When Derek and I planned to leave Alberta and then Canada for two years in Budapest, it seems like a great distance for quite some time. We’d be far from familiar faces and family feasts.
However, in this modern age of globalization and …Facebook, for good or for bad, our communities are now more distant-but-connected than ever before. This weekend reminded me of how small the world can be, as I met up with three friends from three different times in my life, here in my new city of Budapest. The meet-ups centered on local food and drink, of course, which took me on a tour of some enjoyable spots in the city.
Coming from Cape Breton via London, a family friend was in the city filming two episodes of a fantastic CBC series. The television show is set in World War II Paris, and I’ve been told that Budapest plays that role particularly well. I don’t think I’ve seen him in well over five years so on Thursday, it was a treat to catch up. To add to the experience, we caught up over delicious food at a Hungarian restaurant Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő in the XIII district. This was my first experience with the gigantic portions of Hungarian plates. My friend ordered bone marrow, after a previously delectable experience at this restaurant. I had pike with parley potatoes. In Canada, this meal would have been the equivalent of 2-3 servings. And man, it was tasty – the fish, even deep fried, was flaky and fresh. Over beer, house wine and Palinka, we caught up on Canada, the UK, our siblings, our careers and European lives so far.
Palinka and Pike and Capers.
On Friday, I explored Buda Castle and the Hungarian National Gallery with a friend from the Edmonton urban planning world. It was the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, meaning there was stunning patriotic displays and free admission to museums. We meandered through the intriguing permanent exhibit Shifts. Hungarian Art After 1945. Rearranged permanent exhibition. A good walk and with impressive scenes allows the conversation to evolve as we talking about our move, languages, London and film-making.
The Budapest Dancer and a view of Parliament from Buda.
That evening, we met up at the elaborately decorated Hungarian Parliament and headed to supper at the hip, not-quite-local-not-quite-touristy Spíler bistro-pub on the bustling Gozsdu udvar pedestrian street. I tried the Hungarian sough-dough pizza, which was tasty, though I was hoping for a stronger sourdough taste. Spíler did do Hungarian and Central European micro-brew beer very well so after a round, we headed north.
A British friend who taught English in France with me post-university was in Budapest on holidays with friends, conveniently during my second week in Hungary. We met up for a pint at Instant, apparently the largest ruin pub in Budapest. I believe it. Instant was a maze of nooks and crannies and bars. There was strange art, antique furniture, foosball tables and basement techno dance floors all within this jigsaw puzzle of a bar. I highly recommend it, it adds a delightful Alice in Wonderland effect to your evening. Over Dreher in a quiet corner, Alex and I caught up on five years passed and the whole crew of us discussed the rugby world cup, geopolitics and time-zones, Budapest highlights (Margaret Island), and the like.
That wallpaper! Those rabbits!
Such a series of familiar faces in an unfamiliar town was something of a transition to my new life here in Budapest. The conversations helped ease into my new adventures by relaying old ones. Updates like these three are a reflective process, searching back into the past six months or six years of life and pulling out the pieces and prizes you’d like to highlight. It’s wonderful to hear how friends have grown, traveled, stumbled and learned along their own journeys. Each time you cross paths, you create another link in the chain connecting you to people and spaces in life. Thoughtful work to visit the key people in your life will ensure the chains are strong and long (thank goodness for Skype!). However, life will reconnect you with friends and acquaintances at its leisure, in ways no plan could predict. I’m still surprised at how it all worked out. Friends from my time in the Canadian prairies, in the French northeast and my home in Cape Breton, all arrived within days of each other in Central Europe. I couldn’t have imagined it, and it’s better that way.
This past week has taught me to be open to connections and reconnections. Our social networks are broad and complex. It’s impossible and unhealthy to maintain strong links to the entire web, but if you let the world know where you are both geographically and socially, you’ll be surprised at how brief updates in unexpected places can maintain those far-flung friendships. And of course, to do so over food, art and drink is highly recommended.