Aside

The Neverending Journey of the Microscopic Camel

Recently, we took a tour of Budapest (again), this time with a focus on the art and architecture of the area which exemplifies the art nouveau style. I’ll spare you the details; it’s sufficient to say that we saw some cool buildings and discovered some typical characteristics of the art nouveau style, such as beauty with function, as well as sunflowers.

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However, most of my post today will discuss the day trip that Kelly and I made to Szentendre, a quaint city north of Budapest on the Danube. We arrived at the dock at 8:45, eagerly awaiting boarding time onto the ship at 9:30.

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After a longer wait than we anticipated, we were able to board successfully. We sat on the top of the ship where there are no windows and talked for a few minutes before we noticed the large, looming mass of people surging toward the boat.

Kids. Lots of kids.

Cute but incredibly loud, fifty to sixty kids swarmed the boat and made their way up to the balcony where we were sitting. Obviously this was major Budapest field trip day and we were just not informed. No problem, though — the kids were a lot of fun, although they put my hearing through a few loops and crackles during the hour and half that we sailed with them.

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However, Kelly and I quickly learned that these kids on a Hungarian field trip were quite different from American kids on an American field trip. I don’t know about you, but when I went on field trips, my entire day was planned for me. I did not carry my own lunch, I was not allowed to go places by myself, etc. These kids pretty much had free reign — they ate when they wanted to, walked around the ship when they wanted to, and generally just did whatever pleased them, which happened to include regularly elbowing or kicking me in the back. I’m a patient person, and I know these kids are excited to be on a field trip, so I didn’t mind. However, quite suddenly and out of the blue, the kid behind me laid a sharp, powerful karate stab right in between my shoulder blades.

Quite honestly, I think he did it on a dare from his friends. But I tell you what, it hurt. Revenge-of-the-eight-year-old-no-jutsu.

So those were the kids we put up with for the whole trip. While it was annoying, it was also entertaining and informative at the same time. We could have gone down below and gotten quieter seats without all the kids, but we chose not to. The views from above the ship were great as we sailed up the Danube.

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And let me tell you something else about those kids. They each had like five sandwiches. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Anyway, the tiny town of Szentendre finally came into view at about 11:45.

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We waited for all the kids to get off first (which took quite a substantial bit of time), but before they got off they had to sing some traditional Hungarian songs with their teacher. The first and last we didn’t recognize, but Kelly and I noticed immediately when the song My Flower, My Flower started up (see one of my previous blog posts about Hungarian language for this song’s lyrics). It was very entertaining to actually know a song that the whole class was singing.

Anyway, we got off the ship and immediately…well, wait. First I have to note that we almost got trapped on the ship because I decided to use the restroom quickly and they corded off the dock by the time I got out.

Okay, back to Szentendre. We didn’t really have any sort of plan for the day as Szentendre is a very small town that is easily covered by foot in a day. However, since Kelly and I were both quite hungry (no pun intended), we headed down a side street and found a langos shop that has a great reputation for being one of the best in Hungary. Indeed, it was quite good — Kelly and I split a cheese langos. Still, I can’t imagine how good those things would be if they were homemade!

After that, we went into the center of Szentendre and discovered the numerous churches and religious artifacts housed there.

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The streets of Szentendre were cozy and small, lending a pleasant atmosphere to the place.

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We discovered a marzipan museum, where I tried my first piece of marzipan ever. I must say that, just like with the Turkish delights in Mostar, I’m addicted! The entire museum was filled with impressive, life-size figures made entirely from marzipan.

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After that, we went the museum for microminiature artwork, or artwork so small that it is microscopic and can be passed through the eye of a needle. It was amazing, and thankfully I discovered that my camera is actually capable of taking pictures through a microscope! Poor mister camel, always walking but never reaching his destination.

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These things were seriously cool, though. Here’s the info board that describes more about them.

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My favorite one was this chess board, which was not only incredibly small but also 3D and would move whenever you did.

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After that, we just wandered around for quite a while before deciding to visit a statue park just a little ways outside of town. When we got there, we found only four statues — not much of a park. Not to mention the statues themselves were…unique?

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We also discovered a very decrepit, abandoned-looking park on the top of the hill, although the swing was super cool.

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It was an overall creepy place surrounded by overgrown walls and worn out houses. Crows were cawing ominously. It was like something out of a Poe masterpiece.

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We returned to Szentendre to finish up our window shopping and head back to the train station. Although the boat ride up to the town was pleasant, there was no need to see the same scenery twice, so we decided that we’d take the HEV (suburban railway) back into Budapest instead. On the way back through Szentendre, we stumbled upon a dyer — you know, one of those people who dye clothes. Her specialty was the color blue, and we went in to learn a lot about how clothes are dyed and designed. First, she creates a paste.

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Then, she coats a designed metal imprinter with the dye and stamps the clothes. There are many patterns she can choose from.

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After that, she actually dyes the cloth. It was a really interesting find. We gradually wound our way out of the city and to the south, where the train station was. I stopped and got a cocoa palacsinta with a texture and consistency much different from the palacsinta I had before — this one was much more gummy. It was freshly made, but the texture was like playdoh almost. It was interesting. As we were walking, Kelly pointed out a Chinese fast food place, and we stopped in there and got a huge amount of Chinese takeout for like 4 bucks. I’m talking like we got half a bin of rice each and nine huge pieces of spicy sweet chicken each. It took me three sittings to eat it all.

The first sitting took place in a park across the street from where we got the food. We sat in front of probably the weirdest statue I have ever seen — a woman’s finger, pointing skywards and wrapped with a snake. I have no idea what was up with that.

So then we finally made it to the train station only to discover that the lady would not give us student discounts for the tickets (despite the fact that we honestly qualified for the discounts). So, we paid full price (which was still cheap) and dashed onto the HEV just as it was leaving. As soon as we got on, an old man came an punched our tickets and, in Hungarian, told us that we should have gotten a student discount.

Yes indeed, my friend. I’m well aware we were cheated. We tried. But thanks.

So there we were, finally on the road back home. I found it funny, looking at the Budapest public transit map and grinning at how complex it looks but actually isn’t.

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The views on the way home were great, ones we wouldn’t have seen from the boat.

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Overall, it was a very pleasant day and a nice break from the drudge of not doing much on weekends. What’s next on my adventure list? Well, stay tuned for next Thursday, for sure! 😉

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