Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, most of you know today is my birthday and most of you know I am quite quiet about this most of the time. However, I felt obligated to share with those who know me best some of the things that are happening today. First of all, did you know that in Hungary they chose to celebrate today as a National Holiday? It wasn't really necessary, of course. A small parade would have been sufficient but I suppose when you look at it, why shouldn't everyone in the country celebrate with me? Teri told me SHE was going to Vegas to celebrate. Next, I heard that the Canucks won their game last night against Minnesota. Again, it is just a complete honour to know the team is still behind me even when I am so far away from home.

And this morning, my family made me a pancake breakfast! Now, if you don't think THAT is a big deal, you don't know that I have eaten pancakes for breakfast almost daily for the past three years until we started on our trip. I haven't had a pancake in almost a month! As well, just making the pancakes is a feat. All the ingredients are in Hungarian at the grocery store. Go figure. Have you ever heard of sutopor? Apparently, that is baking powder. At least, the pancakes tasted good so we're pretty sure it was baking powder. We bought brown instead of white flour but it WAS flour. And we skipped the syrup because even though we DID find it, and imported from Canada at that, it was $15! So we spread blueberry jam on them and they were fantastic.

We spent the day traipsing about Buda in the castle hill district. We took the funicular to the top of the hill, then toured the St Matthias church. The church was supposedly started by the first king of Hungary, St. Stephen around 900 AD but the only records of anyone building are of St Matthias, another beloved king. Nonetheless, most of the interesting information was about St Stephen. He had 8 children who made it to adulthood and five of them were made saints; that's more in one family than any other in Europe...apparently. None of the adult children outlived him, however. It seems they were a pious lot who kept sacrificing their lives for others in a bid to get into sainthood, I suppose. Imagine being one of those three who DIDN'T get sainted? Never quite living up to the family name... At any rate, because none of the kids were around when St Stephen was about to check out, he passed on leadership of the country to the Virgin Mary. She has been watching over them ever since. It is my feeling that if you want to feel safe, you might not want the Virgin Mary watching over you because Hungary has had a nasty history with everyone and their dog taking over: Ottomans, Hapsburgs, Germans, Soviets...and that's just the dogs! Usually the next occupation comes as a rescue mission from the previous one. Honestly, these poor people have not had an easy few centuries.

After the church, we went to the Fisherman's Bastion. This is a lovely structure on the side of the hill overlooking the Parliament buildings in Pest. It was named because the Fisherman's Guild apparently protected this area back in the middle ages. It's an odd spot for a Fisherman's Bastion as it is nowhere near the water. Next we toured the Labyrinth under the castle. After Derinkuyu underground city in Turkey, this was tame. It was actually kind of cheesy with drum beats, stone figures and mood lighting. The best part was a wine fountain.

Next we headed over to the citadel which was a long, uphill climb and then we came home. The best part of the climb was the view from the top. The citadel was built by the Hapsburgs to intimidate the Hungarian people after they had the nerve to revolt. You know, the Hapsburgs are not cast in a very positive light in this city but as far as we can see, they are responsible for a lot of the gorgeous architecture. These people were builders. The streets of Budapest are just gorgeous as the Hungarians have been restoring their treasures for the past 20 odd years. The Soviets only got the boot around 1990 so nothing much happened before then. It is interesting to see the different buildings under restoration. One actually had only one apartment restored and the rest of the building was sooty grey. It looked quite odd.

We bundled up to head out for dinner because it is really cold and as we walked down the street, there sat an elderly gentleman on a bench. He had no pants on and was pulling on what looked to be long dark stockings. It rendered us all speechless. Where do you begin to make cracks about that one? For dinner I wanted to go out to a nice traditional Hungarian restaurant. I tried not to think too hard about why Tom chose "Fatal" as the restaurant where we would eat. You'll all be pleased to know I am home safely. It was a great day.


Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy said...

Happy Birthday to the best Sister-In-Law EVER!!! I am thrilled you were able to get some pancakes on your special day :)

Hungary looks quite beautiful and cold. This is the first time I have seen you all in jackets and sweaters. Looking forward to hearing more.

Love to you all... Nancy

maryanncart said...

What a great birthday treat and I hope you heard a few rounds of H.B. Thought about all of you and I think that Julia is looking more and more like you. I will be in Kamloops tomorrow and back on Wednesday. It's great that you are enjoying Hungary. Actually, I am hungry and we are going to Scarths for dinner. Hugs and love to all...Mom

Rhonda Staples said...

Happy Birthday.... you're looking very tanned Holly!

Sophia said...

Happy Birthday!!!! I hope you enjoyed your special day and I hope you continue to enjoy Hungary. Miss you Julia (and family)

Steve said...

Happy Birthday Holly. I didn't want to be the first to publicly comment on your birthday, but now that the cat is out of the bag, well, Happy Birthday. Congrats on the first on being almost 1/3 in to a year on the road. I simply can't believe you have been gone almost 4 months already. AMAZING. Keep us the blogging. Love to hear about all the exploits and goings on.