[Perfect blue sky and more in Veszprem and Balaton = photo album.]
My host Arnaud asked me whether I needed something for breakfast, adding that he basically eats at his office. I told him I bought something and it’s fine. On the way to the train station (A’s car has half-rotten flowers stuck to the roof and so on – in a way it’s somewhat poetic in a water-color manner, maybe) A told me that a radio channel “Petofi” derives its name from a poet(ess?)’s name. He pronounced the name the French way, adding that unwritten consonant to the end of the “i.” We bid each other farewell and good luck with smiles.
From time to time a literary critic would tell us that an author “depicts his characters with affection and sympathy.” Well, I’m gonna do to my Veszprém host family with honesty.
Some weeks ago a handsome middle-age man Szilard sent me a CS invitation, writing rather formally about how he just registered on CS, read my profile, and would like to invite me. In this old-fashioned (and I mean it with good connotations) studio still profile picture he has tidy hair and beard and wear some check-patterned vest – the kind of photo some bank would be lucky to put in their annual report, let’s say.
Before the train stopped in Veszprém I could already see my skinny host (casually dressed) and his wife waiting, standing very close to the rail. As soon as I got off I was greeted with warm handshakes from both. Ever pictured a handsome king on a poker card – I mean some finely illustrated good-old-day post cards with delicate details in the human features, not some cheap crap set –? Well, that’s what Szilárd looks like to me. And in a medieval movie he would be cast as the Hero’s First or Second Best Friend; I would not cast him as First Villain, since it’ll be unlikely to conceal the sincere warmth shone from his greenish blue eyes.
And his wife Évi has smiles just as cordial. Before soon I found out that she’s consistently soft-spoken and really gentle.
A couple days ago Szilárd proposed a plan, saying that we can visit a painter friend of his and see his paintings. To me his works somewhat resemble those of the ultra-popular Taiwanese illustrator 幾米’s, although the latter’s works have a more readily fairytale charm. When we got into the car, Szilárd told me that his friend wouldn’t have time this morning but might have time tomorrow. Well, frankly I don’t mind anything. To me it’s more important to have the experience with this obviously very nice family.
We went to a roofed market place, (the strange Asian observed every flower and various products coming his way (or not),) and then we saw the “new square/center” built in communist time, Szilárd told me how the communists built an underpass that no-one wanted to use as well as ugly “modern” buildings for their own pride, showed me a rather interesting three-dimensional map in order to explain to me how the roads have to go around the valley, and then he drove to a point where we could have a lovely gentle uphill walk to the main historical buildings. “Most tourists only walk on the single main street up there, but it’s nice to walk on these trails, which were [coordinated and (re-)constructed] later,” he explained, and I agreed.
Oh, and the church has some not overly ornate and yet really elegantly beautiful interior. You shan’t want to miss this one.
Upon hearing that I like modern art (answering to his inquiry), Szilárd offered to “invite” me to some of the nearby small venues, but I wasn’t keen on the exhibitions, and I honestly thought it would be so much more fun to stroll or sip coffee with this lovely couple anyway. In Sopron I got a pamphlet promoting Veszprém’s musical festival, and among the entries is a Don Pasquale featuring Ruggero Raimondi(!) and a Hungarian soprano whose name that Szilárd said even someone who doesn’t pay that much attention to operas knows. The date is set on the inconvenient 21st of July (I am to visit Istvan in Vac), and the tickets aren’t cheap anyway. Besides, “this festival never has good lucks” – according to Szilárd, the festival (or its opera offerings?) is always graced with bad, raining weather. (Ok, “graced” is my own wording.)
Standing on the not very high fire tower, we enjoyed lovely breeze, and Szilárd asked me about my (previous) job and future plans. I still don’t have great answers (and likely never will), but last night my senior-high-and-uni-classmate really gave me some new insights.
We dropped by my host’s flat – on the highest floor and blessed with some airy skylights –, and I presented my greeting present. This very adorable couple were probably really impressed that they tried to BOW to me to show their thanks. I chuckled and felt I could simply hug these guys.
For lunch we went for a “police restaurant.” With my joking mood I asked whether they would lash people if people don’t finish the food. Of course not; this is the cafeteria for police officers, and they think both the quality and price are nice. We arrived sometime past one and didn’t meet a queue at all, and it is pretty not bad – I was a bit surprised about the fried eggplant, and I like the carb dish. Oh, and the marinated(?) tomatoes are much to my liking.
In the afternoon I was shown two popular Balaton Lake tourist destinations: Balatonfured and Tihany. The former has pretty nice 18th– and 19th-century buildings (including a heart hospital), a short macadam promenade, quite some tiny boats and lots of swans, and the latter has a tiny hill, a peninsula, and some tourist shops with interesting items: white wine in interesting bottles, lots of dried paprika, and lavender soaps.
The final stop is a beach: the couple’s two kids (with big curious eyes) and Évi’s mother were waiting there. The water is very very shallow, somewhat warm, and curiously green, but swimming (or soaking in water) is nice in this weather.
Szilárd explained to me that they wanted a place near the Mediterranean Balaton Lake and the vineyards, and after checking several places, they accidentally passed Veszprém, which is not as small as some other choices and turns out to be quite nice. They never saw Veszprém before that encounter, and then after one and a half years later he got the job in Veszprém. He’s really someone who has clear ideas about what he wants and has the strength to carry out plans.
After the swim (or crawling in water) we dropped by the place of Évi’s mother’s – she actually speaks a little bit of English, is very very friendly, and I was introduced to the granny too. The narrow, “natural” garden has Lebanon cedars among other trees, and there’s some lavender too.
Lavender reminds me of Auntie and Uncle James in Paris. And yet I can no longer see James nor hear how he comments on one bottle of wine or another in his garden. Paris will never be the same. I don’t know how I should feel.
The kids have a little “workshop” in the garden – they know how to use tools, and the son Benedek is especially good at his projects.
On the way to Balaton Lake I actually almost fell asleep, but I did want to talk more and tried to stay awake afterwards.
We returned for dinner, and then Szilárd and his daughter Zsófia showed me a traditional Hungarian card game – very interesting. (I also saw a Youtube clip of a famous Hungarian tenor Évi showed me, and I checked some others of that Hungarian soprano Erika Miklósa, who turned out to be a rather reliable soft-toned lyric coloratura, whose Queen of the Night is understandably not fiery.)
When I first came to this house, Évi asked (very soft-tonedly) to give her my laundry. During the card game she brought the washed clothes – which smell nice and are impeccably folded: as a guest who’s prone to wash the dishes (which she forbade) and be very tidy, I was really very surprised. I can’t think of anyone who does this – aside from Auntie in Paris (and maybe the various gentle hearts that tried to win me over).
I was really tired, but this is a family that one simply doesn’t meet every day.
There was a fan (o gioia!), but the temperature actually dropped low enough in the late night to wake me up.