The Symphony of Two Elderly Ladies

I’d like to start this post by quickly bringing up two things I’ve been meaning to say, then heading off to the main post. First of all, Kata told us yesterday that the blue metro line was shut down on Thursday for a short time because, as they were digging the tunnel to expand the metro line (a project Budapest has been working toward for a while), the workers discovered an undetonated (AKA “live”) bomb from World War II in the path of the metro line.

Isn’t that cool!?

So anyway, the second thing that I wanted to mention before going into the main post is Kata’s information about the attitude of Hungarians to policemen. She says that Hungarians do not understand Americans’ general cheerfulness toward their police force. We view the police as the people we go to for help, the people who are there to aid us. In Hungary, policemen are viewed as the “enemy” in a way, because they are notorious for throwing out fines or other consequences for inconsequential actions. Therefore, Hungarians do their best to avoid the police at all times. Kata went on to describe how frequent policeman jokes are in Hungary – it seems they’re probably about as popular as blonde jokes in America, and with the same flavor. For example:

A man asks a policeman, “How many pancakes can you eat on an empty stomach?”

“Six,” says the policeman. The man shakes his head and laughs.

“No,” the man says, “you can only eat one before you no longer have an empty stomach!”

So the policeman goes home and asks his wife, “How many pancakes can you eat on an empty stomach?”

“Three,” she says.

“That’s too bad,” the policeman replies, “because if you’d said six, I would have had a great joke to tell you!”


A policeman walks up to a vendor in the market. She is selling apple seeds for 10 forints. “If you eat an apple seed, you will become much wiser!” she says.

The policeman buys the apple seed and eats it. Then, he turns around and discovers another vendor selling a kilo of apples for 10 forints. He runs back to the apple seed vendor.

“There is a vendor selling a whole kilo of apples for 10 forints! How many seeds do you think that has!?”

The seed vendor smiles. “See, eating the seed has made you much wiser!”


So, on to my main post for today. I went to see Alessandra Pompili of Italy perform a short matinee piano concert at the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum here in Budapest. The concert was at 11 AM, so I headed out at 9:35 to give myself ample time in case the trams were slow or the metros packed. When I arrived, I (once again) had no idea where I was going. I swear it’s the building and not me!

Finally, I found my way to the concert chamber and waited in line, allowing the elderly folks (which composed the entire audience aside from me and one other teenage Asian girl) to go ahead of me. When I went up to the ticket man, I noticed that my particular ticket did not have a seat or row assignment like everyone else’s. I have no idea why, and neither did he. I was afraid he would not let me in, but he was very kind and just said that I might need to move if I choose a seat that belongs to someone else. That is totally fine with me, and I did end up having to move twice. Thankfully, I ended up in an awesome seat because of it!

So, I finally sat down in the concert hall — a beautiful but small room inside the museum. People are not allowed to take pictures without paying extra, so the following picture does not belong to me [the following image is the property of pianist Michael Sellers,]


After sitting down, I was approached on two separate occasions for being seated in someone else’s seat. It was no problem to move, and the other audience members whose seat I had taken were very kind about it. I was also very pleased to see that I had successfully dressed like a natural Hungarian — people assumed that I spoke Hungarian and asked me questions in that language rather than reverting to English despite the fact that I later discovered that they could in fact speak English.

Anyway, two elderly ladies were sitting in front of me and a little to the right when the concert began. It was obvious from the beginning that the two of them knew Liszt’s music very well — by heart, even. The lineup of songs was this —


Via Crucis

Sancta Dorothea

In festo transfigurationis Domini

Pater noster  (Költői és vallásos harmóniák, 5.)

As Ms. Pompili played, the two elderly ladies would nod their heads regularly in approval or shake them vigorously in disapproval. To be quite honest, they were slightly more entertaining than the pianist! Alessandra was very good, and the second half of the concert was certainly well done, but I feel that she did not pick songs that flattered her individual talents. Via Crucis was originally intended to be performed with a large choir — when played as a piano solo it can, in many parts, be played with one hand. Not the kind of music one should perform in front of crowd, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, those two were constantly getting me to grin without them realizing it. The old lady on the left was threading her fingers together and tapping them as if she were judge, while the woman on the right preferred head nodding. At one point, the one on the left was shaking her head in disapproval while the one on the right was nodding vigorously! They were quite fun to watch.

After the concert, Kelly and I worked on homework and continue to do that to this moment, in which I am taking a break to write this blog post.

Now if only the museum would have a Chopin concert….


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