Countries Visited So Far Click Each For More Info

Entries in Hungary (3)

Ringing in Rosh Hashanah Old School Style. . .

656867-1032571-thumbnail.jpgOnce we figured out when the High Holidays were this year, we decided to be in a special place to celebrate them. Budapest, with its rich Jewish heritage, seemed like the perfect city to ring in the Jewish New Year. The Dohany Temple, also known as The Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house of worship in all of Europe, and second largest in the world. It houses over 3,000 people and is the center of Neolog Judaism. The interior is absolutely awe-inspiring with grand tall ceilings, three stories of sitting space, ornate décor, a Bimah that would take your breath away, stained glass windows that decorates even the ceiling, and an ark that was literally the size of an enormous walk in closet housing around 20 Torahs.

The most amazing part of the experience was feeling like I had stepped back in time. The population at the service averaged what looked to be around 70 years old. I couldn’t help but think about how much history there was in this room; a Congregation of Hungarian Jews who had once been brutally tormented for their beliefs in this very country almost 60 years ago, were now standing proud in the heart of the city. My emotions certainly boiled over on more than one occasion during the service while observing such a beautiful site. My thoughts also turned to Grandpa Art, who I saw in so many of the faces of the older men shuffling around the room. He would have fit in perfectly!

656867-1032576-thumbnail.jpgOne thing that I had not expected was for an organ and a choir to be part of the service. Normally I find this a complete turnoff, but the music and chants this day were so majestic, setting an incredible feeling in the room. Even Jason felt at ease, mesmerized by the beauty of the environment.

656867-1032581-thumbnail.jpgNo doubt I am feeling a tinge of homesickness during the holidays, missing the tradition of being with my family and friends. However, experiencing this step back in time at The Great Synagogue was something I will always remember for the rest of my life. Also, the falafel and shwarma we splurged on after the service was just the comfort food we needed!

Eight Year Anniversary

656867-1034148-thumbnail.jpgIt was eight years ago today that I met Joy. I was at the birthday party of a mutual friend, Paul Katz, and it was late into the evening. She sat down on the couch and started to give me a hard time about something or other. She can do that better than anyone I know. We talked for a bit, even took a walk around the block, and then we went our separate ways. Not, however, before I wrote her number down on the back of one of my business cards. I still have that card. Like a desperate man who didn’t know the rules of the game, I actually called her the next day. And now here we are, eight years later, in the ninth month of a trip around the world together.

It’s funny how chance it can all be. Had I left just a minute earlier – as my friends Dave & Kate whom I was there with wanted to – we probably never would have met. I would never have known what true love was. What it was like to have a partner in every sense of the word. To be welcomed into a new family, to see how wonderful life can be, and to be shown how to be a better person. I guess it would have just been Wandering Walker instead of Wandering Walkers.

Bewildering Budapest

656867-1041052-thumbnail.jpgThis city was not what we expected, our first impression being somewhat disappointing. After 26 countries, and countless metro/subway systems, there is no doubt Budapest’s is the most perplexing. I’m not going to try and explain the details of it all, since I still don’t even understand it myself. The one fact we did absorb is you can’t transfer to a different line without having to pay another full fare – this is just plain impractical. AND, since during the few taxi rides we took our meter appeared to be rigged, we decided walking was the best mode of transport in this city.

656867-1041056-thumbnail.jpgNow we’ve seen our fare share of graffiti around the world, but absolutely no place comes close to how covered this city is with spray painted images and tags. It was quite disgusting seeing such beautiful old buildings, churches and even the steps on the escalator covered in ugly graffiti. Jason and I decided if we ever moved to this city, our profession of choice would be painters, clearly no lack of work opportunity in this town.

My favorite parts of the city centered around the areas on the Danube River. This waterway separates the Buda and Pest sides -- the name Budapest is a combination of the two, a fun fact I was unaware of prior to our travels there. We cruised up and down the Danube on a beautiful glass boat, stopping off on Margaret Island for an afternoon of exploration. The boat ride was a great opportunity to see and learn about some of the sites along the riverbanks including the grand Parliament Building, the Chain Link and Liberty Bridges, Castle Hill, the Royal Palace, and many churches.

656867-1041062-thumbnail.jpgI never thought we’d have one of our best meals of our entire trip in Budapest, at a restaurant called Mokka. The ambience was superb, the service was spot on, and the food was phenomenal – after our countless servings of goulash, and uninspiring meals this was a real shocker. By far the most unique and delicious dessert we’ve probably ever tasted was the ricotta dumplings, served on a warm bed of marzipan, accompanied by a creamy ice cream – this was heaven in our mouths.

On a whim our final day, we decided to jump on a local train and take it to a suburb town. Upon stumbling onto the cobblestone center of Szentendre, we were in love. It was an absolutely adorable little town lining the Danube River, filled with many restaurants and infused with tons of charm. We happened to catch a local festival where strange enough a local band was playing Nirvana covers, which was quite out of place (check out the video clip!). Szentendre even boasted the supposed worlds only marzipan museum, which I must say was impressive – I especially found the full size Michael Jackson figure that weighed almost 200 lbs and took 3 weeks to complete interesting. An impromptu boat ride back down the Danube to Budapest was a great way to end our time in the country.