Entry 11 – April 25, 2010

Well, it looks like I’m down to one update a month. Hopefully they aren’t getting too long for anyone who is reading. This post doesn’t cover everything to today’s date, but I will post again soon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aston Martin near our flat

Today we decided to work from home again. We went to school in the afternoon for our language and culture classes, though. As we were going to school, the metro inspectors were checking everyone’s passes as they LEFT the metro. They pulled Matt aside and tried to tell him that his student card was expired or something (which it wasn’t). They were expiring the following week, though.

On the way home, Matt and I bumped into his Canadian friends who were studying at Capenray in Germany this term and were visiting in Budapest. They had briefly stopped by Sunday morning while I was sleeping, but I actually got to meet them here. Matt invited them to spend the evening at our flat. They came over and played some card games. As they were leaving, one girl knocked over a box and was very apologetic. She said something to the effect of “everything I touch breaks! The next thing I touch will probably break too!” She then proceeded to touch the light shade and it broke clean in two. I guess the plastic was pretty cheap and not meant for the high temperatures of the bulb it was housing, so it got really fragile. It was pretty funny.

Oh ya, I also saw an Aston.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Again, we worked from home. In the afternoon we went to see a “100 Wonders” exhibit. This was an exhibit of all sorts of Hungarian inventions. It was pretty cool. We probably stayed an extra half hour or so longer than the rest of the ESN group because we were so interested by everything. Matt bought a board game called “Cubi-Cup” which I was also thinking I might buy but was hoping I could find somewhere else for cheaper. It is a pretty fun game.

Some neat old buildings at Ferenciek tere, outside the 100 Wonders exhibit.

A hologram at 100 Wonders. Sadly it was only visible in front of that big mirror.

Foamed aluminum. One is made like foam on beer, the other like foam in baking, or something like that. This yeilds very light, strong material.

This object has only one stable point dispite being of a consistant density. I am still unconvinced of its uniqueness, but it is supposedly the only shape of its kind.

Bricks made from seeds

Cardboard coffee table (there was other furniture as well)

After 100 Wonders, I went with Sunny for supper with his friend and Kieth, a U of M computer engineering student who is also working at the university in Romania. They all came over for a little while after and then as the evening progressed, I slowly began feeling as though I was coming down with something.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today I woke up in a crazy sweat with a sore throat and a mild headache (not as bad as the previous two days, anyway). As a result, I skipped school entirely, as did Matt whose back was not doing so great again. The two Canadians working in Romania came by again in the evening briefly on their way to some other place.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not much happened today: I was still sick, so I skipped school again to rest. In the evening, Sunny and Matt left to Munich with a bunch of the ESN students.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today I got up early to attend an all day training seminar run by BEST Budapest, a European student group. I still wasn’t feeling 100%, but I felt good enough to go out. I signed up for the time management seminar and showed up 5 or 10 minutes early (maybe I didn’t need the seminar that badly after all). No one else showed up until almost 10 minutes after the starting time (including the instructors). It turns out that the enrollment for the time management and conflict management courses was really low, only 4 students per course. They decided to merge the two groups and do a four hour conflict management seminar in the morning and a four hour time management course in the afternoon.

The conflict management course was alright, but I was still feeling a little iffy and almost went home. I decided to tough it out and was glad I did. The time management course wasn’t really what I had expected, but it was quite good. A lot of it was stuff I had heard, but hearing it all together helped solidify things in my brain. On of the bigger take-aways from the day: follow your dreams and use those dreams to determine if your tasks for the day can help you achieve those dreams. If they do, you are not wasting your time. First, figure out your dreams, then break them down into various concrete goals, then tackle each goal, one at a time, by breaking them up into small, achievable tasks. When sorting through your tasks, try to eliminate anything that doesn’t directly move you towards your goals.

Another good piece of advice, though possibly hard to follow in practice, is to not worry over things you have no power over, just focus on the things you have the power to change, such as yourself. As an example, don’t take offense to things people say or do as that is counter productive. Instead, try to learn and grow from them.

I got home after the long day of training still not feeling great, so I just lazed around for the rest of the day and went to bed early.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Amara’s here! I got up relatively early to tidy up the flat a bit and then in the early afternoon hopped on a metro, followed by a bus, to get to the airport. It took over an hour to get to the airport. Amara’s flight was right on time, but it was about 45 minutes before she actually came out. It turns out they had lost one of her bags and so she had been running around trying to get things sorted out. We took the MiniBusz back to my flat and just took some time to relax as she settled in. Later on, we went grocery shopping and made supper (stuffed pasta and frozen veggies). We then proceeded to stay up late getting caught up.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We were awoken early (7 am?) by a phone call from the airport saying that they had Amara’s lost bag and that they could drop it off. We confirmed the address with them and then went back to bed. Around 8, we got anther call from someone that didn’t speak English, but I caught the word “airport” so we quickly got changed and ran downstairs to collect the lost bag. On our way down, the airport called again (English speaker this time) asking us to go down and let the baggage delivery guy in. We got outside (it was a gorgeous day) and collected the bag. After checking the time and realizing how little sleep we’d had, we promptly went back to bed.

Since Amara was still jet lagged and I was still not quite 100%, I think we ended up sleeping until shortly after noon. It was also Hungary’s DST change day so we lost an hour over night. We ate “breakfast” and then walked to Hero Square and City Park. We spent pretty much the rest of the day walking around there. We came home and then had a late dinner consisting of the previous day’s leftovers. We watched an episode or two of the TV show LOST while we waited for Sunny and Matt to get back from Munich. When we looked at a clock and realized it was already 1:30 am and that we were already starting to drift off, we decided to call it a night and went to bed.

Hero Square

City Park

City zoo, I think.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Today we ended up sleeping until after 11, so we skipped work and just went to school for our language course (culture was cancelled for that day, which meant I got to spend more time with Amara :) ). We got home and then hung around for a little while as we waited for Sunny to get home. We need to do some grocery shopping, so we were waiting for his input. When he got home, he decided that he would cover his own food for the next couple of days as his friend was coming back for a fewmore days and they were likely going to be having all their meals together, so it was a good thing we waited.

We had a late lunch (more leftovers from Saturday; that one bag of pasta lasted Amara and I pretty much two and a half meals and our first week here Sunny, Matt, and I consumed two whole bags of the same stuff for one meal) followed by our grocery shopping trip. Amara and I went to get a copy of our keys made as keys are needed to get out of our flat (bad in case of fire).

Our original plan for the afternoon/evening was to then check out the Parliament building, but their website quickly informed us that their English tours had already ended at 2 pm, so we decided to save that for the weekend. We ended up just walking around for an hour until we went home to make supper (roast potatoes, sausage, onion, and peppers). After supper we went for a short walk along the river. When we got back to the flat, we watched another couple of episodes of LOST, talked for a bit, then went to bed.

Side note: throughout the day, I spotted a Bently, another Maserati, and a Ferrari.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I took Amara to get her transit pass early in the morning (we had delayed it so that her one week pass would last her the duration of her stay here). She then came to work to get a brief tour of the campus I am working at and then she studied in the lobby of my building while I went to work on my project.

After work, we walked to Gellért Hill. After my first climb of the hill, I decided Amara and I should do it too, but this time we climbed up from the opposite side. This side was quite a bit steeper, but it had some great views. I think at one point there is a view that is recognized as one of the most scenic views in the world.

Graffiti at base of Gelért Hill

Neat pillar at base of Gellért Hill

Parliament as seen from Gellért Hill

When we got to the top, we took a nice long break and just sat on a bench looking out across the river. The steeper climb was quite a workout, plus we had our backpacks since we came straight from school. It was also very warm out. After looking at a few souvenir shops (I now have a pin for Hungary and Amara has some earrings) we walked back down on the side I had previously climbed up a few weeks ago. It seemed much easier, probably because it was getting cooler out and there was a bit of a breeze.

Buda Castle as seen from Gellért Hill

We decided we still had some energy left in us, so we walked across the nearest bridge (it is the big green one, though I don’t know the name) back to the Pest side of the river. We found ourselves in front of the Great Market, so we went to check it out. Upstairs there is a ton of touristy shops which I hadn’t seen when I first was at the market. We bought some pastries at one of the market shops, plus a few veggies to replenish our stock back home, and then continued walking for a few blocks until we found a park bench at which to eat our pastries.

After resting there for a few minutes just looking around, we kept walking down the street as it seemed very interesting (Amara liked that a  large amount of book stores were lining the street). Eventually we just happened to end up at Ferenciek tere, the intersection where the 100 Wonders exhibit was. I was telling Amara how that intersection has some really neat buildings and so it had been added to our list of places to visit, so we were able to cross off a bunch of things from our list without even trying. We turned down one of the streets at the intersection and found ourselves in a pedestrian only area. There were blocks and blocks and blocks of foot traffic areas, all quite crowded. There were lots of outside seating for restaurants, lots of fancy shops, living statues, violinists, all sorts of neat stuff. We just wandered around pretty much until we got tired. Since we just turned down random streets as they looked interesting, I wasn’t quite sure where we were, but we eventually emerged at Déak tér and took the metro a couple of stops back to our place, ready for supper (spaghetti).

After supper, we played a bit of Cubi-Cup. Eventually Sunny and his friend got home, but quickly snuck into Sunny’s room so Amara didn’t really get to meet his friend. We talked, watched some of “James May’s Toy Stories” (a BBC show about old toys used at on a grand scale and hosted by one of the hosts of Top Gear, another of my favorite BBC shows), and then called it a night.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I got up early to go to work and let Amara sleep in. I had language at the end of the day, so I got home a little later than the other days this week. After school, Amara and I went to Allee shopping mall to do some quick shopping (I now have a European model car which I had been planning on doing since before I came to Hungary; it is a Smart Roadster for anyone interested). We got to the mall only an hour or so before all the shops were closing, so we didn’t stay for too long.

Next we walked up a few blocks to catch a tram that would get us back across the river to the start of the number 2 tram. This particular tram runs along the Danube, so it has nice views across the river. We took the 2 up to Széchény Chain Bridge, walked across it, and wandered around until we found Fisherman’s Bastion. I had been there once before as part of our orientation week tour, but the views are great so I had to take Amara there. After spending quite a while there, we walked back down to the river, walked along it back to Chain Bridge, and crossed it to catch the number 2 tram again. Across from the bridge, though, there was a very brightly lit up building that seemed really interesting, so we went to check it out. It turned out to be a Four Seasons Hotel. It was pretty fancy looking. After that, we got back on the 2 and went to the north end of the line, passing parliament on our way, and ended up home pretty late.

Parliament as seen from Fisherman's Bastion

View from Fisherman's Bastion

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Today I slept in a little bit before heading off to work. I got home, had a snack, then got ready to go out to the opera with Amara. The opera house was very beautiful. Our culture prof had said that it is very similar to the one in Vienna, just with everything scaled down slightly. It was cheaper to go to see a show at the opera than a tour, so that worked out nicely. We went to see “Blood Wedding”. It was very dramatic and a bit on the gloomy side. It wasn’t too bad, though the part where the crazy guy in the white leather suit stripped down to a gold speedo and started painting himself in blood with a giant paint brush was a bit weird….

After the opera, Amara and I went for dinner to a nearby restaurant called “Karma”. There was a little pedestrian only street near opera fully lined with restaurants, most with patio seating, and so we just picked one at random. I had chili chicken and noodles, Amara had paprika chicken, and then we shared a Belgium chocolate fondue for dessert. It was a very good dinner. After our meal, we went back home and called shortly called it a night.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Today we worked from home. In the afternoon, Amara and I went to check out Kerepesi Cemetary. We took lots of pictures. There were some crazy monuments there. I also found an old bullet casing.

I found this bullet casing in the cemetary

An interesting building I spotted on our way back from the cemetary

In the evening we had a dinner party with all of the Canadians (including Amara, obviously) and Andrew’s… girlfriend? I’m not quite sure the relationship status there, but she is Hungarian. We made our “Hungarian style poutine” and were going to make meatloaf, but by the time we were about to start cooking, we realized we didn’t have anywhere near the amount of time needed for the thing to cook, plus we needed the oven for fries, so Amara and I made this fruit juice chicken breast stuff that she learned how to make in high school. Basically it was just chicken breasts coated in flour tossed into a pan with a bunch of chopped up onion. After a small amount of frying, we poured in some red orange juice and some chopped apples (I think she said it is normally done with oranges, but we didn’t have any). Dinner ended up going very well, though we all forgot to take pictures of it. We all just hung out playing games and talking until after midnight at which point Sunny, Andrew, and Kitty (Andrew’s “friend”) went to a party and Cam went home to play video games. Amara, Matt, and I promptly went to bed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today we slept in and then tried to do parliament first thing in the afternoon, but when we got there, a sign said they were sold out of tickets for the day. Instead of doing that, we decided to go to Margaret Island and walk around. On our way we picked up a couple pastries and ate them on a bench facing out to the river where we saw a bus driving on the water. In the park there were a bunch of 4 wheeled, pedal powered 2-4 person vehicles all over the place as well as a bunch of electric golf cart type things styled like they were from the 20’s. Margaret Island is basically just one huge, beautiful park. As we were leaving the island, I saw another Ferrari drive by, this one much older than the last one we saw.


Look! A bus driving in the water!


After visiting the island, we continued across the river and walked all the way over to Buda Castle. We approached it from the west side where it is extremely tall. I think I counted upwards of 10 storeys. Every couple of floors, the exterior styling changed slightly, so it almost looked like they had just dropped a bunch of buildings from different time periods on top of each other. Eventually we found a way to get up to the main level of the castle, the bit atop the hill. It was massive and was great place to look around.

The view from the west side of Buda Castle

We ended up stumbling upon a restaurant that was serving goulash soup + a strudel as their special, so we stopped in there and shared a meal so that we could both say we had goulash in Hungary. It was very good and the strudel was one of the cottage cheese ones with a vanilla sauce. As we continued walking around Buda Castle, we kept getting whiffs of this amazing pastry type smell. We think it was these tube pastry things, but we never ended up getting any. Maybe another time.

This was part of our view while eating goulash soup and a strudel.

My view from dinner (not bad, eh?)

The view over my shoulder

After the Castle, we went to the labyrinth under the hill. From 6 to 7:30 pm they turn off all the lights in the labyrinth and give all the visitors lanterns and let them wander around. It started off a little on the creepy side as there were random, back lit holes everywhere with rod iron covers and they were all emitting a strange tapping sound. Eventually it turned into more of a museum, though. All the exhibits seemed to be satirical of what future people might think of our modern day civilization. I thought it was a bit amusing, but we agreed that it was strange to put such and exhibit in the historical labyrinths under the hills.

An interesting room in the Labarynth

This was a fountain in the Labarynth that had wine flowing through it symbolizing the prosperity of the royal family... I think.

Following the labyrinth, Amara and I just wandered around the castle district for a little while until we ended up back at the river. We walked back up the river and took the tram across it back to our flat.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today we woke up early to go to church. This was finally the first day were were able to get to a service, and it just so happened to be Easter Sunday. Andrew met us at our flat, then Matt, Andrew, Amara, and I headed off to find a church we had heard about while at our hotel the first week in Hungary. We got to the area of town no problem, but we had a bit of a tough time finding the place using the tiny map on the back of the card we had. Eventually we stood at an intersection debating what we should do until we turned around and realized we had been standing in front of it for a while. We went in and were only about a minute late. The service was pretty good and was similar to back home.

On the way back from church, Amara and I stopped at Parliament again to try and get tickets, but again a sign was up saying there were no tickets and this time it said tours would resume on Tuesday. We then decided we would get some gyros on the way home and then packed up to go the Széchény Spa.

When we got to the spa, we went to one door which we thought was the entrance, and the man standing there told us it was closed. We almost went back home, but decided to walk around the building first. Luckily this led us to the main entrance which had a lineup in front. It was indeed open and completely full. The other entrance was for a part of the spa closed on Sundays. We had to wait in line for maybe half an hour, but eventually we got in. When we paid our entrance fee, we got these little wrist watch looking things that I guess had RFID tags in them. You could press them against your locker/cabin to unlock them and you used them to get into the spa in the first place. After getting changed, we went out to the pools. The first one we got into was basically just a heated pool. It was nice, but we were really there for the thermal baths, so we got out, the cool air and the breeze quickly chilling us, and we hurried to the other end of the courtyard and hopped in the other pool. This one was MUCH warming at about 40˚C. We hung out there for quite a while before we decided to explore a little more. We went inside and found a few more baths, I think these were the mineral baths as they smelled kind of funny. We were in there for a short time, but since they were inside it got stuffy pretty quick, so we didn’t last long. There were some saunas there too, but we decided we had already been there long enough, so we just called it a day.

When we got home, I made us a meatloaf out of the plethora of ground beef we had left over from not making any on Friday. After supper, I helped Amara pack (I sent a bunch of stuff back with her) and then stayed up late talking, making the most of her last night.

Monday, April 5, 2010

We woke up bright and early to get to the airport. The original plan was to take public transit to the airport, but when I looked at the website it said there would be a 4 hour transfer! Being a little groggy in the mornings, I just associated this with the long weekend and so I called the MiniBusz to come pick us up. The lady on the phone didn’t seem too pleased; normally they need 24 hours notice. While we were waiting for the MiniBusz, I checked the website again and it said there would be virtually no transfer time. I think what happened is the site assumes you want to leave right when you load the page and I had loaded the page the night before so it was ready to go in the morning. Since we had already called the airport, we figured we should probably take their shuttle.

We got to the airport around 9:20, got Amara all checked in, then just waited around together until about 10 when Amara went into the passenger only area. I took public transit home, in the rain, and got home around 11. I didn’t want to nap, but as I was laying on the couch with my computer, I kept dozing off and eventually gave in and slept for an hour or so. Sleeping only about 4 hours a night for a week and walking about 6 hours a day takes a lot out of you, I guess. For supper we had nachos with more of our ground beef and then I went to bed early to try to get caught up.

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