Saturday, April 23, 2016

Short Visit to Hungary 2016

A while ago, I was found on Facebook by a woman who was collecting stories for a memorial book for the Karcag Jewery. Karcag is a small town in Hungary, where one of my grandfathers came from. I sent text and pictures and when the book was ready, the communitvy there decided to launch it in a festive way. They invited the families, dignitaries and an instrumental ensamble.

We thought it was a nice pretext for a short vacation, combining the book event with meeting friends and family and having fun in Budapest. And so we bought UP tickets online. For some odd reason, buying 2 separate tickets was cheaper than buying 2 together, and this of course impacted the seating arrangement.

After landing, the rep of the car rental company waited for us by holding a sign with our name  - a first for me. They took us by our future rented car (WW UP) to their office (2 km away), where we signed the papers and headed towards the hotel. If you plan to rent a car in Budapest, I recommend this cheaper option (the space further away from the airport is cheaper for the rental companies). However, only there I realized that the automatic shift stick was a robotical one, which was quite annoying for drivers like me used to the smoother version.

The 4-star hotel was decent, just the room looked straight out of the 70s. According to our freind P, who met us there with a local SIM card, the decor made him expect comrade Kadar Janos to welcome us in person. The location (the main reason we booked a room in this hotel) was excellent, close to a small park and public transportation. Later on we also found out it was close to shopping facilities. You can't return from Hungary without Pick salami.

That same day, our friend P giuded us through downtown Budapest and we had lunch at one of the restaurants in Gozsdu Udvar. What could be a better way to start a visit in Hungary than eating gulyas soup? As the weather was really windy, we met our friend K at a pastry shop where we had coffee and cake.

The next morning we headed towards the village of Kaposmero (a 2 hour drive) to meet friends, who live there with their talented dauther, five cats, a friendly dog, rabbits, many chicken and a rooster. They showed us around their farm and we had a nice lunch in this idylic setting, with chery petals snowing all over. After spending a lovely time there, we headed back to meet my cousin and her daugther for dinner at the hotel.

Lilac flowers have an incredeble smell
Samuel the Rabbit
The next day was dedicated to visit friends in another village (this time just a one hour drive away) on a Danube island. There I immediately felt at home (this was my second visit there) and started cutting up vegetables for salad. Just sitting on the swinging bench on their balcony felt like heaven on earth. Of course I realize how much work they invest in gardening so that the place feels like heaven for us, short time visitors. After a copious lunch, we returned to Budapest to see an operetta in the beautiful Operetta Theater (and I don't care what the cultural snobs think about this genre). Operetta and Budapest are inseparable. The shallow libretto sprinkled with old world nobility, the ear candy music and beautiful costumes transport you into a dreamland where all endings are happy. Add a glass of champagne in the intermission and the experience is complete.

The last day was dedicated to the book launch event (another long drive) in Karcag. We got there by noon, and were invited for lunch at the all-you-can-eat self-service resturant near the thermal bath. The simple, authentic food was cheap and tasty. We toured the tiny Jewish cemetery, strolled a bit on the beautiful main street and had coffee in a small ice cream parlor before the event began. After the introductory speeches, I was pleasantly surprised by the musical part. I expected a local klezmer group, but got the Budapest Festival Orchestra instead.
Karcag Town Hall

Full Synagogue in Karcag
A regional rabbi also spoke, mostly about hope and The Hope (Israel's national anthem), but the event ended without it being played or sung (although the Israeli flag was displayed along the Hungarian one). I felt disappointed, like there was no proper ending to the ceremony. Later I asked the rabbi why they didn't play Hatikvah. He explained in a roundabout way (a.k.a. a pile of excuses) that he was not in charge of the program and something about a minsiter being present. They weren't even sure the minsiter would have minded, but the organizers were afraid to upset the authorities.
Stained Glass Window
in the Karcag Synagogue
And that my friends is why I live in Israel, where the authorities are mine and I don't need to worry about upsetting them with my Jewishness. After the ceremony, all attendees enjoyed deleicious flodni slices (Hungary’s most famous Jewish cake). 

Hubby and Eva in the Karcag Synagogue
Jewish Cemetery in Karcag

Eva in the Cemetery
The next morning, we packed and drove to the rental office, from where they drove us to thre airport. I expected the regular security questions, but we were also asked what is the relationship between us. Told them we are married for 36 years, but the security person was not satisfied. She went on and on with questions about our aliya, place of birth etc. I managed to stay calm, but when she passed her suspicions on to her superior and he started all over again, I lost it. I always tell visitors to Israel to expect improper security questions and stay calm, but apparently it's not that easy. Of course I understand why they ask these questions and I don't want my plane to be blown up, but when they ask you personal questions, it just gets to you.

Lesson learned: next time we need to drive less and relax more.