It’s incredible to me that we’ve spent two years in Budapest. I remember when we first started telling people that we were moving here and we got two diametrically opposed responses – “Two years?! That’s so long!” and “Two years? That’s nothing. It’ll fly by.” I didn’t believe it at the time, but we now fall solidly into the latter camp.
There really haven’t been that many changes for us in the year since I gave our first annual Budapest update. We’ve now lived here in our Budapest apartment longer than we lived in our house in Dallas. It took us only a few months to realize that neither of us enjoy being international landlords, and since our tenant’s lease ends in a month, we’ve taken the bittersweet step of putting that house on the market. Honestly, we should have probably tried to sell it when we first moved here, but we were (okay, I was) emotional about it. We put our offer in on the house the day before we got married – we spent our first weeks after the honeymoon painting and planning – Richie (and various friends and family) sweated buckets on the roof and in the backyard to make upgrades. But we always knew that it wouldn’t be a long-term house for us, and now that I’ve had two years’ worth of distance from it, I didn’t shed a tear when we signed the listing contract. Now I’m just crossing my fingers that it goes quickly and painlessly! (Psst – do you know anyone looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Dallas? Our home is zoned to Lakewood Elementary! :))
My Hungarian language skills are … well, still dismal. I can often understand the general gist of what someone’s saying to me, mostly if they speak very slowly and with words suitable to a four-year-old, but I have no idea how to respond. And it took me nearly the whole two years to realize that people are probably saying “Istenem!” (My God!) when they see Lexie on the street, and not “Isten nem!” (God, no!)
We’re now up to 18 countries that we’ve seen together in these two years (in 2013, we added Turkey, Greece, Russia, Iceland, the UK, and Israel). I suppose you could throw Palestine in there as #19 as well. And our city count is now 32 (adding Istanbul, Athens, Santorini, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Reykjavik, Sopron, London, Tiberias, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Ein Boqeq, and Tel Aviv to our list).
This year, we’re mostly keeping our travels local – exploring the rest of Hungary. Hungary is full of wine regions (22, at last count) and beautiful little towns, and we’ve sort of shamefully neglected it. We hope to take a few weekend or day trips to places like Villány, Eger, and Szekszárd (where some of our favorite red wines are grown), or to places like Pécs and Fertőd, which have beautiful churches and palaces. This weekend, we started out with a half-day trip to nearby Esztergom, birthplace of Hungary’s conversion to Christianity and thus home to the largest church in Hungary. It was also once the capital of Hungary, until King Béla IV moved it to Buda, so there are ruins of the old castle as well. The Basilica is the main attraction in Esztergom, with a cupola that you can climb (400 steps up spiraling staircases with no handrails – not my favorite part) for a fantastic photo of the river.
The Maria Valeria bridge traverses the Danube river, allowing you to walk from Esztergom (in Hungary) to Štúrovo (in Slovakia). Since both countries are EU and in the Schengen Zone, no passports are needed! You just reach a point on the bridge where there’s a helpful line marking the point where one country ends and the next begins. The bridge was actually totally destroyed by retreating German forces in WWII, and tense relations between the two countries during the Communist occupation days meant that the bridge wasn’t rebuilt until 2001.
Now that I’ve driven for the first time in Hungary (Richie normally takes that duty if we rent a car, but with his arm in a sling, that wasn’t happening this time!), I’m ready to take on a few more trips. Anyone want to join us in the wine country?