A continuing log of my time in Hungary, addressed to my husband in Maine.
11:30 am: Yesterday was a low-energy day. It was hot and sticky, and after sleeping in we strolled down to Market Hall for lunch. I had a goose leg! That I didn’t have to roast myself! I was quite pleased that it tasted exactly like the goose I make, which means I am Doing It Right. It came with fresh caraway bread that had this light salt crust on it. Dora got sour cherry strudel which she loves. We walked about for awhile, picking up supplies for the apartment (tea kettle, coffee cups, pots, a palacinta pan–that’s Hungarian blini–and a sharp kitchen knife). Do you know they have a version of korjiki here? They put all kinds of sweet things on them. We should try it.
Once home, I read some of David Foster Wallace’s essay collection–I like his essays better than his fiction. I wish he’d done an update of the television essay, because after 1990 (when it was written) all the things he said became a million times more true, ie, reality TV, online streaming, ironic advertising. It was so hot in that slow, thick summer way that I fell asleep. Hungary is apparently a magical country where I can nap! I have done it two days in a row, and you know I can never nap, it takes me so long to get to sleep and I’m so cranky when I wake up. But not here–I fall asleep in a moment with no medication and wake up totally happy and refreshed. Two hours of nap! And then I got to sleep at 11:30 that night, too, which is usually impossible for me! I feel like a Terrible Midnight Princess who can only sleep in one place in all the world.
For dinner, we walked behind our apartment building, down a little street crowded with cafes and trees and the most gorgeous architecture. I said it looked like Brooklyn, a little, and Dora said: yes, if the Turks had invaded New York. And it was strangely Turkish in style, Turkish Art Deco Alhambra neo-Cathedralesque. All these relief arches and faces carved into the sides of building, white on peach and sage and cornflower. Faces we couldn’t understand, though they must be there for a reason. Like being inside a portal fantasy without an As You Know, Bob guide. There were two faces on shields mounted on the wall on one side of a square: one hooded and mustached and obviously Turkish, the other we couldn’t tell if it was male or female, but his/her mouth was gagged. Above them was a marble sun with stark, straight beams. Down the cobblestone street was a church with such red turrets and greened copper trim. The bricks of another side of the square were deliberately, decoratively pockmarked, which had come, beautifully, to match the natural fading and pocking of the concrete and brick above it.
We ate cold raspberry soup, which was astonishingly complex and delicious. I had my first (not last) goulash, and is there any better soup in the world? I think not. I have not been using enough paprika when I make it at home! It was the evening of two soups. Dora had a duck and pear salad. We talked about missing Readercon and yet, and yet, cold raspberry soup! In Budapest!
Afterward we went to see that church with the striking turrets–there was a service going, and we watched it for awhile. In the midst of the old altar was a big plasma flat screen where the Hungarian and Latin lyrics to the hymns flashed through the verses.
Along the street was a little shop where we paused to admire the dresses–we’d talked earlier about how each of us have colors we are immediately drawn to, dark jewel tones for me and lighter, more subtle shades of the same colors for Dora. Well, we both instantly pulled dresses off of the rack that proved the thesis. A deep garnet and gold for me and a spring green for her. She looked so beautiful! Like the green fairy. We both ended up getting two floaty summer dresses (the garnet one and another, dark gold and slate, and two different shades of green) and both felt like May queens in them.
We walked through the gardens of the National Museum. We made tentative talk about doing this every year, going to Budapest, writing together in Dora’s grandmother’s apartment where the pantry is full of jam and pickles put up thirty years ago.
We closed out the evening at the cafe below us. A rainstorm spun up and drenched the street outside. I fell asleep reading Engine Summer. I’m almost done–and it’s coloring my days here a little. It’s all about a beautiful, familiar-yet-unfamiliar world where everything has fallen apart, yet people have put it back together again several times and made something new and dreamlike and difficult and uncertain. Draw your own conclusions.
This morning dawned cool and grey and windy. I am all metallic to match it–black and silver and blue, with my hair pulled back severely. Outside the apartment is a tree Dora calls a Japanese Lantern. It is full of huge papery seed pods. The berries inside are green now, but long after we leave, they will turn red.