My mother flew into Paris Easter Sunday, where we spent the day wandering around the city before leaving for Hungary early Monday morning. Having met the older of my two relevant cousins, Adam, 9 years ago and never before going to Hungary, my expectations of my family and culture came from scarce pretenses. Once we landed, we exchanged our dollars for forints, picked up our rental car, and began the 3 hour drive to Debrecen.
OUR AMAZING HOTEL
As my heavy eyelids fluttered through the countryside and the radio settled on Bartok, I began imagining... well first and foremost about the hardy Hungarian food I was about to ingest because I was starving, but also the experience to meet a side of my family that myself and my mother, partially, had yet to meet. After getting settled in our hotel and meeting up with my cousin (actually my mom's cousin's son), we went to his parent's house (my mom's cousin) for lunch. This meal seemed like the miraculous fruition of everything I had dreamed about hours before. Meat on carbs on cabbage on sour cream; everything you would imagine an Eastern European meal to consist of. As my mother struggled through her first few Hungarian words, while remembering conversations with her father, I stuffed my face as my absent Hungarian skills became apparent and my potential contribution to the conversation became null. I thought that a good appetite and smile full of food was a universal sign of good relations. I could not improve my Hungarian at a rapid enough pace to become conversational by the end of the week, and therefore continued this trend of filling my mouth with literally unspeakable amounts. By the end, all my relatives appreciated my hardy eating habits and wondered if I was fed in France. BUT.. I digress.
Family came in and out of this meal and I met my mother's other cousin, and Adam's brother, David, who is around my age and attends the a University in Budapest. After, the adults caught up for about 30 years of lost time, how long since Eva (my mother's cousin) and my mother have seen each other.They discussed life, jobs, kids, the sad, the good, and the future.
At night, I went to my cousin's apartment, which he informed me was built during the Soviet occupation about 30 years ago, which is true for an overwhelming amount of buildings around the city and throughout Hungary. As Adam's friends trickled in and his studio began to seem fuller, I got to talking to many of his friends and we started watching Ocean's Eleven. As liquor was cracked, I was offered a new substance of the Hungarian persuasion, called Palinka. I also began to learn how to say "cheers" in Hungarian, a necessary introductory word to any language. I was quite pleased to spend time with some local folks my own age.
Tuesday We went to Csengerújfalu, a small town on the Romanian border where my grandfather is from. There, I met other family and, of course, ate more. I began to speak more today, but it all had to be translated through my cousin, Adam, which delayed storytelling and my chance of any humor, which I gave up on early in the conversation.
We left for Budapest Wednesday, where I once again slept through the countryside, and most of the day. We spotted all the normal sights in Budapest with our lovely native tour guides (our family). If there is one thing I value on a man, besides clothes and demeanor, it's facial hair. A good stache, beard, chops, and most every other type of facial hair (excluding the soul patch) is respected among men and women alike. After coming from France where most of the monuments and portraits show men in powered wigs or quite average hair, the manly-man that is the facial hair of the Hun tribe and the Hungarian people was incredible. I mean mustaches tails going down past their chins, an art that seems to be reserved for the deranged, homeless, hipster and few normal people in today's world.
I also went to a club/bar that was once an abandon building, sounds sketchy, but actually it was done right. Walking around the dark narrow halls in between rooms of karaoke, dancing, games, etc... was an experience I found unique to Budapest. I also visited the House of Terror, which was an experience-based museum about the Nazi, and mainly Soviet occupation of Hungary. It was extremely moving to see and hear stories about how life was during these times, and how directly my family was affected.
This trip was the most enlightening so far, and I was very pleased to accompany my mother on such an emotion and important trip for her.
My other 50% (father) is 100% Polish and now has a tough act to follow.