Foodie Focus, Hungarian Scrabble, and a Halloween Cemetery Visit

Let me introduce this normally cheerful blog post with the news that, after searching for four days over 12,000 square nautical miles, the Coast Guard has suspended the search for Captain Walbridge of the HMS Bounty, mentioned in my previous post. This is a sad turn of events, but one that I feared was unavoidable. Most likely, he will not be found alive, if ever. He leaves behind a wife and children.

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Now, on to happier things, because I can’t dwell on the Bounty tragedy forever. Kelly and I have been out and about in Budapest trying a whole bunch of new restaurants (and some old favorites). I’m going to the Great Market Hall later today, as it’s my favorite place in all of Budapest to get one of my favorite Hungarian specialties — langos. Totally looking forward to it.

Aside from that, Kelly and I took some time out to go and find this pretty awesome burger place hidden in the back alleys near Astoria. I treated her to the meal as payback for her lending me a couple extra euros for Athens so I didn’t have to get nailed with a $5 ATM fee to withdraw money in Greece. The waiter was kind, and we both just ordered regular cheeseburgers, just to test the place out before diving into more intense bacon burgers and whatnot.

I haven’t had meat in so long over here, because it’s insanely expensive (as is cheese). I’ve become pretty much vegetarian. That won’t last after this semester, though. Only a vegetarian through necessity 😉

Seriously, though, you walk into the stores and see a small triangle of cheese for 5200ft. That’s roughly $25.50. For a small triangle of cheese. I could eat that triangle in one sitting. Buying meat brings you into much the same price range, unless you want to buy chicken necks. And now you see why I’m temporarily vegetarian.

So anyway, it was nice to have some meat again — I do only get it when I’m in restaurants here. When the waiter brought the plate of food, I was taken aback. I asked for meat, and by golly I got it.

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Yeah, that thing with the tomatoes and onion on it? That’s the other half of my burger. Monstrous. Not to mention the bucket of fries. The burger was good, but by the end I was ready to call it quits. I’m not such a burger fan even in America, and with that much meat, the flavor (which was juicy and good, don’t get me wrong) was getting to me. However, I punched through and finished it. All of it.

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While we had been waiting for our food, I looked over at the shelf behind her and said, “Oh, Scrabble! Wait, I wonder if it’s Hungarian Scrabble.” At first, she didn’t know what I meant, so we got it out and started a game. Soon enough, though, she saw that I had been right.

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Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more.

So the rule was this: use Hungarian words when you can and English when you absolutely have no other choice. I ended up using way more Hungarian words than Kelly, but that’s only to be expected since I have an entire semester of Hungarian and she had only two weeks at the beginning like everyone else. No one besides me was interested in the language aspect of Hungary. Oh well.

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Yes, we did use every letter in that Scrabble game, and we finished. I was quite impressed with some of my words — gulyas, kutya, tarka, and tabak. And none  of those words came from copying words off of the menus or rulebook, if you can believe it. 😉 We left a tip for the waiter and headed off to our next destination after the game, and I paused for a moment to watch news of the Bounty flick across the TV screen, where the American CNN was playing.

We retraced our steps to the main street, the frigid cold biting straight to our bones despite the gloves and layers of jackets. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far of a walk to the Choco Room for some nice, piping hot hot chocolate.

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The atmosphere inside really impressed me — leather couches and chairs, low lights, a TV playing some quiet background music, and probably only enough room for about twenty people MAX (and it would be uncomfortably crowded at that). There was a couple sitting on the far couch when we walked in and another set of friends just ordering, and that was all. Although I was able to understand about 80% of the menu, the waiter was kind enough to translate each flavor for us. Kelly got a tiramisu hot chocolate, and I settled for a white chocolate with nuts (you don’t get nuts much here either). It was dark, so the picture didn’t really turn out well, but we got our hot chocolates in no time and with a complimentary sweet biscuit in it and two more on the side!

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Mmm. Mine looks like an egg. 😉

Anyway, it was fantastic. Just like typical European hot chocolate, it was like pudding, and the white chocolate was very, very sweet and creamy. I will definitely be going back there again. Cheap, too!

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The couple days after that were somewhat dreary. The rain never stopped, flooding the already frigid world with an unpleasant dampness. I got pink-eye, which I usually get every year or alternate year, so I was not at all surprised. Around the same time (and conveniently on a day when I had to work, which involves a lot of talking in a steady voice), I also got a pretty bad sore throat. The pink-eye has since healed itself, but the sore throat seems to have run its five day course and is now morphing into some kind of cold or something. I’m not sure, but I can’t sleep very well.

Despite my sickness, Kelly and I couldn’t help but venture back out into the city for All Saint’s Eve, which occurs on November 1, the day after the Day of the Dead. So technically, we didn’t visit a cemetery on Halloween. We did it the day after.

On All Saint’s Eve, people return to their family graves, clean them off, and adorn them with flowers and other furnishings in order to spend time reflecting on their lost family members. Being in a cemetery was kind of a surreal experience, given the recent series of uncanny events. Hurricane Sandy — despite being a mere category 1 — hit America on a full moon, when the tides were highest, uprooting trees and bringing graves’ coffins to the surface in some cemeteries. The loss of Claudene Christian and Captain Walbridge from the Bounty and the sense of finality that it brings was only clearer in a cemetery. Lots of strange happenings recently.

Anyway, as Kelly and I wandered down the meandering graveyard paths in the darkness, we couldn’t help but pause at some of the graves to admire the evidences of how much the family cared for their deceased loved ones.

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As we walked, we passed a huge collection of candles sitting on the side of the road. Unfortunately, with the strong winds and the rain from the day, most of them had gone out. Kelly and I stopped and relit some of them, knowing that they wouldn’t stay lit again for long anyway.

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It was a nice way to spend a dreary, rainy night. As for what’s in the forecast for next week (both weatherwise and otherwise), I have no idea. A Hungarian midterm is all I know about, but I’m sure that my spontaneity will catch up with me and I’ll end up doing some awesome things. Until then!

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