The day I became a man!
15.11.2009 8 °C
I wake early as I know I have to be downstairs for the bus at 6.30 to Budapest.
The bus arrives at around 7 and it is a small mini bus that takes us to the central meeting place for the large bus to leave. There are a few different tours happening, so we stop at different hotels along the way to pick people up. The tour ends up leaving around 7.30.
We have a tour guide, who speaks Hungarian, German and English, very impressive. She is Hungarian herself.
The bus trip takes about 3 hours. The landscape is quite stark and quite grey. It is very foggy this morning, so I can’t quite see anything past the fog line.
It is not until today that I actually establish that Budapest is pronounced Boodah Pesh, two separate words. They were actually two different places and in the early 19th century became one place. Buda is on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. One is mountaneous, the other is flat.
When we actually arrive in Budapest, the first thing that strikes me is there is not much colour. I can’t describe if any better than that. It is just a very grey place.
We get off at Heroes square and are given a history lesson as to how the 7 leaders came from Asia and became heroes. We have 15 minutes to look around the 7 statues, but I’m much more impressed with going and seeing the children and families close by feeding the ducks. I’m missing the z girl and imagine that soon I will be able to take her to feed ducks somewhere.
We then head off for lunch and it is here that I meet Olga and I became a male for the day.
We went to a restaurant and I was one of the first off the bus. There were certain tables allocated for us to eat at. As I was hoping to interact with someone, I decided to sit at a table for four, hopefully prompting someone else to sit down with me. Most people filed in and sat at either tables for 2, or at other tables of four, not wanting to break out of their comfort zones. The tour guide comes along and asks me, is it ok for Olga to sit with you, she speaks English. I say, of course.
Olga shakes my hand and tells me her name. I notice an accent, a quite muddled accent. I tell her my name is Bernie and she says, what? Huh? I say it again, and I can still see no recognition. So I say Bernadette, my name is short for Bernadette. She smiles and says, ahhhh Benedict, what a beautiful name. He was a wonderful man and a saint and your parents gave you a good strong name. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t a Benedict but a Bernadette. So for the rest of the day I was Benedict.
Olga has lived in America for 60 years but was born in Hungary. She is presently recovering from cancer surgery and post cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation. She lived through depressions and wars, concentration camps and has generally had a hard time for a lot of her earlier life. Her parents then went to America after the war and she grew up there and became a nurse. She uses a cane as the treatment she is receiving for the cancer has affected her eyes. She asked me all about myself and I gave her a brief snapshot. We spoke a lot and she told me that if she was a male, she would marry me as she thought I was one great broad. I smiled. At least she acknowledged I was female even if she gave me a male name. Olga was 89. So, for all those wondering, yes I was hit on, albeit a sight impaired Hungarian/American who was 89.
The lunch was delicious. It is here that I have Goulash for the very first time and wow, it was awesome. It was hot and not too spicy. We then get served a pork dish. It was 2 pieces of pork that had been slow cooked. These were served over paprika potatoes. There was far too much food, but it was delicious. We then had a Hungarian chocolate cake. It had about 6 layers to it. It was chocolate and coffee, and tasted delicious.
We then headed back on the bus for the Buda side of the tour. This was the very hilly side. Olga said she wouldn’t go on this part of the tour but instead would sit in a cafe and enjoy the time to just sit. I noticed she had her camera and I asked her if she wanted me to take her camera for her and take pictures so that at least when she gets her sight back properly she will be able to see some of what she used to know. She said, you know Benedict that is a fine thing for you to offer to do for me.
So Benedict took the camera and gave Olga a view of Budapest through someone else’s eyes other than her own. No idea if she will like what she sees, but I won’t be around to find out, so no harm done.
We then headed to the Pest side and had some free time. We were told to try out the famous Hungarian cake shop. I sat in there and ordered a piece of Dobar, which had been recommended by the tour guide. It was also delicious. It had about 10 layers and a toffee top. It was beautiful.
The drive back to Vienna was uneventful. I nodded on and off, most of the other passengers slept.
As Olga is getting off the bus, she looks up the bus and says to no one in particular as I don’t think she could see where I was sitting. Goodbye Benedict at the top of her voice. I don’t know if the others knew who Benedict was, but Olga did.
What a lovely old stick Olga was.
Got back to the hotel and pretty much went to bed. I was exhausted. Being a man is hard work!