One last post

In an effort to procrastinate my math work, I have decided to post one last time on here.

I write to you from the gorgeous Williamstown MA. A tiny town in the NW corner of my state, this place couldn’t be more different from Budapest. The main part of town consists of one short street and everything closes by 9pm. But I’m having a blast here nonetheless.

The shock of changing from living in a big city like Budapest to a rural town was a bit much at first. But I find it fairly relaxing now that I’ve settled in. I rarely have to lock my door, I can walk everywhere, and the air is considerably cleaner. The people on my math program seem pretty cool too. It would be hard to top the friends I made this spring though.

Being here is kind of like being back at camp. We all live together, have to be at certain activities at certain times, and besides that we have lots of freedom to just hang out. I guess we don’t have counselors though, which is a plus. Today we went to a nearby lake and then challenged the Physics research students to a game of Ultimate Frisbee. We won! 13-1 was the final score. I even played! But I was certainly the worst on the team.

Williamstown is so freaking cute I cant get over it. They have street fairs and outdoor movies and a 4th of July parade that we are participating in!

But sometimes the littlest things make me miss Budapest, like when I have a craving for a kremes or when a Hungarian song comes on my ipod.

The end of the semester was a wonderful and emotional blur. It was amazing to spend time with Julia. It was painful to say goodbye to everyone. I could upload tons of pictures but honestly, I just don’t have the energy to wait for this dumb blogging interface to process them all.

I often think about the fact that I won’t be back in Budapest with my friends for a long time, if ever. This usually makes me want to smile and cry at the same time. As the age-old saying goes, “Don’t cry because its over. Smile because it happened”.

From making new friends in Budapest…

…to exploring the city with old friends…

…to heading to a new town in my home state

IT’S BEEN QUITE AN ADVENTURE. Thanks for sticking with me and my sporadic blogging.

Viszonlátásra !

Budapest: the Smelly & the Beautiful

I write to you on one of my last days here in Budapest. Julia arrived last night and she is sleeping in my bed as we speak. It is so crazy that after months of talking about her visiting, she is actually here. It’s so exciting!

The goodbyes have started. One of my close friends left early this morning, so we all had to say goodbye last night. After dinner at our favorite restaurant (thai food, obviously) we all hung out on Margit Sziget until it was too cold to be outside any longer. A great night, but sad nonetheless to realize that our group of 7 may never be in the same place altogether at the same time. Unless of course we all live together on a commune in Croatia with the Empty Set…HA MATH JOKES.

There are many things I will not miss about Budapest: the weird smells in my apartment, the dog poop everywhere, the insanely crowded public transportation, the language barrier with every single person I talk to, going to school here, the weird old ladies with their red hair…etc. But on the other hand, there is so much I will miss about this city, my friends and the baked goods are the top two things I will pine for, but there are so many moments of beauty. Like a few nights ago, when I looked up before entering my apartment and I realized that you could see the big dipper perfectly in the sky above the courtyard of my building. Or when my friend showed me this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbbkj2GhDmo) time lapse film.

Two days ago my friends and I decided to stay up all night and watch the sun rise. We climbed up to Buda Castle around 4am and saw the sun come up over Parliament. It was amazing.

Before the sun came up

“Here comes the sun”

That’s all for now. I am going to try and write one more time before I leave and then maybe once more back in Boston.

xoxo

 

 

A procrastination blog post

With 3 finals done, and 1 to go, I am finding it hard to keep myself motivated to study. BLAH

My most recent form of procrastination is to read food blogs. Yes I know I am a little late to catch on to this trend, but it is SO addicting. No wonder everyone is reading them nowadays.

My favorite websites of the moment:

http://ediesbathrobe.tumblr.com/ (a girl studying abroad in London chronicling her cooking and favorite restaurants)

http://foodgawker.com/ (has an app for your iphone/ipod/ipad…so pretty much all I do now on public transit is salivate over pictures of food on my itouch)

http://fromwhichthingsgrow.blogspot.com/

http://scarboroughfoodfair.blogspot.com/ (a Boston gal!)

I wish I had a good enough kitchen here/good enough cooking skills to keep an awesome blog like the ones above.

Speaking of food, Yesterday I discovered a wonderful new place to have lunch! It’s called “Leves” meaning “Soup”. A tiny hole-in-the-wall, with no seating (only take-away orders), Leves offers 5 different soups and 5 different sandwiches each day. For just 770 forints ($3.50) you get a medium sized sandwich and about 12 oz of soup. Great deal right? They make the sandwiches as you order, so the line has always been ridiculously long when I passed by; but yesterday I had just finished an exam so I decided that I should take the time to try it. So glad I did!

I got a grilled tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich and carrot-saffron soup. They have tons of free toppings for the soup too: sour cream, cheese, tortilla strips, spices, croutons, etc. Also the guys who work there speak pretty much every single language! I heard them help customers in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and of course Hungarian. I attempted to order in Hungarian, but as usually, my dreadful pronunciation gave me away. Sigh.

I ate my lunch on a bench nearby overlooking the Danube. Not a bad life, and the food was awesome! The soup was to die for. I wanted to sit there forever, but sadly I had exams to study for. Hopefully I will go back tomorrow after my last exam is over.

In other news, we are all losing our minds over here. It’s hard to study when you have so little time left in an awesome city. It’s even harder to study when you have no library and are forced to spend whole days in Starbucks because its the only coffee shop with real tables. Things get even crazier when you spend the whole day, in Starbucks, with 5 of your best friends. As an example of our insanity, see the picture below.

I let my friend borrow my calculator, and she returned it with this written on the screen.

Time for finals to end!

But sadly, once they end, it means we are that much closer to going home which means that we will all go our separate ways. Starting Saturday, people start leaving. So we will have only 3 days after exams to revel in each other’s company. I’m pretty sure we are going to attempt to spend every minute of every day together. Lots of sleepovers are in order.

So in a way, maybe I don’t want finals to end?

And on that note, time for me to return to studying.

2 weeks left: that’s 14 days, or 336 hours, or 20,160 minutes…

When I started this post, it was Wednesday, and thus I had 14 days left in Budapest. But now that I am finishing it on Saturday, I supposed a better title would’ve been “11 days left”.

Since we returned from Croatia, the imminence of our departure from Budapest became all too real. Suddenly everything we did was “the last ___”. (i.e, last time we have to pay rent, the last time we have to take a midterm, the last Hungarian language class, could be the last time we have Thai food…etc)

Luckily school work has been keeping us too busy to dwell in our emotions; the last weeks of classes were filled with midterms, finals and difficult problem sets. I have also been trying to do as many new things in the city as possible; I don’t want to feel like I missed out on anything when I leave. I have a “Budapest Bucketlist” which is filled of things that I heard of as the semester progressed that I wanted to try before I left. Sadly, I realize now that some of those things will not happen before I leave (travel to Lake Balaton-the resort area of Hungary) and some I realize I may not want to do in my last days here (go to the Fine Arts Museum). But many of the items on the list are bars or restaurants that I have yet to try, and I hope to knock a few of them off after finals end. But you know what? I plan on coming back here someday soon and I will have to save the rest of my list until then.

Some highlights of the past weeks since I posted:

Hungarian Wine festival!

Delicious chocolates at the wine festival

Palinka festival…Hungarians love their themed festivals!

Getting artsy with my Palinka glass

Seeing baby giraffes at the zoo

Playing with lemurs at the zoo

Baby gorilla at the zoo…notice a pattern here?

Found this awesome candy store near my apartment

Went to a flea market/craft fair in the Jewish District. They sold everything from vintage jewelry to old cameras to leather goods! I bought a great purse

Next week we have final exams in our remaining classes and then Thursday is when we get our final grades at the “end of the semester party”. Because what’s a math party without a little stress over your transcript? They will be providing snacks and champagne after the grades are finalized (we are allowed to drop a class to an “audit” if we so choose on Thursday afternoon, which is a nice safety net), so I suppose they want things to end on a high note. After that, many people start leaving to go home or travel more of Europe. I will stay another 6 days because my best friend Julia is visiting (CAN’T WAIT) and then I head back to Newton. Its very surreal to think of life without the friends I have made here. Living together in a foreign city means that we spend pretty much all of our time together, and we’ve grown extremely close as a result. So trying to picture life at home or at Wellesley without them is hard to imagine. That being said, I am certainly excited to get back to America where I speak the language, live in a clean house (I found a bug in my fridge today-YUCK), and see my family, friends and of course…the dogs!

Now I’m off to try and study some more. I’ll update you all after my finals!

Croatia: “drive until the road ends, and then keep going”

Last weekend we had a 4-day weekend because of Labor Day here in Hungary. My friends and I decided to rent a car and drive down to Croatia to enjoy the Adriatic Sea. When I say that it was the most beautiful place I have ever been to, I am not exaggerating. I hope my pictures make you all just a little jealous.

We started off driving 5 hours to the Plitivice Lakes National Park. Luckily it didn’t feel so long thanks to the awesome mix CDs we had made. We had a little trouble at Border Control entering Croatia/exiting Hungary, where we forgot to give the guards our residence permits. After seeing our passport stamps were over 90 days old, the guards asked us to pull over and questioned us, because you are not allowed to stay in Hungary for more than 90 days without a visa. We quickly realized our mistake, showed them our residence permits and with a laugh the guards let us continue on our way.

The Plitvice Lakes were stunning. We hiked for about 3 hours to see the waterfalls and took a boat around the lakes. The sun was shining which we were thankful for at first, but by 1pm it had become pretty hot out and we were thankful that we had opted to rent a slightly more expensive car that came with air conditioning.

The so-called “Big Waterfall”

Then after another 3 hour drive, we arrived at our rented apartment in Slatine, a small island (connected by a bridge) to the larger town of Trogir. The houses in Slatine were gorgeous and were all right on the beach. The people who owned our lodging were so lovely, they even brought us food as a welcome gift! Our apartment was right on the beach, but we were told that in order to get to the best/most relaxing beach on the island we had to take the one road on the island (yep that’s right, there was only one road in the area) and “drive until the road ends, and then keep going”. This proved to be more difficult than we imagined because the road turned to dirt pretty quickly, but never seemed to really end. Nevertheless, we managed to find (what we think is) the best beach, and we relaxed there for the next to days. The beaches along the Adriatic in Croatia are all white rock beaches. While this means its harder (quite literally) to take a nap on them, it also makes the water insanely clear and beautiful. In the morning, the water was a teal/turquoise, which turned to amethyst as the sun sunk lower in the sky by late afternoon. We also took trips into the nearby town of Trogir, a palm tree lined city, with an outdoor market where we got awesome figs and fresh pressed olive oil.

View from our apartment

Backyard of the apartment. I made good use of that hammock!

We had the beach all to ourselves

Just enjoying the water

Trogir

Another shot of Trogir

Slatine from afar

The people were so nice in Croatia. We went out to dinner one night and were given free appetizers and dessert because the waitress “thought we looked too thin”. So great.

Free dessert!!!!

Sunset time over the Adriatic

Unfortunately, we had a bit of bad luck on our way back to Hungary. We decided to leave bright and early on Tuesday morning, so we could get back to Budapest by late afternoon and still have time to unpack/do homework before we had to go to school on Wednesday. But about 1 mile out of Trogir, our car broke down. We sat on the side of the road as the sun beat down on us for about 5 hours before we figured everything out. The combination of the fact that the rental agency workers barely spoke English, and that we only had 2 phones that worked in Croatia made the whole situation a little stressful. To make matters worse, since it was Labor Day, no mechanics were working, so the rental agency wanted us to stay in Croatia another day until a shop would be open and fix our car. After a lot of phone calls we were finally given a replacement rental car and were able to continue on our way. I was totally happy to stay in Croatia for another day, but my more studious friends acted as the voice of reason and convinced the rest of us that we couldn’t miss class. SIGH. Who knows, maybe if it weren’t for them, I would still be in Croatia right now – never to to return. Do you think I could transfer into Croatia University class of 2013?

Birthday Celebration(s)

I write to you all at 3:40 am, as I sit in my bed wondering why I am not asleep. The past few days I have had a small bout of the flu, so I was really looking forward to getting some solid rest tonight. Looks like my body had other plans. After tossing and turning for 2 hours I figured out my problem, hunger. So I grabbed a slightly stale croissant and some warm chocolate soy milk and booted up my computer. I figure this is a great time to tell everyone about my birthday week!

Festivities started last Tuesday when I decided at last minute to buy myself a ballet ticket. For a mere $10 I got to see “Taming of the Shrew” in the gorgeous opera house. I got even luckier when the people in the box in front of me never showed up, thus allowing me to sit in seats that probably cost somewhere closer $50. It was a gorgeous ballet, and I already knew the plot so I could actually follow what was happening.

Thursday my friends and I decided to try a new restaurant that we had read about in Funzine, an English magazine for students in Budapest. They usually have AWESOME recommendations (see later in the post) but they missed the mark on this one. The restaurant had a weird vibe, like a place the Budapest Mafia might show up to, and the food was only mediocre. I did however havegreat Dobos Torta for dessert. The cake came as two mini cakes, with creamy chocolate icing between each layer and a wonderful hard caramel topping.

Friday as soon as class ended, we headed to Trofea, the all you can eat/drink buffet. As we were seated the hostess told us we could only be there for 2 hours, which we knew was not true. With our extensive knowledge of Hungarian (numbers and time are the Beginner’s class specialty) we were able to show the hostess on the brochure that we were promised a 3 hour stay. She obliged. When it comes to food, I am not some tourist that can be scammed! The food was delicious and plentiful. My favorite was a cold raspberry cream soup. After Trofea we went to a party store to buy party hats for the next days festivities (see pictures below). I was then dragged to Szimpla, our favorite ruin bar for my first birthday drink of the weekend. While having palinka when the sun was still up seemed wrong, I wasn’t going to turn down a drink that my friends payed for. After a rest and a quick dinner, my friends continued our celebrating an outdoor bar on Margaret Island which is finally full of blooming flowers just in time for my birthday!

Saturday afternoon was the main event: the beer bike. After seeing a few around the city, my friends and I decided that it was a must for my 21st birthday. The pictures pretty much say it all. 10 friends and myself peddled around the city (with a guide who was braking and steering) while drinking beer out of a keg on board the bike. It was a hilarious and ideal way to spend the afternoon/evening. Since we had to propel ourselves, we barely went faster than a person can quickly walk. In fact, at an uphill part, one of my friends had to get off and push!

The Beer Bike

In my birthday crown and my friend Margot in her party hat (hard to see with the light)

Pretending to steer as my friends get rowdy. Don't worry, the bike was parked at this point

Sunday I had brunch at a ruin bar that serves food by day, called Most (meaning “now”) in Hungarian. For just $8 I had a Bellini, eggs benedict, and a piece of chocolate cake! Sweet deal. I wanted to get the quiche but they were all out by the time we arrived. Obviously I will need to go back! Then my friend Maribeth and I decided to explore one of the hills in Buda by riding a chairlift, as Funzine had recommended to us. After a 40 minute bus ride, we ended up in what seemed like the middle of New Hampshire. Rolling hills, green trees, lots of camping and wildlife, and a chairlift! As if there might be skiing in Budapest…hah. We rode the chairlift to the top and discovered that we could hike a short while to a castle-type overlook. It was gorgeous! We could even seen the Parliament from across the river! A great escape from the city. We even found a cool playground to play on for a little while.

The castle at the top of the hill

Hi Parliament! Its kind of hard to see...can you spot it?

View of the Hungarian countryside

After going to Thai food for dinner (still weirdly one of my all-time favorite places to eat here) my friends bought me a delicious chocolate cake from Marodi and we polished it off in one sitting. Afterwards, we tried a new bar that is famous for having Belgian Beer on tap, pretty cool to find in Eastern Europe!

Marodi does not mess around with its baked goods

Monday (my actual birthday) started off with some friends cooking me breakfast. It was divine and included real drip coffee and an omelet with all my dream ingredients, even 3 types of cheese! The rest of the day I was SUPPOSED to do homework, but I couldn’t motivate myself (shocking). So I lounged around and watched TV and then went out for one last birthday beer with friends.

Overall – a fantastic way to celebrate my 21st birthday! I am so glad my friends indulged me and let me celebrate over the course of about 6 days.

Now I really must get some sleep. 4 friends and I are off to Croatia tomorrow on a road trip since we have no school again until Wednesday. I am excited to finally see the ocean after so many months and soak up the sun! Get excited for some gorgeous coastal pictures.

Springtime in Budapest

The past few weeks have been insanely busy! After midterms ended, Budapest hosted an outdoor spring fair and luckily, balmy spring weather came with it. We spent a weekend lounging outside, eating, listening to music, and enjoying the Hungarian crafts on display.

Look at us wearing shorts! Finally seeing some sun in Budapest

One of the many Hungarian foods available at the fair

Enjoying gelato in the nice weather

Then my parents came to visit! It was so wonderful to show them around Budapest and spend time with them. We got to wander around city park, went on a boat cruise along the Danube, walked on Margaret Island, and ate some awesome food. I even got to show them Szimpla, one of the most popular bars here. They tried drinking Palinka as well, although it was a little strong for them!

Hero's Square at the entrance to City Park

In City Park

Mom and Dad in Szimpla! Dad looks a bit tense after his Palinka

Night view of Buda Castle

The family (minus Adin and the dogs of course) on Margaret Island

After spring break, my friend Margot’s parents also came to visit. They were so generous and took me out to the opera with them! We saw La Traviata which was beautiful, but hard to follow since it was in Italian with Hungarian subtitles! I also tagged along on their tour of the Great Synagogue. I am ashamed to admit that, in the 3 months I had been here, I had not yet been on a tour of the Jewish landmark that is two blocks from my apartment. I am glad I finally made it! The temple was absolutely gorgeous; the main sanctuary was spectacular. They said they even hosted weddings in there! I have to remember that for years down the road…

Budapest Opera House. Gorgeous! Sorry for the blurry photo

Then last week, a few friends and I made a day trip down the Danube to a small town called Szentendre. It was just a 40 minute train ride away! Such a beautiful little town, with some weird stores! The world’s only Marzipan Museum, in which they make sculptures out of marzipan and then caption them poorly in English. We went into a shop that sold Palinka in bottles that were shaped like people, which was kind of freaky. We also met a woman who made Hungarian folk crafts and talked to us for about 30 minutes about the stuffed animal chickens she makes and how they were “very practic for real life”. So silly. But it was a gorgeous river town, and a great little escape from the city.

Marzipan Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or as the caption reads "Tini Nindzsa Terrapins"

Chickens?

Szentendre by the river

This past weekend was my 21st birthday! It was a blast…but I will post more details soon