that if the massacre took place, Wallenberg would personally see that he was tried for war crimes.  Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of lives.  In January 1945, the Soviets took over Budapest and imprisoned him.  Russia claims he died in a Soviet prison in 1947 but witnesses state he may have survived longer.  His whereabouts are a mystery.  There are monuments erected to his courageous acts in several countries, including five black columns in New York.


Carl Lutz was appointed as Swiss vice-consul to Budapest in Hungary in 1942.  He served as a diplomat in the US for over 20 years then another eight in what was then Palestine.  He secured permission to issue 8,000 protective letters then used that decision as legitimacy to apply those numbers to entire families.  He was able to issue tens of thousands of protective documents. 

The following is taken from his Wikipedia entry and quoted from Tschuy’s 2000 book about Lutz.   “One day,  in front of Arrow Cross fascist militiamen firing at Jews, Carl Lutz jumped in the Danube river to save a bleeding Jewish woman along the quay that today bears his name in Budapest (Carl Lutz Rakpart). With water up to the chest and covering his suit, the Consul swam back to the bank with her and asked to speak to the Hungarian officer in charge of the firing squad. Declaring the wounded woman a foreign citizen protected by Switzerland and quoting international covenants, the Swiss Consul brought her back to his car in front of the stunned fascists and left quietly. Fearing to shoot at this tall man who seemed to be important and spoke so eloquently, no one dared to stop him.”

Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, he was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations.  His efforts allowed 10,000 Hungarian Jewish children to emigrate and he is credited with saving over 62,000 Jews.  We stumbled across this monument to him in the streets of Budapest. 



The old Jewish quarter is now famous for its “ruin pubs”. You step through a low archway and a courtyard opens before you.  These pubs have multiplied and are hopping on a Friday night.

One night, I get a haircut at the tiny, brightly lit place across the narrow street from our hotel. It stays open late and has that ambiance of men hanging out near the doorway, like we do at barbershops all over.   Arabic wall hangings adorn the walls and the place thumps with loud pop music.  My barber is really friendly and is Algerian.  His English is very good, he also speaks Arabic, French and Hungarian.  There are other men cutting hair there and another man in his 20’s (?) who sits right near the barbers and talks to them in Arabic while watching videos on his phone.  With all the coverage of the atrocities in recently released internet videos and a few blurbs I try not to see on his device, I’ll admit to hoping they are not of the violent kind.  My barber has closely cropped hair and pays close attention to his handiwork even while we talk.  All of the other discussions in the shop are in Arabic. He is constantly smiling and the door stays open to the busy street.  There are not many customers.  He tells me how he and his wife will move back to Algeria soon.  I ask if she speaks the language and is ready to move.  He laughs and says that she will go wherever he goes. 

The next night, I take the boys to the other barbershop on our side of the street.  We discover these barbers are all Iraqis.  They are also very friendly and have Arabic wall hangings.  They don’t seem to have anything to do with the Algerians across the street.  My barber left Iraq about 1989 and he offers no other conversation on that topic.  Two young men, in very Western clothes, are being very specific about how their hair needs to be perfect.  One of them is sporting a very tight shirt and can’t take his eyes off the mirror.  Their requests are all in English. 

We open our windows for air at night and definitely get to sample the sounds from the nightclub across the street.  One night a large group protest moves down the street chanting.  The group moves down the street and around the corner.  Their joined voices come in through a different bedroom’s window as they round the corner.  We don’t know what they are protesting but they sure have our attention.  They finally disperse and we are left with the normal city sounds to fall asleep to.  You really get the sense this is a cosmopolitan city where people can afford to live and work and strike out from their old countries.

So, ever heard of Magyarország?

So, ever heard of Magyarország?


Well, we hadn’t either.  (“Mu-dge-ar-or-zaag”)  is what the Hungarians call Hungary — the land of the Magyars.  The Magyars roamed around raiding areas of Europe until they settled in the Carpathian basin in the 10th century.

Each European city  processes the remnants of war and communism in its unique way.  As you drive around Budapest you notice several damaged buildings.  Budapest has left intact some of the damage from WWII.  In front of our apartment hotel is a building that looks to be split in half and that someone has carted off one half for spare parts.  The tile walls and sinks of bathrooms left opened up to the elements stare at us through our living room windows.  

Vienna and Budapest have about the same sized population at 1.7 million.  But in Vienna, travelers mainly spend time in the old center inside the Ringstrasse (ringed street).  This limited tourist area results in a quite cozy and reachable feeling.  Budapest seems larger and less “packaged” for the Western traveller.  We welcome its cosmopolitan diversity and more affordable environment with delight. Although we had little difficulty, English was less prevalent in Budapest.  So far, we’ve spent time in and enjoyed the following countries.  Here’s a few facts for context.

                            Pop        Per capita GDP                Land area

Germany  80.8 mil     $43,332                        just < Montana

Austria      8.2 mil        $44,149                        just < Maine

Hungary   9.9 mil       $22,878                         just < Indiana

For reference, Germany’s population is equivalent to New York’s and Texas’ combined.  It’s no wonder Europeans are often amazed at the wide, open spaces of the USA. 

The lady who helped maintain our Viennese apartment made an interesting economic comment.  She’d lived in several countries in Europe and described the difference she’d seen in salaries for similar positions in disparate nations.  She remarked that occupations should be paid the same no matter where they reside.  As we checked into our Budapest apartment, the man behind the desk explained that to get to our third floor apartment involved having to go back out onto the street or take a serpentine route through the underground garage. He tells us the building was designed with minimal interior passages because the builder was “greedy.” 

Things are much cheaper here.  We bring home pizza for the family all for about $14–and have plenty of leftovers.

Here’s a dizzy panoramic shot of our apartment showing where school gets done. 


The Hungarian language has different roots than the slavic languages that border Hungary.  As we checked into our hotel, a Slovakian family (Slovakia borders Hungary) was also at the front desk.  They could not make themselves understood either and had to revert to broken English.

How do you go to church when you’re traveling all over?  This is a challenge we address in each place we visit.  In Mexico, while visiting Lisa’s family, we attended a service all in Spanish.  In small-town Bavaria, we knew no English-speaking churches were nearby so we had church in our lodge room, complete with singing a few songs and a Tim Keller sermon podcast.  No one banged loudly on our walls, so it must have been okay with the neighbors.  In Budapest we found a protestant church whose website had a lot of English.  The church was in an older theater and the sermon was in English with frequent breaks for the Hungarian translator to catch up.  The worship songs were mainly in English but a few were in Hungarian.  We were surprised to find many native Hungarians in the service, and had expected more ex-pats. 

I convinced myself to get up early enough to get out for a morning run before the family came to life for the day.  My sidewalk route took me down a busy city street full of morning commuters.  Some of them studied me curiously.  I climbed a bridge over the Danube and its morning nautical traffic.  Above the river, the bridge’s windy “peak” cooled my sweaty shirt.  A statue of a priest holding a cross over the city stood high above the bridge.  I ran through an underground tunnel to cross a busy street.  Seven or eight shapes in sleeping bags lay next to each other on the concrete.  I climbed up to the statue and gained a vantage point of the Danube, the Chain Bridge and the Parliament building.  



Budapest is known as the ‘Queen of the Danube” or the “Paris of the East.”  Budapest (“Boo-da-pesht”) straddles the Danube and is made of two cities—Buda and Pest.  Castle Hill is on the quieter, hillier side of Buda.  Pest is the busier, more commercial side that also holds Parliament.  Here we are enjoying the streets of Pest.  Note the Jeans Club sign in the background. 



I run over to the grocery store and shop with the commuters on their way home.  They have plastic baskets that you can carry or roll behind you with a longer handle.  In the produce section, (I pick up a few “paprikas”(?)—peppers) I turn away from my basket on the floor to wrap up the colorful peppers.  When I turn around, my basket is gone.  I stand there looking around and wondering if I Ieft it somewhere else.  A tough-looking security guy with a shaved head had been eying me earlier since I didn’t really blend in and had to ask someone where I might find the coffee milk (“cream”).  Was someone messing with the foreigner?  I wait for a bit in the produce section figuring someone has just accidentally walked off with my bin.  After what felt like an hour, I decide to go get a new bin.  But the one-way turnstile to get in will not allow me back out into the foyer to get a new basket.  So I just pop under the barrier and grab a new one.  I’m sure that looked suspicious.  I grab the same items off the shelves.  A few minutes later I’m back in the produce department when a lady returns my basket and has several questions (?) for me in Hungarian.  I ask if she speaks English and she doesn’t but still proceeds with her questions.  I try to get across that it is my basket and I’ll take it.  I saw a basket left in the aisle but wasn’t about to grab it.  The thick, muscle-bound security guy in the police-style uniform is really watching me during this exchange.  She keeps looking at me and repeating a few phrases and in response I am using my Neanderthal gestures and a bit of English to very little effect.  Ever have that feeling that you must look like an idiot?  I succeed in getting my basket back and the lady walks off.  I now have two baskets with identical items so I retrace my steps and put things back.   

I search and search for oatmeal and manage to find several bags of things that look like “meal”.  Rather than just buy something not quite right, I split for home since I’ve already been a basket “thief” or whatever just happened in Hungarian.  I get home and look it up in Google Translate and get the “zabpehely” the next time.   Of course, everyone knows that oatmeal is “zabpehely” in Hungarian!

One late afternoon, the clan meanders towards Freedom Square near the Parliament building.  The fountain turns off in sections as you approach it.  The kids have a blast running around the fountain as it shrinks away from them.  



If you are still enough, the fountain will “regrow” around you.  Will gets soaked, just for kicks.




Within yards of the fountain we notice shoes and handwritten signs hanging in front of a statue.  A civil protest is held here and it’s been going on for months, every night.  People, especially older people, fill chairs and make comments behind a microphone.  When is the last time you saw a protest by elderly people?  The age of the protestors gets our attention.  The statue depicts an eagle swooping down on an unwitting, heroic statue.  The handwritten signs in English and other languages explain that the Hungarian government recently erected this statue to explain how the Nazis attacked and took advantage of the Hungarian nation.  The protesters make the case that this is disingenuous, that the Hungarian government was in cahoots with the Nazis (at least initially).  The statue was built with government funds for several million dollars and they want it removed.  Two police officers casually guard the statue and watch the protesters.  History is alive here.




While looking at these shots, Ana tells me, “Dad, I hope that monument gets taken down.  I liked those protesters.”

In Freedom Square, we were surprised to find a statue of a US Army soldier from WWI.  Harry Hill Bandholtz stands proudly on a base bearing his quote, “I simply carried out the instruction of my government, as I understood them, as an officer and a gentleman of the United States Army.”  Bandholtz is remembered for helping prevent the arrest of the Hungarian PM and the looting of the Hungarian National Museum by the Romanian army in 1919.  This statue was erected in 1936 but removed in 1949 by the new Communist government.  In 1985, the US ambassador requested it be moved from a statue boneyard to the Ambassador’s residence.   Instead, it was relocated to its original place, before the US Embassy, one day before the historic visit of President George H.W. Bush in 1989. 


The kids kicked our soccer ball as they dried off.  Lisa and I enjoyed a coffee at a table beside the park.  We were delighted by a few dogs running in the park next to us.  A small, brown pup kept returning a ball to its owner.  But whenever he didn’t throw the ball quickly enough, the dog returned to a grassless spot and rolled in the mud over and over again.  You could practically see the smile on his face.  We laughed as he showed us how to enjoy the day. 


Bratislava and a Moscow Watchdog

We press on further east along the Danube, out of Vienna towards Budapest.  Lisa and I decide to make a stop in Bratislava, Slovakia.


Driving into Bratislava on a day of grey misty skies, the city’s streets hold few pedestrians.  The outskirts of the city appear to display the workers’ apartment blocks of communist cities.  As you drive in closer to the city center, you find the older buildings that clearly predate the communist takeover of the country in 1948.  The Bridge of the Slovak nationalist uprising spans the Danube and holds a UFO-like restaurant at its top. 


We drive in to get as close as possible to the square that the guidebook mentions. 


We are in the hunt for a place to get out of the car and eat our sandwiches.  Perhaps even a place that would let us eat at their tables while we order some coffees.  As anyone with a “larger” family knows (I’m not sure where the threshold is to meet the larger family definition) we are no strangers to opening up the trunk and handcrafting some PB&J’s in the parking lot.  Our trip is meant to invest time with family, to further all of our educations and to somehow glorify God in time together.  We are attempting to keep the trip reasonably priced and eat out sparingly.  Somehow gelato places still manage to sneak under the radar, similar to how the broken cookie pieces left on the plate contain no calories.  Of course, we watch the monthly food budget and try to keep a decent average nightly lodging cost. 

I pull up to a parking lot with a ticket machine in use, likely to raise the lowered barrier.  I roll my window down and lean out to read the Slovak signage and see if I can park here.  A man steps up to my window from behind us, and says with passable English, “ What are you doing here?”  I briefly explain our hopes to park.  He tells me it’s for residents only, smiles and says, “You leave now.”  It is one of those interactions where you can tell the connotation is not quite conveyed from the translation of one language to another.  He doesn’t appear menacing.  We laugh and I tell him, “I leave now.”  Time to find another spot.

The main square is a short walk in the rain.  Playful sculptures carry the tongue-in-cheek humor of the Slovaks. 


We head down the side streets clamoring to get a ways from the main square and hoping to escape tourist prices and the rain.  We find a delightful side street and a small warren of still narrower streets in this pedestrian zone.  This little alley holds the tiny office of a national embassy and a cafe at the end among the cobblestones. 


We discover a warm oasis back here of espresso and wi-fi.  A couple is already enjoying the cave-like atmosphere of the ten-seat joint.  Our kids are entertained by a flat-screen TV with an American nature documentary and a huge coffee table book jaunts through the headlines of the last 150 years. 



The kids enjoy the ambiance and the break from the car but the break is over too soon.  In the passageway outside, we wait for the girls after the typical family pit stop.   A tall man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots lopes towards us.  He looks to be accompanied by a small bear.  Of course, it’s not a bear but a huge dog—unleashed and slowly picking his way along.  The boys and I strike up a conversation with the man who turns out to be an American.  His name is Greg and it turns out the dog, Alex, is a Moscow Watchdog.  Bred by the Soviets, these dogs are roughly the size of a St Bernard but without the drool.  Alex is a gentle giant.  He is soon lying on his side and covered in our four kids petting him.  Hearing Greg’s English and his story was quite the serendipitous encounter!  He claims Texas, just like Lisa, and is married to a woman who hails from Slovakia.  His life has been a fascinating mix of military and political service and international business exploits.  Like me, Greg has also fought cancer.  Suddenly, Bratislava has come alive to us.  I don’t think we’d heard one native English speaker in Bratislava before Greg.  As we chat, a Slovak man comes up and is also arrested by the sight of Greg and Alex.  The man is eager to try out his English skills.  Greg obliges him and the man even asks if Greg is from Texas.  I continue to be surprised how everyone in Europe seems quite familiar with Texas.


[sample shot of a Moscow Watchdog]

As we finish up the conversation, Greg is gracious to walk us down the road, make some recommendations on what to see in the area and even brave the rain alongside our family.  Alex the dog attracts a lot of attention, and so does the cowboy hat.  I start wishing I had one with me.  The kids are talking all about our dog Samwise and how much they miss him.  They can’t stop running their hands down Alex’s fur.  I regret that I was so surprised by this whole chat that I forgot to get a picture of Greg and Alex. 

–update– Greg was kind enough to send me a shot of him and Alex.


Greg told us about the Primate’s Palace, or “Pink Palace,”  that was right around the corner.  He informs us this was the place where the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and Napoleon signed the peace treaty following the 1805 Russo-Austrian army’s defeat at Austerlitz that I mentioned in the last post.  We actually find the pink palace near the old square on our way back in the rain towards our car.    


[internet shot since we were running by in the rain…]

Greg had explained how to get out of town and his directions are dead-on to the Roman ruins that we find along the river on our way east.  For another welcome chance to stretch our legs, we climb all over the ancient, overgrown ruins of this Roman camp.  This was just a temporary Roman military camp along the river, and a part of their border defense system.  “Temporary” to the Romans meant this camp was in continual use for at least 200 years.  Some of the stone foundations remain as does the core hole of a well. 

IMG_6238 IMG_6241 IMG_6240 IMG_6236

Arriving into Budapest, our hotel is right in the city again, and across the street from a nightclub.  The streets are so narrow here that everyone parks on the sidewalk.  I have to make an 87-point turn just to get the car down the ramp into the underground parking lot. We put down a deposit to get the remote control to open up the hotel parking lot barrier.  And a deposit for the internet access device.  And a deposit for the second key. I skip the deposit for the iron and ironing board.  The whole clan is thrilled to find two bathrooms in the apartment.  We even have a balcony and a washing machine.  There is a tree climbing up next to our balcony.  The tree holds what looks to be a swim cap and a discarded swim suit.  Our guess is they were blown off someone’s drying rack from the balcony upstairs.  Either that, or the Hungarians are quite interesting… 




Dryers seem optional over here and we are always provided a portable drying rack in our apartments.   Our room is on the third floor and with a real metal key for the lock.  I put the key in the keyhole and it goes all the way through and out the other side of the lock.  It gets stuck and I am unable to pull it back out.  After some shaking and jimmying and maybe a bit of dancing, I am able to persuade the key back out.  Turns out, you have to put the key in just the right amount—not too far and not too shallow.  The key fits the lock either way, but will not open the lock unless you have the key turned the right direction before you put it in the lock!  We cannot wait to explore the city!