6 to 8 Hungarian Boys with the bluest eyes...dedicated to my friend Tran Peoples
Essay by Nancy Girouard
I am no David Sedaris but be prepared nevertheless to laugh possibly with tears in your eyes.
After over one month of roaming the Eastern European countryside by motorbike like a rich gypsy it is time to reflect upon my experiences and lament my intense desire to wake up, just for once, in my own bed.
It's not that the food here is bad but something chemical perhaps calls to me from the cheese powder packet inside a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. Or perhaps it's the true homesickness that kicks in when I go to the bathroom to find sandpaper staring back at me.
But I digress.
6-8 Hungarian boys. Truly. They do travel in packs of at least 4 (never have I seen less) and up to 10. Of course to even the odds, the girls travel in large numbers too. At first I worried, does this mean the streets of Budapest aren't safe? After having braved some long, dark and desolate streets after the opera at midnight I decided that this was not it.
Does this mean that they need someone to always have the torch burning so at all times a cigarette can be lit. No, cheap plastic bic lighters abound and they crush out one but not until the next is burning like the Olympian torch. Perhaps I long for a look of disdain when anyone even so much as thinks of lighting up...
Perhaps it is to have equal numbers for a match of pick up when said male band of brothers encounters giggling gaggle of sisters? Yes, I think that's it. One girl for every boy.
I live in an IKEA fun house. After snooping all over my apt, found the universally known “drawer of manuals”. Everything here was bought at IKEA, the furniture, TV & DVD player, washing machine and stove, heaters, rugs, sheets, light fixtures. I should think anyone wishing to stay here should be given an Allen wrench attached to the key ring. Heaven forbid you rattle the bed loose with your house guest who speaks no English.
Generally I find that when travelling abroad and faced with a menu in a language I cannot decipher, I find it relatively safe to ask the server what their favorite dish is...safe in the assumption that they know good food.
However after paying for two very expensive meals that were incredibly salty, I wondered if they had come to my apt to take salt from the only two bags of it in the pantry. I passed in front of Gundels, considered by most, the best restaurant in all of Hungary and laughed out loud as I passed thinking to myself, oh no, not again.
But do not despair. I finally had a great meal...and it came from a jar. Bolognaise sauce to be exact.
There are so many little luxuries that we have such as drying machines that make tigger look cute again. Quality soaps and detergents compared to the dollar store quality of the products here. Massive 64 oz bottles of conditioner and shampoo because let's face it, Americans waste.
But what makes a trip truly memorable?
Easy. The people.
Were it not for everyone I met, it would never have been as amazing as it has been. Taking a shower with a heated pot of water from the stove and a cup. Seeing men hauling through the house bags of hand picked grapes to a hand crank press.
Finding yourself crying from a pain level you have never experienced before being inflicted on you by a man old enough to be your grandfather without a word of English...and blessing his name and family the next day over the remarkable improvement in the mobility of your arm that you were ready to saw off.
Relaxing in the capability of exceptional hosts who take care of every detail and leave you wondering if they are mafia being so well connected and seeming to always know just the right person to fix things at border crossings.
Marveling at the probability of finding two people in a city of 15 million then later meeting one special person to show you that there is more to a baked potato than bacon, cheese, chives and sour cream.
Having the perfect traveling companions who are like a warm dry bed after hours of riding in the freezing rain.
Of all these experiences, the growing intensity of my dreams of my friends from San Francisco make waking up every morning a bit more difficult. It's people who bring us to tears and laughter and we are nothing without them. I can't wait to see you all...7 days and counting to some good champagne and macaroni and cheese. Amelie wine bar on Polk starting at 6pm Oct 17th until Nancy can't lay down without holding on to coin Dean Martin's favorite saying.
Should any of you wish to trace my final ride, it goes a little like this:
From Budapest, 100 KM SE to Kecskemet to see some horsemen and hopefully unload all the Rakia I have to drink. Unless it rains, as it's forecasted to which means I will skip that and head straight to the lake region of Hungary on my way to the Austrian border.
Veszprem then Balatonfured for some lakeside twisties and hopefully find a campground where no film crews are hiding.
Zalaegerszeg, say that 3 times fast...heading towards the Austrian border.
Graz then Leoben to find the hills alive with the sound of music.
Steyr, nearing the Czech border.
Then Cesky Krumlov, Hilary's favorite city (wait, I thought she hated cities...) Then Prague the 15th eagerly packing, drinking their local champagne which as I mentioned before is quite good and wearing something NEW!