Hungary: Before

by | May 2, 2017 | Hungary

Dear Hungary,

When I sat down to write my “before” post about visiting you, I realized only one major thing flashes to mind when I think of you. Goulash. That’s it. Goulash. What a disservice I’m doing you. Just goulash. Insert sad, grimacing, embarrassed emoji here. And even at that, our American idea of goulash is off. We say it wrong AND we think it’s a thick stew or a cousin of Hamburger Helper, when in reality it’s a runnier soup that looks delicious. Hell, I mix cottage cheese with salsa and crumbled tortilla chips and refer to it as goulash (hey, don’t knock it til you try it).

Sure, a few other things come to mind like Elie Wiesel (RIP) and I think I vaguely remember learning about some super old, dead Hungarian composer in my Music History class freshman year of college but I couldn’t tell you his name. I have visions of what I think Budapest looks like. I have a huge shaker of Hungarian hot paprika in my spice cabinet. Do Olympic medal winning gymnasts come out of Hungary? And a few months ago I heard/read less than savory news about your dealings with refugees (not that the U.S. has any room to talk, don’t get me started).

So there you have it; my sad lack of knowledge about you and I’m sorry. But please don’t feel bad. Feel free to commiserate with other countries who will be getting an apology letter as well such as Montenegro and Albania. I know I’m calling Albania my sleeper hit but that’s only AFTER doing research about it. Before that, I knew zilch about Albania.

But let’s look on the bright side! This is why we’re traveling. This is why we’re coming to visit you. This is EXACTLY why we are taking a trip like this. To learn and live what we don’t know. I know visiting you for only a week is not nearly enough time but it should give me a gazillion more ways to describe you than just goulash.

I’m so excited to try out theΒ Szechenyi and Gellert Baths, just a few of the 125 thermal spas that exist in Budapest alone. I had no idea you were a country with over 1,000 thermal baths. And I’m ready to get in touch with the sulphuric healing powers of the Lake Heviz thermal mud and water.

Thank you for cramping my brain and giving us the Rubiks cube. And an even bigger thanks for spitting out 13 Nobel Prize winners; more per capita than the likes of Finland, Spain, Canada and Australia – bagging every category except peace.

I’m glad I’ve learned ahead of time not to clink our beer glasses together and say cheers when visiting you.Β Legend has it that when the 1848 Hungarian revolution against the Habsburgs was defeated, 13 Hungarian generals were executed, with the Austrians clinking their beer glasses after each execution. As a result, Hungarians vowed not to cheers with beer for 150 years – and while the time has passed, the custom remains. Note. To. Self.

Not sure if I’m going to thank you for Palinka, an intensely alcoholic fruit brandy,Β or not but I’ll definitely give it a try. Sounds like I won’t have a choice. Don’t take offense, this is my reaction after any shot of alcohol.

You’ve given us Dracula (simmer down Romania), Hollywood big hitters, the worlds 2nd largest synagogue, and a language thought to be one of the hardest in the world to learn.

However, not sure how I feel about the fact that Hungarian parents are subject to a naming law when it comes to choosing what to call their children. Is it true that kids’ names must come from a pre-approved list? And any deviations from the list must be approved by application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences??? I take it we won’t find any kids there named Apple or Zuma Nesta Rock or Moxie Crimefighter? (Extra credit given if you can guess who these kids belong to.)

Let’s call it a truce shall we Hungary? I promise to give you a much more fair shake than just goulash, or gulyas if I’m being correct, if you promise not to judge me for being a naive nincompoop. Deal? Deal.

See you in August 2017!

Sincerely,

Alyssa

p.s. The famous dead composer is Franz Liszt, yes?

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